The Writing Reader Conundrum

School went back today after summer holidays (cue millions of smiling mums),

my happy dance looked a little like this (though not quite as graceful as Gene Kelly)

which for me means more time to write at my sparkly new desk (yippee) and a little less time to read (not so yippee). I did manage to finish two books over the holidays (I am the world’s slowest reader), and start another, which given my very poor track record over the last year and a half (which my book club can attest to), isn’t too bad. But I have a bit of a problem, and it’s this…

Ever since I got serious about this writing malarkey, I’ve not enjoyed reading nearly as much as I used to!

I don’t seem to be able to turn my writer brain off and I find myself picking stories to pieces, being overly critical about plot (well that was far too convenient a coincidence), character (there is nothing likeable about anyone in this story), pacing (too much exposition – get to the action), and so it goes on. Now, I know some people will say that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. To be a better writer it’s good to figure out what works and what doesn’t for those who’ve gone before you. Learn from them, learn what you like, what you don’t. As aspiring authors the most common piece of advice we’re giving is read, read, read. And that’s all true. But this type of critical analysis does kind of kill the magic a little and I don’t know how to turn that part of my brain off. How to just read and be swept away without thinking “what was the purpose of that scene?”

Maybe I’ve just been picking the wrong books. I mean, I’ve liked books I’ve read in the past 18 months, but I haven’t really like-liked any – you know, when you just have to tell everyone you know to get their hands on a copy or their lives won’t be worth living. Maybe I just haven’t found that next gem yet.

And that’s what makes me keep going. Being ever hopeful of finding the next story that sets up camp in my heart and never moves out. It’s happened before (as evident here and here) so surely it will happen again. Right? RIGHT??

I bought myself three new books for Christmas (one I’ve read and hated, two I haven’t got to yet – keeping fingers crossed), so I’m not about to give up. But I just long for that feeling again of falling in love with the words, the pages, the world I’m taken in to.

I know that feeling and I want it back!!!book hug

Somehow I need to turn writer-Sandie off and rediscover reader-Sandie. But how?

Maybe you can help me peeps. Any tips? Perhaps a recommendation for a book that will wrench me out of this reading slump?

Help me find the love again.


Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.


14 thoughts on “The Writing Reader Conundrum

  1. Julie Valerie @Julie_Valerie

    Okay, Miss Sandie. I’m gonna start with a quote from Stephen King. Here it is:

    “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
    ― Stephen King

    And I think that’s the point of your blog post – you know the wisdom of Stephen King’s words, you’ve just lost your reading mojo because your snazzy new writing desk and recent horoscopes have amp’d up your skills as a writer and this is ruining the pleasure of reading for reading’s sake.

    So I’m here to help. This is my prescription – my cure for connecting you with the world of reading – from the vantage point of a writer. All three books celebrate the “reading life” while bringing so much value to lovers (and especially, the creators) of the written word.

    Julie’s Rx for Writers Needing to Reconnect with the Reader Inside:

    – Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
    – The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
    – How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster

    (I’m digging this response so much – I might copy and paste it into a blog post on my blog. Hhmm…)

    Thanks for hopping on the Hump Day Blog Hop, Sandie. It’s always such a treat to connect with you from across the hemispheres and around the globe. Cheers!

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Yeah, it’s not a matter of time or desire (I try to read every night), but I have definitely lost my mojo. All I need is one book to grab me by the heart and I’ll be back.
      Thanks for your prescription Dr Julie (I’m going to call you that from now on). By the look of comments further down Fikry might be a good place to start. 🙂

  2. writerwithdogs

    Dear Dr. Julie – excellent reply to a great post by Sandie! Will check out your RX. I’ve had more time to read over the holidays thanks to a knee injury. When I read, I forget to write. But I learn much from others, the good, the bad, and the ugly. I am more a non-fiction memoir writer and I’ve read two books recently that have gotten me psyched to work on a new memoir. Always a learning process. I love it.

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Sorry about your knee injury. At least you’ve turned it into a positive (reading). I think we probably learn more from the bad and ugly and that goes for everything in life, not just writing, because the good is usually so good we’re too busy being swept away to think too much. Good luck with the new memoir.

  3. Ann@BooksontheTable

    I agree with Julie’s suggestions, especially A.J. Fikry. I also highly recommend The Secret Wisdom of the Earth by Christopher Scotton — if that doesn’t get your reading mojo back, I don’t know what will! Good luck.

  4. paulinewiles

    First of all, I love your new desk and I’m a firm believer that attractive/calming/inspiring surroundings are vital for well being (and creativity).
    As for reading while writing, yes, I find I’m so much more critical than I used to be. Especially when reading best-selling authors: I really expect their books to be pretty flawless.
    AJ Firky is on my TBR list but I recently read and adored The Rosie Project: funny, touching, and just a little unusual.

    1. sandiedocker Post author

      Thanks Pauline. I’m with you re bestsellers. I actually had that response to The Rosie Project. There was SO MUCH hype about it here in Australia and an agent who rejected me even said “if you’re going to write WF, write like The Rosie Project”, so those two elements combined – you can imagine how high my expectations were. So of course, I was a little disappointed with it. I liked it, but didn’t understand why it was as highly lauded as it was. Perhaps if I’d read it without the expectation, my reaction would have been different.
      Firky seems popluar, so I’ll have to check that one out.

  5. krystal jane

    I so know how you feel. I had this exact problem last year. Almost everything (fiction-wise) I picked up, I analyzed it to death until I couldn’t even read it anymore. So I read a LOT of non-fiction last year, but I did find two fiction books I loved to pieces, even while I was picking them apart. Maybe they just had that magic?

    It helped that they were very much up my alley. Magic, mystery, action. It also helped that they were extremely well written. The pacing was amazing, the characters and world were believable. But the truth is, not everything has the ability to get me to block out the world and just soak it in.

    I picked up another Anthology edited by the same person who put together one I liked so much last year, and it features some of the same amazing authors as well, so I’m hoping that will get me out of my fiction slump. Maybe I just need to read books by people I’ve already read, people I already think are amazing. If there are some authors you love, there’s bound to be another book by them that you will like just as much. It’s worth a try. ^_^

  6. Jorie

    Hallo, Hallo! 🙂

    I have visited this particular stop on the hop quite a heap over the past several days; honestly, I had a lot of back to back deadlines, and each time I felt I had a spare minute I was trying to go back through the route! 🙂 What truly touched home for me is how you can hit a blockage in your readings and/or get so fused to what your doing, you forget to ‘read for pleasure’ without thinking of reading for review! At least, this is something I that I sort of forgot to do to have better balance in my own reading life last year in 2014! 😦 Part of my goals for 2015 is to anchour myself back between three areas:

    * books for review
    * books from my personal library
    * books I borrow through my local public library

    I even grabbed a copy of the three books Ms. Valerie suggested because I have seriously wanted to read “Mr Pemumbra’s…” for such a long while now! It felt just the right amount quirky with an intriguing premise to hook my interest! I was quite gobsmacked my local library *had all three!* and that I could bring them home so quickly! Cheers!

    I understand where your coming from as back in a previous life where I contemplated being a film director — I kid you not, I would break down a new release I was watching at the theater ‘bones to script’ just by watching it AS IT AIRED for the first time! I had to learn to ‘get outside my head’ and just re-appreciate motion pictures without my head saying “Ooh that is matted against a live action sequence” or “that’s definitely a CGI insert against a raw footage piece”. Lest I digress to mention when I started to notice variants in cloud coverage!?

    I think that history I had did save me from over thinking my readings, except sometimes I get this fever worry over if I’m starting to read a new book, should I pull up Word to jot down notes or grab a notebook & pen? Half the time I roll my eyes at myself and say “you were a reader before you were a book blogger, just relax!” 🙂

    Mind you, I’m a writer by trade, so I do take stock and notice of certain things a writer would pick up on whilst she reads, but I’m quite generous and accepting of ‘most’ errors in final copies. I have more irked ire over overly using violence and/or vulgarity than minor issues in grammar or pace.

    You are definitely where I was when I could barely stomach going to see a movie as it released because I would groan knowing my head would start to ‘see’ how it was filmed rather than the final product. I can tell you, its half mind over matter and it’s half re-inspiring yourself. I agree with either reading stories outside your comfort zone and/or visiting book bloggers who read such a varied diverse eclectic breadth of literature (hmm, that was a sub-conscience plug!) that you might find a door back into seeing stories for the beauty of what they give the reader rather than how frustrating it can become to have your writerly eyes on and seeing only the questions that alight in the margins.

    PS: Forgive yourself if you need to DNF a book; that was a hard pill for me to swallow my 1st Year as a Book Blogger, but let’s face it — some stories although they ‘sound’ wicked brilliant might not settle well with us once their in our hands. If you fight yourself to finish a book, you’ve spoilt the intent to find the stories that light up your joy like lightning on the sun!


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