I just want to read a book. Reading makes better writers, they say. But writing has made me a horrible reader.
I remember reading for the fun of it, losing my day amidst the pages of some novel . . . 200,000 words or more. Now, I can’t manage 1,000 without dissecting every sentence. I’m bothered by grammar and structure, by character names and plot lines. I’m changing the story to fit what I think is best.
I just want to read a book. Not edit it. I don’t mind editing for my friends when I can find the time. But when I’m reading something by someone I don’t know, I’m still editing. They missed a comma, misspelled a word. Their pronouns, apostrophes . . . something is off. I might get a laugh here and there, amused by the author’s cleverness, but then it happens again. I must correct the story.
I’d be so great to read a book . . . that I didn’t write. Don’t get me wrong. I love my stories. I love my characters. I’ve lived their lives vicariously in my head over and over. But sometimes I want to enjoy finding out what will happen without the stress of the ending coming from me. I don’t want to make choices or decisions about who will get with who, if she misunderstands him and walks away or not. I want someone else to do it . . . some other author to get the headache, to stay up late or get up early, to write in their car, on the bed stand. Wherever.
If only I could read a book . . . and not be involved in its creation. Not the formatting, the book cover, the marketing end. I don’t want to tweet or post on Facebook or Instagram. If only, I could go back in time and just READ. Back to the girl I was at age 16, curled up on my bed, lost in a war that happened hundreds of years ago. I want to learn from the story and come away wondering what it was like. Not be who I am now trying to decide if the author got the facts wrong or not. Was that object invented then? Is the female character dressed incorrectly? Would she really say that, or did Shakespeare invent the phrase?
Reading is my career, and as such, it has changed how I write. Writing is my profession, and it has changed how I read. The fact is I can’t ever go back. I can’t unbake the cake, unscramble the egg, etcetera. I can’t unwrite my stories and take away my ambition. I can’t be carefree and innocent within a book’s pages again. Those are facts.
Reading would make me a better writer, but writing stops me from opening books.
Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, and really, at the heart of it, I don’t want to change anything. Except when it comes to reading. Because knowing how my head works keeps me from reading at all. I’m more apt to watch television. It’s far more mindless, especially since I’ve seen this episode three times already.
Didn’t the man’s wife burn the house down for the insurance money? Hit pause, for a moment, and let me turn my computer off . . . We’ll watch it together.
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Suzanne D. Williams