To be a successful writer, one must follow the guidelines set by publishing professionals. Over time, with the help of writing groups and critique groups, we become better. At least, we hope we become better. In the process we learn to write for the joy of writing.
I remember a recommendation I received early on in my writing journey. “If you desire to be a better writer, read more books.” Every successful writer I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person said reading books was the catalyst to wanting to become a writer. The joy they found in reading became their passion for writing.
Then a terrible thing happened. They began critiquing and editing the stories and books they used to enjoy reading. An occurrence I can relate to. The skills we learn in becoming better writers can rob us of the joy we once found in reading. Our favorite authors become hack writers with poor editors, writing for absent minded publishers. They still sell several thousand books a year compared to our handful, but are no longer our heroes of the writing world.
We have to learn to step away from this mentality and once again find joy in reading the written word. Famous, best-selling authors are human. As are editors and publishers. Mistakes happen and slip past even the best editors and publishers. We have to learn to leave our critique and editor hats for our own writing.
I can’t guarantee the following suggestions will be successful for everyone, but it helps me enjoy reading a book. Use any of them that work for you.
Find a different place to read from the place where you do your writing. As writers, we always want our next work to be better than the previous one. Therefore, we need our editor hats on when we are writing. But if we try editing someone else’s finished product, we can lose the enjoyment of the story. Leave the editing hat in the writing space.
It’s okay to critique a story as you read it, but not with the mindset of you can fix it. If you are reading a finished product, it’s a finished product. You aren’t going to change it. You can, however, make notes. Hopefully, in a notebook and not in the book. The purpose of the notes should be to help you see how you can avoid making the same mistakes in your writing.
The movie is never as good as the book. We’ve all heard this before. I believe it’s because the movies never fit the scene we imagined in our mind as we read stories. But like a movie, minor mistakes can interrupt the movie playing in our minds the way a commercial will a movie. Use the interruption to take a bathroom or snack break and return to the story after you clear your mind of the mistake. Don’t let the commercial ruin the whole movie or book.
Remember why you are reading? Words give you joy a movie can’t. Don’t let the writer’s mindset steal your joy. Writing is hard. Don’t let reading become hard. Like many successful writers will tell you, write your story, then go back and edit. Try reading the same way. It takes practice, but it can be done.
One of my favorite snacks is grapes, especially the seedless red or white grapes. Over time, I’ve learned certain grapes were better destined to be raisins. Somehow the sour ones make it through the inspectors and end up in my snack bag. It’s frustrating. But I don’t throw out the entire bag of grapes because of a few sour grapes.
Enjoy the bag of grapes, or the book you are reading. Don’t toss out the entire thing over a few mistakes. Someone found joy in the words they have shared and worked hard to complete the finished product. And if it’s your own writing, you have an advantage. You can go back over your work and toss out the sour grapes or make them into raisins.
Either way, rediscover the joy you once found in words.