Becoming a novelist was a dream come true. I had found my calling.
In doing so I lost the one thing I had loved all my life.
Hard to imagine, right? Since I was six years old I used to sit and read a book from beginning to end. I would be lost in it. My world was magically changed. Movies were created in my mind. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe was the first book that changed my life as a young girl. I also sucked up Roald Dahl’s books. Then came along V.C. Andrews and Sydney Sheldon. As a teen I devoured their books. Followed by Stephen King and Dean Koontz in my 20s. John Grisham in my 30s. I often threw in a little Danielle Steele and Lavyrle Spencer when feeling sentimental.
Now I must force myself to read. That’s right. Force myself. I am at a loss. I know success must come with sacrifice. But must it be the one thing that I need to write?
As Stephen King said, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
As a writer I need to keep reading. Books I love, books I suffer through, books I’m indifferent about. Just books!
I truly feel my brain has changed. I can’t focus on reading. And I don’t know why. It’s as if I have exchanged being a lover of books for being a writer of books. I don’t enjoy indulging in words on the page. My brain amoxicillin keeps jumping around. I am not immersed in the story.
I recall the many people I’ve met in life who don’t like to read and could never understand why. Now I am one of them. I feel like I am starting over. I found an article here on how to improve your love for reading. I hope it works.
My goal right now is to read one book a week. I’m struggling with that. It’s work. How can this be work? I slog away, looking up at the clock thinking when can I put this down? I move from one book to another yearning to be lost in it.
If I keep forcing myself will the love come back? I hope so indeed for I have lost my greatest love. Perhaps I need a weekend away with only books and nothing else. Re-awaken the romance.
My reading goal:
Read for 30 minutes each day
Find a spot in my yard with no computer or phone
If a book doesn’t grab me then find another….and another
Try different genres I don’t normally read
Stephen King also said, “The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen.”
I aim to be less a fool for sure.
The Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, said “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”
I want my paradise back.
If you are a writer, has this happened to you? Or are you a reader who lost their love of reading?
J. Thomas Ross says
Great post, Donna! I know just what you mean. I too have trouble finding time to read books (I do read still magazines and newspapers). I do most of my reading while traveling — that is, when I’m not driving. Setting aside some time each day is a good idea, but I’m not sure it would work for me. If a book is good, I just can’t bear to put it down until I finish it or, if its a lengthy book, skip ahead and read the end. However, scheduling reading time is worth a try.
Judy, I long for the days when I dont want to put a book down. I can carve out time but its drudgery when I do. I wish I could find a reading specialist – for writers! LOL. I will keep trying to find my love for reading again.
Jen Wylie says
I just seem not to have time for reading like I used to, and I used to read at least a book a day, if not more. Writing (and editing and marketing) have taken over. I still have the love, I can still get lost .Sometimes I say screw everything else and just read a whole day away. Sadly this doesn’t happen enough.
One thing I do find is I am a lot more critical a reader… now I notice plot holes, weak characters and spelling and grammar errors where before it was JUST the story.
Jen, I dream of the days when I would read the whole day away. How dreamy is that – literally! I also notice all those critical things with an editors eye now too – more so with cliches, plot holes, characters (not so much grammar). It drives my husband nuts that I do it with him while watching a movie. 🙂 I yearn to be lost again. Its nice you still can get lost in a book.
Kathryn Craft says
Donna, I fear you have discovered the reason why many writers aren’t prolific until they’re beyond the child-rearing years! There’s only so much you can cram into a day, and when you want to cram even more—especially an activity as all-consuming as reading—your brain just won’t behave.
But I can relate to the fact that my reading tastes have changed. I need to read “up” in order to remain engaged, and so as my skill levels rise, so must the quality of the literature I read.
Kathryn, you have made me aware of something I wasn’t before. You made a valid point and ding-ding the bells went off! I think I too need to read up to be engaged. I actually picked up a book today I bought from an author at a conference and it’s poetic and magical and drawing me in…and making me dream of writing with such style…but I still couldnt go more than 15 minutes reading it. My brain wont behave! I like that – how true! I want to be swept away with beauty or fall in love with a character. Perhaps I just need to keep looking for those and make a promise to read it through until the end. I think I used to read to escape and be entertained – and now I need to read to feel something so different it affects me deeply.
Catherine Stine says
I’ve been through that, so I get it. Right now, especially since my teaching semester is over (forced re-skimming of teaching texts that take up my time) I feel like a kid in a candy store with all of the books I want to gobble down. Maybe you just haven’t hit on that book that totally takes your breath away??
Catherine, even books that I find intriguing and fascinating cant hold my attention for long. I need to re-work how I read somehow. I want to feel like a kid in a candy store again, I remember that feeling!
Stacy Green says
I know exactly what you mean. I have to make time in my day to read, and it takes me much longer to read a book than it used to. I try to read when I’m outside with Grace, or waiting in the car, etc. Any little extra time. But it’s hard. Between thinking about my own plots and all the social media, my brain gets tired. However, I’ve found that reading a good suspense book also really pumps me up to work on my own. But like someone else mentioned, I’m much more critical of plot issues and sentence structure now.
I think setting yourself a schedule is a great idea. Good luck!
Stacy, yes it is harder to get the scope of a book in bits and pieces I have found too. Reading here and there, trying to fit it in feels very disjointed. Thanks!
Heidi Angell says
It is much the same as when my husband decided to change his major from computers, because working with others was making him hate them. He kept it as a hobby and chose a different path. I have found that I really need to take off my writer’s hat when I read. I am too caught up in editing errors, plot holes and other issues that normally wouldn’t have bothered me. Doing book reviews for a friend’s review site has helped me force myself into reader mode.
Heidi, you make an interesting point here. Taking off our writer’s hat is hard. I have found when I am not as invested in a book, then I am not so critical I can read more for enjoyment and overlook blaring errors. Reviews are hard too! I try to read a book over a short time for this so I dont lose the story, but its hard and often feels like homework as I take notes. Perhaps I should just read it and not take notes as I go. I can certainly understand your husband’s change there!
Donna B. McNicol [@donnabmcnicol] says
Phew, I thought it was me…. For years, reading was my escape but I had trouble carving out time due to family and the fact that once I started a book, I hated putting it down. Fast forward to widowhood at age 58, already retired, other than my year spent on my motorcycle cross-country trip, I read…anything and everything but especially romance novels.
This continued as I moved from paperbacks to my Kindle but my days were so full with travel that I switched to reading before bed (and on vacations). The issue came when I developed insomnia because I wouldn’t/couldn’t stop reading. LOL!
Now that I’m back writing, I haven’t read a book in over three months. I need to make the time and I keep telling myself that, just like I need to make time to exercise.
Anyone got a spare infusion of willpower?
Donna, I struggle with this too! It’s almost like our reading cycle fluctuates with our writing cycles. How can we balance the two? I know when focused on a writing project its all I want to do and every spare moment goes to that. I think I need a vacation just to read! WOW – a year across country on motorcycle. What a story there you must have! And I find it ironic you had insomnia as you wouldnt stop reading – and reading for me is the only way to get to sleep! 🙂 I havent read a good romance novel in a while, perhaps I will pick one up just to get lost in. Thanks!