Jennifer Hillier

You can leave your hat on

Jun 16, 2009 | Uncategorized

A good day for me is when I get to read a lot, write a lot, and eat lots of chocolate.  All three are important in the development of a writer, but lately, I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like.  I’ve been too burned out at the end of day.  I’m lucky if I can get ten pages in before my eyes start to shut, and this isn’t good.  It means I’m not making reading a priority, and I really need to, because a writer who doesn’t read often can’t expect to write well.

I think every writer would agree.

Part of the problem is that I’m not enjoying reading as much as I used to.  My perspective has changed.  Gone are the days when I could climb into bed with a book and just escape.  Now, with my writer’s hat constantly on, I’m no longer reading for enjoyment or entertainment.  I’m reading for educational purposes.  And it sucks.

I don’t want to wear my writer’s hat when I’m reading someone else’s published work.  I don’t want to sit and analyze every POV switch (point of view) and question whether the author needed a dialogue tag (he said, she said) at the end of that particular phrase.  And I would love to pick up a book and not estimate the word count.

What I want is to get swept away.  What I want is to enjoy the story.

But it’s not happening.  I’m on page 158 of Jeffery Deaver’s The Broken Window, and so far I’ve counted six unique POVs, no extraneous dialogue tags (this guy’s good), and the whole book is approximately 136,600 words long.

Help me.

Writing, it seems, has ruined me for reading.  At least it has for now, while I’m knee deep in revisions for my book and all I do is analyze written words on a page.   I can’t seem to stop editing.  If I catch a misspelled word in a menu, I have to hold myself back from taking out a pen and correcting it.  I’m aggravated when people have basic grammatical errors in their Facebook statuses.  And it irritates me when people use five exclamation points when one will do!!!!!

I don’t want to be this way.  It’s no fun, trust me.  But there seems to be no way out.  I belong to two writing groups and all we do is tear each other’s work apart.  I’m trained for this.  And I don’t know how to switch hats without losing the “ear” I’ve developed over the past two years.  (Yes, ear.  Writing is something I listen for, not something I see.  That probably doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it works for me.)

So I’m planning to read for at least three hours tomorrow.  I’m going to sit in my backyard with a big glass of something cold, a chocolate bar, and just read.  I will not count POV switches, I will not analyze dialogue tags, and I will not question why some chapters are seriously longer than others.

I will do my very best to take my writer’s hat off.  Because I’m getting hat-head, and it’s not a good look.