I’ve been a voracious reader since the moment I began to read, gobbling up words and stories, letting them transport me and fill me and cover me. Books helped me through every rough time of my life. Pieces of stories from years and years of reading have imbedded themselves into my soul, probably taking the places of real memories that my mind deemed unworthy. Yes, books have always been a huge part of my life.
As a little girl I would hide behind my father’s recliner in the corner with a blanket and a Ramona book while my family watched television. As a middle schooler I’d hole myself up in my room with spooky R.L. Stine books. As a teen, things were different. It became more difficult to find books that fit my frame of mind–there wasn’t the massively awesome teen selection that there is today. I think I can blame a lot of my teenage depression and early stages of anxiety on the fact that I was mourning the loss of my old friend, reading.
Thankfully, once I hit my twenties I delved into the world of adult books and found my peace once again. While I was a flight attendant my best friend and I read the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and called one another “Dahling” for weeks. Then I went through a chick-lit humor phase where I devoured everything written by Marian Keyes, Rachel’s Holiday being my favorite. Next I dove into “serious,” literary books and nonfiction, things like Poisonwood Bible and Angela’s Ashes (think Oprah’s Book Club stuff). I was reading a book every 1-2 days. I could not get enough. While my husband was in vet school, he begged me to get a library card because we were broke and books were my primary spending vice. You all know how it is. Book nerd problems. Then as a high school English teacher I fell absolutely in love with young adult literature while trying to find books to suit my reluctant readers’ personalities. Next up was romance of every variety.
I’ve been through every book stage and loved them all. All sorts of genres. I don’t believe there’s such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading. Books and guilt don’t belong together. In the mood for a gruesome historical nonfiction? Do it? Spicy romance? Have fun. I certainly have.
But somewhere along the line, right around 2012, something happened–something that changed my ability to escape into books.
I became a writer.
It pains me to say this. I always loved writing, too, right along with reading. I wrote stories all my life, but it wasn’t until 2012 when I was thirty-two years old, that I wrote my first full novel and began to seriously critique fellow writers.
At first, I thought I was just in a slump. I’d been doing so much beta reading that I found myself trying to beta read the published books I was reading. I wanted to change lines and cross out words, and I kept reminding myself that this was pleasure reading. Put down the red pen, Wendy. But it only got worse. It became harder and harder to enjoy the words on the page without turning phrases over in my mind and thinking about how I would have described that moment. Or, worse, finding myself shamefully jealous of said writer’s skills. Over the years, it has only become more difficult. It began with reading the first book in a series, and enjoying it, but not feeling a burning desire to pick up the sequel. And it only went downhill from there. I still find books that I love, and series that I continue reading, but they are few and far between now.
In the past year I have found myself feeling that same sense of loss and depression that I did as a teen, because I miss my old friend. You have no idea how sad it is for me to admit that. I buy books ALL the time. I still love how they feel in my hands, and how they smell. I love the thrill of watching a new book upload on my Kindle. I love the possibility that *maybe* this will be the one I love and finish. Because most of the books I buy these days do not get finished. They are left somewhere between 20-70%. And it’s not that they’re bad. They’re not. Five years ago I would have adored them. But it’s so hard for me to fall for a book now. It’s so hard for me to get lost in the story, from start to finish, and let myself be carried away without overthinking it. I don’t know why. It’s a horrible feeling. (That being said, please know that when I endorse a book on Goodreads, whatever I say about said book, I mean it. I would not BS and blow smoke up your bum. I’ve been lucky to find a few gems each year and to meet many lovely authors.)
All of that being said, I can’t help but wonder…is it like this for a lot of writers? I’ve talked to a couple friends who also sadly admit they have a hard time escaping into books now. But I wonder if it’s across the board in the publishing world – writers, agents, editors? That could explain why it’s so hard to get published. If agents and editors are so submersed in the writing world that they’re as word-burned as me, I can see how it would be harder to fall for a book enough to want to represent it and publish it. I can understand how so many good books would slip through and go unnoticed, hence the widely-loved indie movement.
I never dreamed that being a full-time writer would have an effect on me as a reader. I’m to the point now where I need to face this reality and embrace where I’m at. I’m a writer. It seems that my brain now prefers to be lost in story worlds of its own creation. Am I okay with that? Not yet. I’m still very sad. But being a writer is my dream-come-true. I would choose being an author over any career in the world. I’m beyond blessed. I love the worlds I make and the characters who live in them. I do. And maybe this is just another phase. I have faith that my love of reading will renew itself someday when things settle down in my life. Until then, I need to be satisfied with the fact that I get to provide other readers with the escapism they crave and need. If I can’t have both, then I choose writing. I choose you.
Whatever book you’re reading, friend, savor it. For me and you both.