Drowning in words…

One of the hardest things I find as a writer, is the inability to devour fiction the way I used to…

As a child, I was voracious. As a student, I would read my chosen fiction instead of required texts. As a first-time mum, I would feed my baby daughter, race round the house doing a quick clean and whilst she slept (she was an excellent sleeper), I would retire to the couch and read on the principle that I needed my rest.

As I grew older and had another child, my reading slowed a little. I was busier and there were more demands cutting into my reading time. But I would relish trips to the library and would devour a book a week. As well as reading wonderful books to the children and feeling pure delight as they beetled off to their beds to read to themselves.

Occasionally, I’d sneak away with pen and paper and write creatively. But it was the kind of thing I squeezed in between washing, ironing, cooking, school-runs and inevitable Mothers’ Duties at their schools.

But then I began to write as if I meant it.

And educative reading began to sneak onto my bookshelves – the how-to’s of the art form or the research for background. I still read fiction of course, grasping at those exceptional hours of escape, but the page numbers have reduced quite a bit.

I’ve now been writing professionally for nearly ten years and in that time, research reading has shoved my favourite fiction hours to the outer edges.

It disturbs me because it’s so important to read and learn from other writers and there are so many I want to visit – especially the exciting indies whose freshness and unique expression drips from the pages. And I want to revisit my favourites – to revel once again in the wordage of someone like Dorothy Dunnett.

It’s not as if my days are any less filled with words of course (eg: I’m writing this blog post now and in a moment, I shall begin to list characters for an audio narrator.

And then I’ll begin to transcribe my pen and paper chapters of the WIP onto a word.doc and so forth).

In fact, I could sink to the bottom of the ocean under the weight of words currently in my life. But the reading of fiction by other authors is now a bedtime-only activity.

I crawl between the sweet-smelling sheets after a busy day (whoever said one’s days become less busy as one ages honestly has no idea) and lay my head on the pillows with a sigh of pure relish. I pick up my Kindle and switch it on and it obligingly begins where I left off the night before.

I read maybe 3 or 4 pages before my eyes become heavy.

There has been many a night where I wake up an hour later and the Kindle is still upright in my hands in front of me but in despair at being ignored, it has switched itself off. There’s also been many a night when the Kindle has crashed forward onto my nose when I fall asleep after reading one page.

This reduction in fiction-reading time irks me no end. And if I ever stop writing, it’ll be the one bonus of the retirement. Sure, I could stop swimming, dog-walking, gardening, cooking, stitching and all the other things that facet my life, so that I keep fiction reading at its old multi-page, multi-title level. But that’s not my life anymore and hasn’t been my life for the last 20 plus years.

I just have to accept that reading takes many forms now, not just fiction, and get on and do it.

There’s just this little memory rattling round in the wordage of my brain which is filled with the smells of books and paper and the sound of pages being turned, which reminds me that I too was once part of the great literary escape…