We’ve had our share of critter sightings since we purchased our desert retreat – bobcats, javelina, rattlesnakes, roadrunners, gila monsters and more – but one animal has continually evaded us and our trail cameras. Until recently.
Over the past nine years, I’d gotten only a single glimpse of mule deer on our property – a half dozen making their way through the wash one morning. But my how things have changed … On June 6, I was surprised to see the duo again – closer to our house – feeding on paloverde seedpods. “Bucky” and his mama, it appears, are frequent visitors these days.
The irony was not lost on me that a beautiful creature was transforming right before my eyes – as I was searching to pair the appropriate desert-life metaphor with a writing/reading topic I’ve been wanting to discuss: a reader’s personal growth.
“The older I get, the more I ask of books. There are simply too many of them and often, what some people are raving about doesn’t quite work for me. I look for first pages that introduce complicated characters or a situation that make me curious and reflective. I look for prose that sings.”
(She went on to name a book that had done all those things for her). At the time of reading her words, I’d already been contemplating my own growth as a reader and very much related to Maryanne’s comments*. Where once I was cognizant only of story, I am now enthralled by language and symbolism and characterization and dialogue… I seem to ask so much more of what I read these days. I wonder: is it a product of age? Or is it something else?
My writing partner, Shelby, had her own thoughts: “I think you have arrived at ‘reading like a writer,'” she said. “Unfortunately, there’s no way to go back to reading with blithe naivety, knowing that there’s something off or wrong with a book but not being able to pinpoint what it is, and most importantly, being able to overlook or forgive a multitude of sins because you kind of like the story or characters. Prepare yourself for a lifetime of being Judgey McJudgerston.”
For Readers: What do you think? Do our reading tastes naturally transform over time – the same way Bucky’s antlers are morphing into something bigger, more formidable? Does age have anything to do with it (i.e. would you pick up a book you loved in your 20s and still love it today)? OR do we simply like what we like to read? Do we also seek certain kinds of books for comfort? Is it important to try on new genres, mix things up?
For Writers: Have you transformed from for-the-fun-of-reading reader to writer-reader? Have your reading tastes changed as a result? Do you expect more? Notice more? What are the advantages of reading like a writer to your craft? If you’re interested, these fabulous articles about reading like a writer by Jen Bailey – part 1, part 2, part 3 – can help you hone your skills even more (thanks, Shelby, for pointing them out).
*I can’t wait to read Maryanne’s novel, CASCADE, which is patiently waiting on my shelf. Thanks Maryanne and Great New Books.