That reading thing

20 Jul

Once upon a time, I was a big book nerd. I won all the book-reading contests at the public library. You could find me on any given afternoon kicking back on my bed reading something. I think that was true at least up through college.

Then stuff happened.

First, I went to grad school and had piles and piles of required reading. By the end of the PhD, I was burnt out on reading. Second, I actually got around to writing fiction, my long-time dream. Between writing coaches and fan fic readers and the sheer joy of writing, I started spending every spare moment I had writing. To the detriment of my social life (and any other part of life). Third, I started a successful fan website and proceeded to obsessively work on that in my free time. Then those TV shows were cancelled and I cancelled my cable TV and went back to writing fiction again obsessively. Finally, I finally broke down and got cable again and started watching TV a lot.

Suffice it to say, I haven’t done a lot of reading for pleasure in the past thirteen years, unless you count the internet, and then, not fiction of any sort on the internet. I miss it. And yet I find it a big time-suck and don’t do it. I mean, if anything’s going to suck up all my time and be a huge detriment to my social life (or any kind of life, really) it’s going to be fiction writing.

I did some reading in Santa Cruz last week. Mostly because I was on vacation from writing and there was no TV around. I enjoyed it. Now vacation is over and I’m back to writing and TeeVee.

I tried motivating more reading by vowing to read X number of books in 2007 and writing mini-reviews of them in my LJ. That worked fine until moving and job hunting interfered.

Now I’m looking for a way to get myself to read again. It’s ridiculous, really. A pleasurable activity should motivate itself; and yet I can’t seem to get myself to do it. I did it in early 2007 by trapping myself on the bus twice a day without a television or anything to write. Now, there’s no bus. I thought of doing it by trapping myself on some exercise-machine thing without a remote control, but I’m considering buying a rowing machine, so that makes it tough to hold a book. You know the kind where your eye absorb words rather than having some Voice reading it to you?

*sigh*

I know what motivates me to do things I want to do but find it difficult to do. Accountability. Need to lose weight? Go to Weight Watchers meetings. Need to write a novel? Pay a writing coach Real Money to force you to report into her every week. That’s what I need in order to read. So pathetic, I know.

32 Responses to “That reading thing”

  1. chaos_by_design July 21, 2009 at 12:27 am #

    Yeah, I know what you mean. Same here, nerdy girl with glasses and no friends, poring over a book. Yep, that was my childhood. Then I went to college and got out and did stuff and got obsessed with some tv shows and…
    What really hit me is when one of my friends responded to one of my memes asking something about the shows I watched; I realized she thought of me more as a tv watcher than a reader. And deep down I have this snobbery: tv=dumb, reading=smart. And I want to be smart.
    That and I do like to read, at least when I find a good book. And I’ve been trying to read more, but my problem is that I start way more books than I have time to finish, and then I have a bunch of half-read books. And then I get distracted by a knitting project, or a new tv show, or both.

  2. ladystarlightsj July 21, 2009 at 1:06 am #

    Want me to try the Mom Voice ™?
    Or, if you’re going for a rowing machine — what about a book on tape (or CD, heh)? Your library probably has tons of them, and a lot of the new bestsellers are coming out concurrently with an audio version as well as print.

  3. etrangere July 21, 2009 at 1:07 am #

    You know how a few years ago I was all O_O about you not reading much anymore?
    Well I’ve been having my own dry spell in the last year and a half too x_x it’s kind of weird and frustrating. So now I sympathise. 😦

  4. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 1:55 am #

    As for books on tape, I sort of covered that with, “You know the kind where your eye absorb words rather than having some Voice reading it to you?”
    The Mom Voice, on the other hand, might actually work.

  5. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 1:57 am #

    It’s really terrible and kind of embarrassing. I thought to myself the other day, “I wouldn’t mind re-reading HP 6 and 7, or even the whole series.” Then I thought of all the books I own I haven’t read even once and cried.

  6. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 1:58 am #

    I’d like to blame it on an unhealthy need not to be seen as a nerd, but all my friends are nerds, so I have no such need.

  7. chaos_by_design July 21, 2009 at 2:10 am #

    I more have a need *to* be seen as a nerd. I like being a nerd. Nerd is good.

  8. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    I think I wouldn’t obsess over my lack of reading if my friends *weren’t* all nerds.
    No, I miss reading. I’d obsess in private.

  9. cornerofmadness July 21, 2009 at 2:40 am #

    luckily there are a lot of those accountability sites too

  10. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 2:47 am #

    Really? Where?

  11. cornerofmadness July 21, 2009 at 3:17 am #

    (I run this one),
    mostly they’re just review sites and you keep yourself accountable that way

  12. ladystarlightsj July 21, 2009 at 3:27 am #

    Good lord, you did cover that, didn’t you? Oops.
    The Mom Voice is at your disposal, should you so desire. 😉

  13. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 3:31 am #

    As long as the Mom Voice cajoles and motivates, and doesn’t read to me!
    ; D

  14. ladystarlightsj July 21, 2009 at 3:35 am #

    heeeeee. I shall work on my mad motivational skillz, just for you!

  15. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    Hmmm…50 books is way too ambitious for someone trying to get their feet wet again. And the other two don’t actually set any kind of goal for their members, they seem more review sites, and I am not going to pressure myself by having to review stuff. I want to start with something small and manageable.

  16. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 3:39 am #

    You could have a new career in that….

  17. midnightsjane July 21, 2009 at 4:04 am #

    If you need motivation, I could promise to buy you a bag of MacIntosh’s toffee for every book you read between now and when I come visit…
    I have and always will be an obsessive reader. Right now I’m rereading a bunch of my Star Trek novels, and then I might just reread the Dresden series. It all depends on my mood as to what I read. I still have the latest Ann Perry novel on my table waiting for me to find the right time to read it, and I just realized I still haven’t read that Dick Francis book I bought in the Manchester Airport last fall.
    I reread one of my favourite feel good books just last week: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society…which I totally recommend for summer reading.

  18. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 4:18 am #

    I just need you to graft some of that reading obsession onto me! Unfortunately, Mac toffee is going to not go over well when I weigh in at WW!
    My biggest problem, I fear, is my obsession with other stuff. I write constantly. When I’m not writing, I’m working on fixing up my house. I see a light at the end of the tunnel for the house, but never the writing. I will somehow need to become reobsessed with reading, LOL

  19. gehayi July 21, 2009 at 5:12 am #

    Consider the reading to be part of the writing. It gives you a chance to explore someone else’s imagination, bounce their ideas around in your head and see how you’d handle such-and-such an emotion, a situation or a character. You can read for the style, the storytelling, the plot or the characterization, and see what works for you and what doesn’t.
    Sometimes you can even learn what not to do from other books; I learned a LOT about the importance of active protagonists from Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows, whose main character went from an active character who got into everything in the first book to a virtually inert character whose passivity was hidden by the fact that the things he should have been saying and doing were being said and done by others. (YMMV, obviously. Still, I’m sure there’s at least one book that taught you what not to do in your own writing.)
    And sometimes, you know, you just read for fun. Because reading IS fun, and you don’t always have to be all serious about it. And when you read for fun, you’re also learning what makes a story fun for you…which goes back to learning and writing again.
    I think you need to stop approaching reading as if it’s an unpleasant assignment that you HAVE to do, though. I think that’s part of what’s getting in your way, right there.

  20. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 5:22 am #

    I know the importance of reading to good writing, but that doesn’t motivate me to do it, alas.
    And besides, it makes it *work*, not pleasure.

  21. zargon10 July 21, 2009 at 6:42 am #

    I can tell you how to spend more time reading: move to another country where the tv language is mostly not English! They also show shows randomly, so we never know where they are in the season. Perhaps they actually begin with ep 1, but we never get to see it. They also show movies randomly. And the web pages for the tv schedules are say rather unhelpful. And we have a still somewhat non-sleeping baby, so 1) we don’t watch tv when she’s awake 2) we’re too tired to watch when she does go to bed
    So, we read tons of books!

  22. ponygirl2000 July 21, 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    Sounds like you need a book club!

  23. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 2:48 pm #

    Only if they pick books I would read anyway….

  24. cornerofmadness July 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm #

    i have no set goals. every book site I know is there for reviews to share what you’ve read.

  25. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

    Yeah, I need something more motivational.

  26. bhadrasvapna July 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm #

    I met Jim Butcher on Saturday. I was very proud of myself. I didn’t go totally fan girl, though we did have an interesting discussion.
    Me: I want you to sign this (Small Favors, which I got for free at the signing) even though you hurt Thomas.
    Him: Thomas is okay.
    Me: You made him evil again!
    Him: He’s not evil. He’s just going to have fun.
    We joked around for awhile.
    Him: People think I do nothing but sit around and think of ways to torture my characters.
    Me: You’re a writer. It’s our job.
    Then we laughed. He’s a great guy.

  27. bhadrasvapna July 21, 2009 at 5:33 pm #

    Stephen King says “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have time to write.”
    You already know as a writer you “should” (or must) read. That doesn’t make it a chore. That makes you fortunate. How many jobs require something we love? Reading isn’t just enjoyable; it makes our souls sing.
    If it doesn’t make your soul sing, you aren’t reading the right stuff. You don’t need accountability. You need to find the books that speak to your soul. Like with any form of spirituality, you have to find what speaks to you.
    I love reading. Once I regained the attention span necessary, I started reading again. Once I found urban fantasy I couldn’t stop reading. It was also the stuff I was writing.
    That’s what I suggest. Read the same stuff you write. If it speaks to you enough to write it, it should speak to your soul enough to read it.

  28. bhadrasvapna July 21, 2009 at 5:35 pm #

    Check out the ones on Goodreads. They have ones for everything.
    The problem with book clubs is they don’t read enough books. They are a good place to find what you love. Then check out the books that are recommended if you love X. Amazon has it, but Goodreads is better.

  29. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    Those are spoilers, aren’t they? *eep* I haven’t read the most recent book yet!!! (I’m getting to it, I swear)

  30. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    When I do pick up a book that is about the stuff I write, I enjoy it. Like this weekend in Santa Cruz. But that doesn’t make me pick it up at home.
    The devil has a hold of my soul. And until I get it back from his evil clutches, I can’t make myself do something that makes my soul sing.

  31. neshaffer July 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm #

    I don’t really need book recs. I have dozens of unread books burning a hole on my bookshelf. What I need is someone to break the spell that makes me not pick one up and read it.

  32. cornerofmadness July 22, 2009 at 2:01 am #

    i’m sure they exist but i would have no idea where. Most book comms i know are for sharing what you read not lighting a fire under you to read (well 50 books is both)

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