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?
The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Publishing mini e-book contains all the knowledge and tricks that I’ve picked up from self-publishing two books. It’s available on the MH@H Store.