The Writer as Reader

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As a recovering English Literature graduate (B.A.), I find that I have trouble reading for enjoyment sometimes. I’ve heard many of my classmates lament that they had trouble reading for enjoyment anymore, either because they were used to reading for writing papers or because they were afraid to read anything that could end up in their own work by accident. I’ve heard that all good writers are readers and that all writers love to read, but at the same time, it can be difficult to switch gears from editor and critic to reader.

I held on to my love of reading and found ways to get around this English Paper Mentality for a long time. I would always read things twice: once for enjoyment and then again to accomplish whatever assignment was attached. I was disappointed when I didn’t enjoy something the first time and had to write a paper about it. My primary joy was not in relating how Their Eyes Were Watching God worked as a Bildungsroman as it was the quotable lines that said so much in so few words. However, the English Paper Mentality has caught up with me in recent years as I’ve focused more and more on my writing. So what does a writer do to regain her “reader’s eye?”

Well, what I’m doing is going back to some old standbys, books that I love reading just for the joy of reading them. At the moment, I’m reading Autobiography of a Face for at least the third time. As soon as I secure a library card, I will be rereading Wasted: A Memoir and Prozac Nation. I’m sure there will be plenty of others, but these are the books that have been on my reader’s mind. As I’m working on my fiction writings, it’s a good change of pace.

What do you do to get back in reader mode when you’re experiencing editor/proofreader burnout? How do you return to your own work as a reader, reading for enjoyment as well as plot holes and continuity? How do you retrain your eyes to see what a reader would want to know more about, instead of just where you need a stronger verb? Can you separate your reader self from your writer self at all?


4 thoughts on “The Writer as Reader

  1. I too re-read. My favorite is “Swimming Pool Season”, Rose Tremain. I also leave the books and reach for words. I will play Scrabble and do crosswords for hours as a writing exercise. My ultimate standby is reading what others write about writing. It inspires me. Thanks for the post.

    • I hadn’t thought about Scrabble or crosswords, but now that you mention it, I like fill-in puzzles, the SAT words cross words, and the SAT words book (I think it’s called Tooth and Nail), that integrates SAT words into a novel. A return to words is a great suggestion–it brings you back to the power and beauty of the words themselves.

      I’ve never read Swimming Pool Season; I’ll have to pick that one up.

      Thanks for reading and commenting! 😀

  2. It’s nice to know that there are others out there who share my love of words, writing, and reading. And now I have suggestions for new reading material. Thanks for sharing!

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