“Reading Stress” is a Thing!

I suppose we all have a picture of what “being a writer” looks like. Your visions might include a cute little writing nook. Instagram is great for feeding this fantasy … you imagine yourself in an isolated cottage somewhere, tapping away at your typewriter, warming your toes on the stove and feeding your inspiration with huge pots of tea and warm scones dripping with butter and bramble jam. Or, perhaps your writerly daydreams tend to the exotic … a tropical island! You see yourself on a cool balcony overlooking the sparkling sea, laptop whirring softly …

As we all know, the reality is rather different. Most of us fight for a bit of laptop space among the toast crumbs and utility bills on the kitchen table, or we might head off to the nearest café where we’ll settle ourselves at a too-small table with a coffee large and strong enough to bring on a migraine.

I’m lucky enough to have an office but it’s not very Jane Austen. As I write, I’m surrounded by cameras, hard drives, chargers, printers—all the black, chunky, ugly accoutrements of my day job. When I find myself wishing for a more “conducive” writing space, I force myself to remember what Annie Dillard wrote in her writer’s companion, The Writing Life. ‘One wants a room with no view, so imagination can meet memory in the dark.’ Addendum: years after publishing The Writing Life, Dillard disowned the book, so maybe she was seduced by a pretty view in the end.

Ideal writing spaces aside there are other aspects of the writer’s life that have come as a shock. Other writers, feel free to put your hand up when you see where I’m going with this …

I’ve always been an avid reader. Each month I get through whichever book my book group has selected, as well as any number of other books, short stories, poems and essays. I buy books all the time. Recently, Bottled Goods by Sophie Van Llewyn because it’s a novella in flash (I’m working on my own novella in flash so I thought it would be useful to read someone else’s) and, Cold Water by Gwendoline Riley because Riley was recommended to me by Sara Baume (Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither and A Line Made by Walking). Riley’s novel features a twenty-year-old protagonist, as does my own work in progress, so I thought it would be interesting to see how Riley handles her subject.

Of course, I don’t only read books to inform my own writing. Like all writers, I simply love to read. Long, tall, short, epic. Fiction and non-fiction. I have shelves of books I’ve yet to read, stories I can’t wait to devour, but what no one told me about being a writer is that establishing wonderful friendships with other writers effectively doubles your “to read” pile.

Suddenly you find yourself battling a condition I’ve come to think of as “reading stress”!

It’s not just that I want to read the books my writer friends have written. I also want to read their blogs … and blogs contribute to even greater “reading stress” because blog posts often cite articles, other blogs, other writers and other books which I absolutely have to check out as well.

If you are a writer friend, it’s likely that I already have your book on my e-reader. I might even have a signed copy if I’ve attended your book launch! I will read your book, and yes, I will leave a rating and a review on Amazon and Good Reads … I just can’t say exactly when that will be because you see, I’ve come across this rather interesting link to …

2 thoughts on ““Reading Stress” is a Thing!

  1. I too have this problem..but not as a writer with fellow writers sharing their books! (My writing is confined to my blog which is just a new adventure in sharing lifes interesting moments in words. Previously it was the supermarket cashier who got the brunt of these. )
    I get given books and never have the heart to say no more, and equally worry about the missed reading opportunity if I just pass them straight on unread. Yes, a First world problem I know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment on my post. Matt Haig has a positive take on this! He says that there is nothing sadder than shelves full of books that you’ve actually read! Having shelves of books you’ve still to savour is much better. I’m trying to adopt this attitude to reduce my “reading stress”!!

      Like

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