A Meetcute Ruined My Writing Career
I have a confession to make: I've been having a love affair... with romance novels.
Do you know that old saying, “Good readers are good writers”? I’m calling bullshit. Sure, it’s important to read to learn how to improve your craft, but I’ve been reading SO much I've inadvertently stopped writing entirely. Somehow, accidentally, books have become my favorite form of procrastination.
It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s so close to doing the thing I set out to do but still completely off the mark. It’s like saying you’re going to spend the day baking and then eating cake all day instead. A lot of the guilt comes from the content of the books I’ve been reading. It’s at the point where I’d actually feel less embarrassed if it were erotica; at least those can be tasteful. (Don’t believe me? Ask Playboy.) Nope, mine are infinitely worse: romcoms. Literary corn syrup. The gooier the better. I’m not knocking romcom authors, of course. In fact, I think I’m singlehandedly bankrolling them at this point.
The frustration is with myself, but I'm working through that. The first part of the guilt is that if I was actually taking the time to write, that’s not what I’d be writing. Years of training as a writer have taught me to write what you know, so it's kind of hard to undo this idea that I need to be reading books in my own content area. I didn't realize how much I'd internalized the "right" and "wrong" way to read until now. A lot of us fall into this; did you even like the last book you read? How long is your DNF pile? Mine is huge because I'd previously pigeonholed myself into what a writer "should" be.
The second part is related. If I’m not going to write or read in my field, then I should probably read something intellectually invigorating, right? There's this little voice in my head that says if I'm not spending my time tabbing Bird by Bird or reading something from the Smithsonian, then I am absolutely wasting my time. I know that's not true, but it's really hard to shake the idea that I should be growing my craft or my brain instead of consuming the metaphorical equivalent of an entire Hallmark store in short concentrated doses.
On the plus side, I can’t lie. It’s been a fun change of pace to stop analyzing texts for their hidden meanings, for the author’s intent, or for a better understanding of structure. Letting the words simply be has rekindled an unpretentious appreciation that I haven’t had since I was a child.
The ever-productive optimist in me wants to say that I’ll use this period of executive dysfunction to carry this lesson into my own writing. While I never judge others' processes, I'll finally learn to stop judging my own. I'll overcome these problematic ideas of what my writing should be, I'll learn to grow as an author by exploring new content areas, and I'll garner new, genre-breaking techniques to apply to my own work! But probably I’ll just start the sequel to A Curse So Dark and Lovely instead.