When I tell people I’m a writer they automatically assume I read a lot. And so they should. How strange would it be if a musician told you they didn’t enjoy listening to music? I do read a lot. I’m not fast but I always have a book on the go.
There was a time, however, when I was a new writer and I found reading difficult. I used to get so distracted by other books. I only had space in my head for the story I was writing. If I did dare to read another story, I found it influenced me too much. I was afraid of copying other people’s work, but not only that, the author’s language used to creep into my subconscious!
If I was writing third person and read a first person story, suddenly the POV switched in my own book. My characters sometimes took on different voices, the mood shifted, and I didn’t realise I was doing it until I’d stuffed up a few chapters.
Eventually I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t read while I was writing. So I’d save my reading pile for when my manuscripts were finished, then read like crazy while editing. Once the editing was finished I’d put the books down and start my next draft.
For a few years it worked just fine, but a writer is nearly always writing and I was missing out on a whole world of amazing stories! Still, I accepted that was the way it had to be. Maybe I was just more easily influenced than others.
It was only during a recent conversation with a writer friend that I realised this wasn’t a problem anymore. After spending a good eighteen months editing the Shadow Series, I had a good run at reading again. So when my books were finally published I kept going, even when I started writing a new manuscript. And now, all those other stories don’t influence me anymore.
Upon reflection, I understand where the problem lay. I was a new writer and I hadn’t found my own voice yet. I was searching for myself, and accidently taking on the style of other writers was really just a process of trial and error.
Now, I know myself. I have my own style, I have confidence in my stories and know what works for me and what to stay away from. In the end, I guess you really can have it all. I read until my heart is content, and write without losing sight of myself.
But now I’m curious, have any other writers out there experienced this too?