It shouldn’t be writing vs reading, but it has been that for me. I haven’t been reading all that many books since writing has taken over my creative life.
I suspect that this isn’t the case for most writers. Most writers read a lot of books while they write. Nathan Lowell said in a recent blog post “Reading is a necessary key to writing for me. Over the years I’ve learned that if I’m not writing, I’m probably not reading.” And I know of other authors – indeed all of the ones I know, who both read books and write. But for me, it hasn’t worked out that way.
As I see sit, there are several reasons for lack of reading. The first one is that I was motivated, in part, to start writing my own stories again – after spending a decade painting pictures as my creative outlet – because I couldn’t find new books that appealed to me. There are certain modern fads in fiction writing that I simply don’t like. One is the use of multiple points of view and the other, the extensive use of flashbacks. I guess I’m old fashioned in that when I pick up a book, I want to read a narrative, not solve a jigsaw puzzle. Now, I’m sure that there are good reasons why an author might want to jump between characters and time to tell their story, and do it well. Indeed, I can think of stories where occasionally shifting focusing on the activities of different characters works –I love Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey and Maturin series and he does this. I also, barely, tolerated the alternating narrative chapters in the Leviathan Wakes, but by and large, it isn’t a technique I enjoy.
Another factor in my falling out of love with reading is that for all my reading life, I’ve considered myself a science fiction fan. But the type of stories I like were rather specific – planetary romances – which they don’t write anymore, and space opera which almost always means military science fiction these days. While I can’t enjoy the old stories that I loved as a teenager, the new stuff is no better. It seems that the sf background of so many writers and their stories come from movies and TV shows. So much so that I could envision the movie or TV show that inspired their story. In short, a lot of it is thinly disguised fan fiction, that includes all the unrealistic shortcuts that movies and TV shows take with science fiction. Of course, I’ve read in other genre – mysteries; until I got tired of them always being about murder, sea stories; but new ones are rare these days, fantasy; until I grew weary of the same basic story being recycled and magic that can do anything the author needs done. Not to mention decent series books that become repetitious after a while.
So instead of reading, I began to spend my time daydreaming up stories of my own and writing them down. Reading stories at the same time was, I felt, a distraction for me. One I didn’t need with my own stories in my head.
Still, all that said, I want to read more, and I have been making more of an effort to do so over the last several months.