Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sod it

I'm fed up reading stories I don't enjoy.

Time was I enjoyed nearly everything I read. Oh, there'd be the occasional misstep where a book would catch my eye and then fail to deliver upon its promise but for the most part my reading experiences were happy ones. But for quite a while I've found more and more books are leaving me dissatisfied. And I think I know why.

More people are recommending books to me than ever before.

As a child discovering a new author was often a happy accident. Stories on Jackonary would catch my interest, a film I enjoyed would be novelized, or I might spy a book in the local library and closer inspection would lead me to believe that I would enjoy reading it. And of course people would recommend books to me.

But these recommendations were reasonably scarce, tending to come from only one or two trusted sources, friends who shared similar tastes to my own. Nowadays I'm constantly assailed by people badgering me to read their favourite authors. And it's not just people I actually talk to, it's the people on message boards and websites and newsletters and magazines and all the other stuff that I never used to bother with as a child. All of them saying, "You must read this new book!"

This would be a lot easier to ignore if it wasn't for the fact that I'm a writer. As a reader I can just read whatever I want to read and to hell with what anyone else thinks. But as a writer I'm supposed to have a solid background in all kinds of fiction. I'm supposed to be wellversed in the classics, to have a thorough knowledge of the history of the various genres that I write in as well as keeping up to date with all the current developments in those same genres. Plus, I'm supposed to read outside these genres in order to prevent myself merely recycling the cliches of the kinds of fiction that I write.

So when people tell me about an author who is a literary genius or whose work had a profound effect on a particular genre or who is currently redefining a genre I add that author's name to the list of stuff I'm supposed to be reading. Which means I'm relying on other people's recommendations on what I should read instead of my own judgement. Hence my reading so much stuff that I don't actually enjoy.

Now as a writer I'm not supposed to actually enjoy everything I read, the reading is supposed to be part of my work. But -- and I don't know if I'm alone in this -- I find that the more stuff I read that I don't enjoy then the less I actually write. The dreariness of the work I'm reading permnates my entire being and robs me of any desire to write any stories of my own. Now you can say this is just my excuse for being a lazy bastard, and you wouldn't be entirely wrong, but it is true that the less I enjoy the stories I'm reading then the harder I find the writing process.

Therefore I am currently saying the hell with it and am concentrating on reading stories that I think I will like and not what other people tell me I should like.

So there.


nomis said...

There's nothing quite as inspiring for a writer as reading, so if you don't enjoy what you're reading, it's no wonder you aren't feeling the urge to write.

Some stuff you ought to be reading, sure, but if you've given it a proper chance at it doesn't do anything for you, then you're well within your rights to stop. Not everybody has to like MR James, after all.

Chris said...

Who is Mr James? ;-)

You really must read... nah, never mind Stu.

Randy Hayward said...

After awhile it will stop hurting when you stop hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Keep reading (and writing), but you might want to stop relying on other peoples' judgement for awhile.