Shut Up And Read
No, not you. I’m talking to the voices in my head. And no, you don’t need to call a medic (at least not yet). I do need help though. I’m trying to master the art of disassociation in relation to a host of things in my life. The rule is simple – the more I know about something, the less I can enjoy it without being critical. The common culprits tend to be things I’m supposedly proficient at. The premise sounds pretty obvious but lately it’s been bugging me a lot as it is interrupting the enjoyment of one of my favourite hobbies, reading – GASP! (yes, caps were necessary)
Not surprisingly, the first place I noticed this annoying trait was in my day job. Over the years I’ve developed a habit of walking into a room and noticing all the mundane things no one else cares about – door handles, air vents, toilet cubicle partitions, skirtings, balustrade fixing brackets, stair nosings. Why? Because as an Architect I spend far too many hours in a day reviewing ironmongery schedules or matching paint colours or carrying out other mind numbing tasks like that. The mundane elements then stick in my head and take away the overall beauty of the space.
Similarly, as a writer I am finding it more difficult to read a book without judging it as a writer. What are the books strengths and weaknesses? Head hopping? Character formation? POV switching? Over use of adjectives? I find myself looking for elements of a story that don’t work, even as I open up the first page. Or I spend ages trying to figure out why I didn’t enjoy a book instead of just accepting that I didn’t enjoy it and moving on to the next one as I would have done a few years ago. I now sneer when I see obvious attempts by writers to tackle issues that readers might question. Some people might say it’s a good thing to be aware of the craft behind what I’m reading but I think it’s awful because I’ve lost the ability to just read a book for pleasure. I sometimes hear the words of a review forming in my head, whether or not I plan to write a review of the work I am reading. Awful! Awful!
I need to get back to the days when the writer’s voice was the only one in my head, not the three or four other critical voices picked up from heaven know where, trying to overshadow the writer’s. I probably need to stop writing for a while and focus on recapturing what it was I loved about reading. Maybe that way I will be able to find my way back to that place I once loved. The only problem is, I love writing almost as much as I love reading. I don’t want to hurt one passion to save another, but sacrifices have to be made sometimes. Let’s see how I feel in a week or two.