When I was a child, I devoured books. In fact, I broke the record of the most books read in one year at my elementary school. I read anything I could get my hands on. I even read Shakespeare, biographies, and encyclopedias :).
As an adult, my love for a good story continued. I found myself blessed with a husband who loved reading. Even better, we loved the same kind of books. We read Star Wars novels together, Harry Potter together, even Twilight. And I would read whatever nonfiction he was going through, whether it was on church ministry, leadership, or spiritual disciplines.
It wasn’t until I became a writer that reading began to lose its magic. I still read, but now that I was learning the craft of writing myself, I began to critique what I read. I couldn’t help myself. If I learned to stay in one-person point of view, then every book I read that didn’t follow that rule I thought was wrong.
As an author recently put it, reading a book is like watching a magic show. It’s fascinating and you are caught up in the spectacle. But when you start to learn the magician’s tricks, the show loses its charm. You know how he does it now. And you begin to critique the magician if he doesn’t do it right.
So how does a writer find her way back to the magic of simply enjoying a story? That’s a hard one, a feat that has taken me almost 2 years to learn.
One, I had to learn to turn off my inner editor. If there is one thing I have learned in writing, it is there are many styles of writing. And one style is not necessarily better than another. Just different. Both accomplish the same thing: a well-written, emotionally engaging book. But if I let my particular style drive my reading, then I am bound to be disappointed in a book that is different than me.
Two: don’t go into a book with preconceived ideas or emotions. What do I mean? In this industry, it can be easy to let jealousy come in and distort my view of a book. That is not right. If I am jealous, I will not see the good in a book, I will only be looking for the bad. But if I learn to rejoice with my fellow authors when they produce a good book, then I will enjoy their written work (for more on that topic, click here).
Thirdly, I need to let myself enjoy the experience of reading. Drink a cup of tea, curl up on the couch. Allow myself to be drawn in and taken to another place. And make the writer part of myself stay home! It has no place in my pleasure reading.
When I do this, I am finally free to just simply read. I get to experience the book as a reader. And the magic of reading comes back, just the way I remember it as a child.