Reading, Writing and Arithmetic

This month's suggested post prompt is how being a writer has affected you as a reader. Now I don't usually follow the suggested prompts, but this one stuck in my craw because being a writer has absolutely ruined my ability to read for pleasure.

I used to be an avid consumer of popular (and unpopular) literature. That's probably the start for most writers. But several things changed once I threw my hat in the ring. For one, I noticed that while I'm in the middle of a writing project, my desire to read completely disappears. And then when I'm done with the project, I develop a ferocious appetite for books and devour a few before starting on the next project.

I've interpreted this odd behavior thusly: for me, reading and writing seem to satisfy the same set of desires, and so my desire to read shuts off when I'm writing. However, it could also be evolutionary. I don't have time for both and so maybe my subconscious does the mental calculation and diverts my desire in the appropriate direction (hence the "arithmetic" in the title). But that gives my subconscious more credit than I probably should and lends too much purposeful (and niche) discretion to evolution as well. So... call it a happy coincidence :)

Here's the unfortunate part, though. When I am reading, I'm distracted. I now have a hard time shutting off the writer brain and just immersing myself in the story like I used to. Instead, I'm thinking about character choices and dialogue. I'm thinking about writing style and continuously comparing it to mine. Somethings I'm thinking, "Ooh, I like the way they did X. I'll try something like that in my next story." And other times, I'm getting down on myself and thinking, "I wish I could come up with such a witty passage as easily as this author seems to be able to do." That is, I've seen behind the curtain and I cannot unsee these awful things.

I love writing. Maybe over time, I'll learn better how to compartmentalize my experience. But until then, my newish hobby has had some unintended (and unfortunate) consequences.