Who I Am as a Reader

drawing of woman looking at reflection in mirror
Image by JL G from Pixabay

This is a follow-up to a post last weekend about my identity as a writer.

Much like I’ve always like to write, I’ve always liked to read.  I’m grateful that this was something my parents instilled in me from very early on.  Childhood favourites included Anne of Green Gables and the Little House on the Prairie books, then moving on to The Babysitters’ Club and Sweet Valley High.  My parents have a photo of me at maybe 11 or 12 years old brushing my teeth while holding open the book I was reading in the other hand.  Despite this, I wasn’t a huge fan of English class; I would rather read books because I wanted to rather than because I had to.

When I was going to university I read very little aside from books for school.  Once I was done school I started reading again fairly regularly.  I was in a book club for a few years, but that ended when I “broke up” with those friends because I no longer felt comfortable with them after an episode of depression.

When I had my last relapse into depression 3 years ago, I mostly stopped reading fiction.  In part this was because I had a hard time following the story with my poor concentration, but also I just couldn’t make myself care about any of the stories.  I shifted to reading non-fiction that had a lot of pictures and not a lot of words.

There was another big shift when I started blogging a year and a half ago.  When I decided to enter the blogosphere I was thinking about it much more in terms of writing than reading.  I value the reading part at least as much as I do the writing, and I usually devote more time to the former.  Since obviously there’s not enough time to read everything, I try to keep my reading fairly mental health-focused.

I started doing book reviews shortly after I started blogging when fellow blogger Dyane Harwood asked me to review her book Birth of a New Brain, and it’s been a good way of discovering some new books that I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.  Since then I’ve only read maybe a handful of books that weren’t somehow related to mental health.  Takes notes for the purpose of doing reviews makes it quite a bit easier for me to absorb what I’m reading.

I was never particularly interested in poetry before I entered the blogging world, and to be honest, it’s still not something I’m interested in as a broad genre, but I do enjoy it as a way of getting a glimpse into the inner mental workings of bloggers I know.  My interest in reading fiction hasn’t been re-sparked since I moved away from novels a few years ago, with the exception of novels that matter to me because they’re written by people I know.

I’m much more of a reader than a listener, so I seldom listen to vlogs or podcasts.  I process information better through reading, and if I lose focus it’s much easier to get back to where I left off.  Also, for me at least, reading is more time-efficient than listening.

Reading has been a big part of developing my writing identity.  I haven’t taken a writing class since first year university English way back in the day, but I’ve picked up a lot of writing knowledge through reading, and I see ongoing reading as an important part of my continuing development as a writer.

I think blogs are likely to be my primary source of reading material for quite some time, and the realness of them is a big part of the draw.  I feel more connected to blog posts than I do to articles in large publications.  In a way reading blogs has also become a way of expressing loyalty.  The bloggers I follow matter to me, so it’s important to me to read their work.  It actually became a bit of an issue at one point a while back, because I would feel a twinge of guilt if I skipped over any of the posts showing up in my WP Reader.  I got over that eventually, but there was definitely a period of wrestling with some cognitive dissonance.

Who are you as a reader, and how has it affected who you are as a writer?

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19 thoughts on “Who I Am as a Reader”

  1. As a kid, I loved stories about animals and little girls doing interesting things, like “Harriet The Spy.” They were often outcasts as I was. In my teens, I became obsessed with romances and they influenced my writing a lot (I’ve since written a few). I also read detective stories and mysteries. I’ve always been a huge poetry fan, and I’ve always written poetry. I enjoy the diversity of the writing here on WP.

  2. Prior to being doped on medication, I used to read constantly. Gosh, 3-4 books in a week. During the time of my suicidal ideation, I found myself reading more “Death” related topics. ( Doomsday) stuff.
    I am actually almost done reading your book that I have had now for close to a month. Again… Being on such high dosages of medication, I have the tendency to re-read what I’ve read over and over again, in order to full comprehend what I have read. (which is a pain in the arse).

  3. It is freaky how much of this I can relate to: grateful to parents for teaching me how to read, check. Anne of Green Gables and Little House in the Big Woods, check. The Baby-Sitters Club!! 😀 (I never read Sweet Valley High, though–I don’t think I was familiar with it.) Also, at that time, my fave author was Betty Ren Wright, and I also loved other similar Scholastic paperbacks.

    Then, in middle school, I read Susan Cooper’s series and also The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride. I haven’t reread any of those, but I was really into them at the time, and maybe I should.

    Flowers in the Attic–goodness gracious.

    When I was around fifteen, I wanted to read both The Thorn Birds and Jane Eyre, but I got stuck partway through each due to reading comprehension issues. When I was eighteen or thereabouts, I was finally able to read each all the way through, and I loved them!

    In college, I loved The Mists of Avalon. And in both high school and college, a huge list of New Agey books.

    But I too have lost reading focus, and am more likely these days to read internet content than books. While I love reading people’s blogs, there’s a part of me that wishes I could get into a story again. Sometimes, over the years, I’ve tried setting yearly reading goals, like read five novels this year. It never really helps, especially since I’m always DNFing on low-quality fiction (even if I read something previously by the author and loved it!! I’m not kidding!). If a really bad book is readable all the way to the end, I give it two stars for that reason alone. Hmm…. Ooh, hey, maybe we could form an internet book club somehow!! We could read mental illness books!!

  4. Ohh! Also, thank you for always reading and commenting on my blog!! It’s so much appreciated!! Don’t worry if you want to skip an occasional post!! 🙂

  5. I was a reader long before I was a writer. I’ve always been an avid reader, mostly fiction, but some non-fiction. I do read blogs, a mixture of Jewish blogs, Doctor Who fan blogs and mental health/autism blogs. Funnily enough, I don’t read so many mental health books, especially not first-hand accounts, which I probably should do, particularly if I want to write a ‘misery memoir’ one day. I do go through periods of reading books less, though, mainly when the depression is bad and it’s hard to get the concentration/motivation to read much, especially if I’m not working and therefore not reading on the commute.

      1. To some extent, it was probably an escape – hyperfocus on my book to avoid thinking about the people/noise/heat/discomfort. I’ve found reading on trains harder in the last couple of years, though.

  6. This was cool to read! I can relate to much of what you shared. Recently, I’ve had the hardest time finding time to get into a book, and even when I do, I have trouble concentrating. Smaller reads are easier right now, and I’m thankful there’s good stuff to read at all lengths 😆 Reading and writing are so relaxing for me, and for many others, so I guess if we can do it at all it’s something!

  7. It’s funny really how I’ve ended up here. I never liked writing and I don’t class myself as a writer. I know there’s many errors in what I write, but I think I’m getting better as time goes on. It’s also funny how I end up doing things that is way out of character for me. I suppose this is all to do with bipolar, or is it? Do we just blame our actions on bipolar, when it could be nothing to do with it? Oh by the way Ashley, I’ve installed a widget on my page displaying your most recent posts, I hope you don’t mind, but thought the few readers I have, might be interested in reading your blog. 😊👍

    1. Oh cool, thanks!
      I think pushing ourselves outside the box as a good thing. The technical side of writing always improves with practice, but what really matters is the passion for the subject matter.

      1. Your welcome Ashley, yes that’s exactly my view on writing. If the writing comes from the heart of the author, I think most readers will overlook the writing technicalities, well I would like to think so. 😊👍

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