This is going to sound rather strange, but I find that when I'm deep in the middle of writing a book—especially when I'm first starting out and find myself gripped by the fever of new love—I can't read all that much. In fact, a lot of times, I'll go weeks without touching a book. It seems a little backwards. I mean, most times I'm inspired by reading—see things that I absolutely love, that I wish I had written, or conversely, notice things that I definitely want to avoid in my own work. Reading is a well that allows me to tap into new ideas—to find what moves me. Explore new language. Etc, etc.
I think any writer worth his or her salt is going to be well-read. Both in their genre and in other areas of fiction. Only makes sense, right? So why do I avoid it?
Well, to put it bluntly, I'm a bit of a chameleon. I tend to take on the voice of books I really enjoy—be it in my specific genre or not. Don't believe me? Well, here are a few examples – some of them literary, some of them cinematic.
I was on a HUGE LOTR kick a couple of years ago. I seriously couldn't get enough of the movies, and found myself beginning to take on certain nuances… lol. For example, when speaking to someone who had traveled through bad weather, I actually said the following, "You must be very stout of heart to have ventured out into this weather." The guy looked at me, blinked, and said, "Why yes. I am quite stout." (grin) Needless to say, I turned tail very quickly. (I listen to A LOT of audio books, and coincidentally, I'm listening to RETURN OF THE KING this week. Let me tell you…stout is trying VERY hard to work its way back into my vernacular. )
Then there was the time I was REALLY into Pride & Prejudice. Heck, I'm always into it, but there was a period where I was reading the book AND watching the movies. Believe it or not, I have three different versions. That said, when I found myself starting to say, "My head is feeling very ill tonight," I just knew I'd had enough.
Don't even get me started on the one weekend I was sick in bed and wanted nothing more than literary crack to get me through. I started reading dime romances—Anne Stuart is great, but man, the purple prose that came out of me the next week was so sickly sweet I practically couldn't stand to be in the same room with myself.
And Scott Westerfeld! I can't tell you the number of times I've found myself saying things like: "This is all so nervous-making." "This dessert is very happy-making." "I'm not feeling all that bubbly tonight." I mean, come on! People didn't even know what language I was speaking.
And of course, all of this eventually started bleeding into my work. It got to the point where I simply couldn't read anything that even slightly resembled my books because I didn't want to be unduly influenced by the voice of another author. IOW, I wouldn't even imagine reading or listening to Evanovich while working on FI. I haven't really found anything I think is all that similar to BTPM, but at times I try to avoid young adult novels altogether.
It's a problem no matter how you approach it. I need to read to fill the well, but I don't need another author's voice drowning out my own. And as you can see from my above examples, it doesn't really matter if I avoid MY genres… it still affects me. In very unusual ways at times. LOL.
Also, reading can very easily turn into a HUGE distraction. A go-to activity that is much, much easier than sitting down to work on my own writing. I can't tell you the number of times I've MEANT to write and ended up reading the afternoon/evening/week away. It's been (heck, it still IS) a problem for me, to the point that at certain times I've had to parcel out my reading time as a reward to myself. "Come on, Jen…just write 1000 words. Then you can read the next chapter!" Oh, I've tried it all. Sometimes it even works.
Right now I'm definitely in "want to read mode," when I SHOULD be in "revising my ass off mode." That said, I've decided that reading needs to be a reward for me this month. Until I finish revisions, actually… so yeah, to the backburner all of the lovely novels in my TBR pile will go. At least this week. (vbg)
What about you? Do you ever find you have to cut yourself off – go cold turkey with that literary drug we all love and adore? Just say yes so I don't get jealous, K?