Forests and Trees, Redux

Japanese MaskSometimes it’s hard for me to read. That is, to read as someone who reads strictly for personal pleasure does. I made that connection a long time ago. I know there are writers who can turn their editor brain off and just read for pleasure, and I envy them. I can still do it, but only under two special circumstances: one, the book has to interest me (simple enough, but when combined with–) two, it has to be the sort of book that I would never, ever, be interested in trying to write. Which is why I can read both the Harry Potter series and classic-age science fiction without the writer brain going “Okay, that was a clever transition there. Let me see how they pulled it off… And boom, your reading experience has just been blown out of the water, since now you’re reading for technique, not pleasure, and you’re on the outside of the book looking in, instead of properly immersed in the world the writer created for you. Which is why I do have so much trouble reading for simple enjoyment. I remember doing it–ages ago, it seems now, but I do remember. Which is probably why I am inordinately fond of something like Harry Potter, or Clifford Simak. They give that back to me, at least for a little while.

As I said, I’ve been coming to terms with that for quite some time. So what actually did come as a bit of a surprise was the understanding that the research bug was having the same effect. Now even books I normally could read for pleasure are tripping me up, and I’ll hit something and go “Hmmm. I didn’t know that about Japanese Buddhism as opposed to the versions that came through China. I wonder if it’s accurate….” Boom. Tossed out of the book on my butt once again. Worse, now it’s not just books. I mean, seriously– you know you’re suffering from research overload when you’re watching Kurosawa’s version of MacBeth (“Throne of Blood”) and think, “Ok, all those blades are in tachi mounts, and the secondary sword is a tanto, and only the foot samurai are carrying what appear to be katana…therefore this was set sometime after the Kamakura period, probably into the Muromachi period.”

Dang. There go the movies. No wonder I took up guitar.

1 thought on “Forests and Trees, Redux

  1. I’ve had trouble with this before, too, reading for pleasure. All too often I read thing I like but am unable to take off my “writer” hat. I hate it, because I really used to love to read. Now it’s just part of the job.

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