Sunday, May 24, 2015

Reading with a "Reviewer" Lens

About three months ago, or since 2015 started, I’ve been in an immense reading slump. It sucks and I’m super behind on my reading goal (which I will meet this year NO MATTER WHAT) so to help myself out, I’ve been thinking about my reading habits. I wanted to see what does and doesn't work with my habits and I realized that I read books completely differently since I began book blogging. No, not for different reasons (which in reality, I guess does contribute) BUT I read differently.
She understands my pain 
What I realized with dismay was that I no longer read books to simply read and enjoy them. Instead, I have a "reviewer" lens on when I open the pages of a book I'm excited to read regardless of how I got it (from a publisher or library or a store). Had I been reading the book for enjoyment, I would just read the words and get sucked into the world and become invested in the characters. Now, I look for correct punctuation, grammar, writing style, and just very technical aspects of book writing. This isn't important in the grand scheme of things. I don’t even want to be an editor so this makes no sense for me to do. This is NOT what caused me to become a reader and I really want to go back to that.

Now, I’m not saying that having a “reviewer” lens is a bad thing all the time. This has actually helped me understand what I like and don’t like in terms of the types of books I read. It has also helped me understand what issues are more important to me and how I want to handle that. Opinions are important and reading is a very subjective matter so having polarized opinions makes sense. BUT there’s a big difference between reading for fun and reading with a "reviewer lens and here are a few reasons why:

Enjoyment vs. Critical Review

Me when I enjoy a book vs. me when I read for review

Like I said at the very beginning, this is the saddest aspect for me. I no longer read books to simply enjoy them. A lot of the books I’ve reviewed on here might be some of my favorite books of all time had I read them before I began book blogging. Now, none of my options are lies and they’re all mine. However, I read these books knowing that I was going to review them so I turned off my Enjoyment Reader Mind and switched on my Critical Reviewer Mind. If none of this makes sense, here’s an example: Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. I think most readers of this blog will know that. I read this book for the first time at the age of 11 and I loved it so much! At that time in my life, I loved how spunky Lizzie was and how amazing I thought Mr. Darcy was. Had I read it a few years later, when I was reviewing books, I probably wouldn’t love Mr. Darcy as much. I might say that he’s kind of a jerk (which he is) or how I wished Lydia would just grow up (I thought that at 11 too but I didn’t honestly care about her back then) or something else.

Of course, and I mentioned this as well, it’s not bad to read books critically. As I’ve come though honors and AP English courses in high school and just college in general, reading critically is important and vital. But I think that when it comes to something like this, I should turn of my Critical Reviewer Mind and read with my Enjoyment Reader Mind. And the biggest issue with all of this? I don’t know how. I don’t know how to turn off my Critical Reviewer Mind (and no, I don’t know why I capitalized the letters, I just did) and read with my Enjoyment Reader Mind. I feel like I’ve been doing this for so long (and I don’t plan on stopping for good any time; this is why I take so many breaks now between blogging) that this is like the back of my hand: I have it and I always will but I don’t always think about it (and this is by far the weirdest analogy I’ve made in this entire post).

Why do I read?

When I was younger, I would read up to four books in seven days. Once I got into a book, all I did was read. Any time it was too quiet in the house or I couldn’t be found, my family or friends would look to my room to see me reading on my bed. I just read everything and anything when I was younger and I continued doing this as I grew older. But by the time I got into book blogging, this changed. Initially, when I went to the library I would spend about one hour (that’s as much time I was usually given since my dad always had other things to do on the Saturdays we’d go) finding books I wanted to read. I usually didn’t have any prior knowledge unless I’d read and liked the author before or the librarian had recommended it to me and it was so much fun.

But soon, I went to the library looks for specific books. These were books the rest of the blogosphere was talking about or I’d been sent a review copy from the publisher. After some time, I began to read books in hopes of reviewing them. I wanted to look at these books in an analytical view point. I wanted to know if the plot was good or if I liked the characters. I needed, for some reason, to read any book with the hopes of reviewing it. I wanted to share my thoughts with people on this blog but I wanted to do it in a more...serious way. It's one of the reasons why it's hard for me to share my personality with everyone. Usually, I TALK IN ALL CAPS or gush about cute book boyfriends but I wanted to seem serious and that I was taking this job hobby seriously. Which brings me to the next point:

It's a hobby, not a job 

I just wanna have fun! 
I don't make any money from this blog and I never began this blog with the intention of making it my job but after some time, I began to take this blog a lot more seriously. Instead of having fun and sharing my love for the books I read, I became serious and wrote reviews as if it was for school project. I completely forgot that I was doing this for FUN and for STREE RELIEF but nope, instead, I made it harder than it had to be.

It's not to say that I don't take blogging seriously. I love being able to get books before they are released and sharing my thoughts with the blogosphere but it's different than making it my job. When it's my job, it adds more stress to my life than being what I do to relieve the stress I already have. I've been working really, really hard to get better at managing all of my commitments so that nothing over laps. 

What's the point of all of this? 

Y’all, I had to really, really think if I wanted to come back to blogging and to see if I still had the passion for blogging. After a while, it came down to asking what the point of all of this was. Was it because I loved books? Was the point that I wanted to share my love for the books I read with people? Was the point to help promote authors I loved? The answer to all of those questions was "yes" but was that enough? At the end of the day, I came to realize that it was. At the end of the day, I loved why I began to blog but sometimes, it became harder and harder to realize why. At the end of the day, reading with a "reviewer" lens is important and it has made me a better reader but it's not the entire point. The answer to all of the questions I asked above stemmed from my love for reading without the "reviewer" lens and that's where I want to go back to being at. I just want my love for reading to come back without my requirement to review anything and everything.

At the end of the day, reading because I love it is far more important to me than being forced to read it (which is kind of weird because I love required reading; unless the book sucks *cough*cough*WutheringHeights*cough*cough*). I began blogging because I loved writing, reading, and talking so combining all of these three things was perfect for me. I was also in a place where I needed a creative outlet and blogging has been such an important part of my life.

So, what do you all think? Have any of you had this happen to you? If so, how did you work to get out of this rut? Hopefully everything I've written in this post makes sense because its been something that has been weighing me down for a while now. 

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