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Do you ever get tired of reading?

I was on the phone with one of my sisters lately, talking about something or other I was reading, and she asked me a question that I just don’t think about that often: “Don’t you ever get tired of reading?”

My response? “Of course not! Well, I mean…sometimes. But only the bad stuff. I mean, not REALLY tired, but sometimes you need a break. But I pretty much love it.” Or something to that effect.

Let me try to answer slightly more eloquently now.

I don’t actually get tired of reading in general. That’s like getting tired of eating or watching reality television! Sometimes though, sure, reading can become a bit of a chore.

When it’s Thursday night, and you just want to eat Thai food and watch Project Runway, but you look at your Kindle and see 17 manuscripts waiting to be read, it can be kind of a bummer. And sometimes when you’re reading the third draft of something and still can’t put your finger on exactly how to direct an author to solve a problem, it can be frustrating.

As I’m sure everyone realizes, nothing about writing (or agenting or editing) is an exact science. When that unknowable factor starts to needle me, it’s usually time to put down the manuscript and refocus.

Over the past (mumble) years I’ve been here, I’ve found that the best way to keep a fresh eye on the manuscripts I’m reading is to make sure that I’m regularly reading published books. I try to read a book a week (some months go better than others) because when I don’t I find that I lose perspective a bit. Reading published books clears my mind and lets me go back to new material feeling a bit refreshed. It keeps me from always reading as though I’m looking to find problems in material which is often unproductive. I’d rather simply read, and then let problems uncover themselves if that makes any sense.

In the long run, I’ve always felt best about editing material when I’ve just finished something I loved.

Does the same hold true for you, dear readers? Do you write best when you make sure to read things you love regularly? Or is the flip side true that if you get stuck in the writing of something, the best thing to do is try to work on something different to clear your system a bit?

15 Responses to Do you ever get tired of reading?

  1. I’ll never get tire of reading. I love it too much. I also find when I’m stuck writing, that’s when I need to read more. It helps recharge me. I may not always read in the genre I’m writing (I love too many things), but I always come away with something new to try.

  2. I find my eyes get tired. And then I have to read w/out my glasses for a few days. So I tend to limit my reading because I don’t want my myopia to get worse 😛

  3. I do both when I am stuck in writing: write something else or read.

    “I’ve always felt best about editing material when I’ve just finished something I loved”

    I feel better about *everything* when I am reading something I love. The problem, sometimes, is finding them. Right now I’m in a bit of heaven. Just finished People of the Book, which I simply love. In the middle of Goon Squad, which is so very different but equally captivating. I can’t wait to get to Rules of Civility and State of Wonder, after having read bits of both. I feel I’m due, having started a few books that I thought were promising but ended up not finishing.

  4. At the moment I have a stack of books I have to read for review, and some of them are terrible, so I do have to force myself to read them and that’s a chore. However, reading the occasional gem makes it all worthwhile.

    I have to read books in the style of what I’m trying to write. I’ve just written a fantasy novel for which I read lots of Piers Anthony and the Percy Jackson series as I was writing, and now I’m reading Marian Keyes because my next project is chick-lit. I suppose I’m trying to emulate the masters.

  5. DBurks says:

    I am proud of you! I have long had the suspicion that agents, editors, publishers and various “literary types” seldom read anything through believing they are such experts that “scanning” is quite sufficient.

    I try to read most of the award winners every year, and I am mostly disapppointed. Thousands of books published every year and this is the best? I sent Random House a suggestion that they simply publish random selections from all submissions and see if anyone notices. I have had no reply.

    I have found two things that help improve my writing. First, reading the best books from another era discloses that structure, pace and action remains largely the same over centuries. Dialog and vocabulary change with fashion, but the bones and sinews of a good novel do not change much.

    Second, I read books aloud to my wife every night while she sews. Over the years we have read all sorts of books in many genres, but one quality remains constant. The books that are difficult to follow for the listener are nearly always bad in other ways as well. I can recommend the practice to agents and editors, and it would possibly provide a reliable and quick way to pick out the rejects instead of so much focus on queries.

    I have also discovered one puzzle because I read books of many different ages: Punctuation changes, but why? Spelling is fairly standard, but the use of commas varies. Maybe editors are corruptible after all.

  6. Kaitlyne says:

    Reading a good book always inspires me to write. Not in the inspiration of ideas sense of the word. Motivates might be a better choice. It gives me that spark back.

    Ironically, reading a really good book also means I won’t get much writing done because I’ll be too caught up in the book. 😉

  7. Hillsy says:

    I read for pretty much a set time each day (aka The Commute), but I do find it affects my writing kind of the inverse to way Anna mentioned.

    I start to notice little tics and traits creep into my writing (voice?) if I’m reading something with a particularly style. For instance, I found I was putting in these little, bitter, sentance-long thoughts in character while I was reading Joe Abercrombie. Or these casual monologues when I was reading Brandon Sanderson; just here or there, but enough that I noticed. To get round it, I usually have 2 or 3 novels on the go at any point, each different enough that if I get into my Michael Marshall Smith mindset, I can let that loose on it’s own book, rather than stop it invading my current WiP…..after reading a couple more books I might find that patch has run its course and I’ll switch back.

    Problem is if I read something I really, REALLY love I get all dejected because I automatically assume everything is always THIS GOOD! And I, sadly, am not.

    • I get that dejected feeling too! It seems like a no win situation sometimes. We feel disappointed when books don’t live up to our standards. When they do, we feel discouraged. That’s when I channel Dory: “just keep writing”, although I usually can’t muster up the upbeat and carefree tone of voice.

  8. Barb Riley says:

    Those non-readers! They are so funny, aren’t they? “Don’t you ever get tired of reading?” HA! “Don’t you ever get tired of being a non-reading dorkface?” (I can say that, I have a non-reader husband 😉 Non-readers just don’t get it. I have no idea how I would live if you took away my books. I assume I would just shrivel up and die.

    I’m writing YA so I read a lot of YA, but I love a good romance, epic fantasy, or paranormal to spice up my days. Sometimes though, I find reading to be depressing to my writerly self. If I’m in a funk where my inner editor is telling me I’m writing total shit, and the book I’m reading is fabulous, then I have to separate my writerself from my readerself to stop comparing my crappy writerly skillz to this multi-award-winning-mega-star-author.

    That’s a book that I will then shelve to re-read for craft later. :)

  9. Dave Sosnowski says:

    When I’m in the thick of a project, I like to alternate reading and writing. I’ll write something intended for the project and keep with it until I feel like I’m running out of steam or lapsing into cliche. That’s when I put to computer or pad away and pick up a book (usually something quite different from whatever I’m working on). I’ll read until I come to a natural break (end of chapter or section) and then go back and try to write some more. I find this back-and-forth process a good way to avoid getting tired of either.

  10. Lydia says:

    I’m a wee bit quirky; kids off in summer, I devour a book or more a day. But when school starts, I write…and I do not read anything NEAR the genre of what I’m writing. Put it another way; I love Bronte, Austin, Shakespeare, and if I intensively read it, I start thinking in the language used in the books; so reading in my genre is a big no-no when it comes to writing…for me, at least.

    • Sarah Joy says:

      When I get tired of reading books, I read blogs. :) Seriously, though, I hear ya. I usually get really tired of reading right after I finish an amazing book that absolutely nothing can top. I am stuck on what to choose next. I like the tip of reading one published book a week.

      Sarah Joy, an associate agent-in-training.

      • Tegan Tigani says:

        Sarah Joy– I work as a bookseller, so I like to recommend books as “palate cleansers”– fun books to read without high expectations, for devouring right after you finish something amazing. This summer, one of my favorites of the kind is “The Summer We Read Gatsby.” Genre novels, YA, and food or travel writing also work for me. (“Heat” by Bill Buford and “Hungry Monkey” by Matthew Amster-Burton were two favorites that got me out of an overly-critical reading phase.) Happy reading!

  11. christi says:

    I write two things at once: something I intend to try to publish, and one thing that is entirely unmarketable due to size or content. It helps me from having all my focus and energy on one thing to where I get stuck for days. I just bounce between the two, and it makes me a more effective writer (I think).

  12. Pingback: Reading Time | Bluestem Magazine

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