Sunday, April 18, 2010

No fiction allowed

This is an appalling situation. Simply flabbergasting.

I can't read. Not literally, of course, but I can't seem to get my head around reading fiction. Last weekend I finally finished "Olive Kittredge" by Elizabeth Strout, a Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of short stories that are woven around a character named Olive. Wonderful book. Truly. But I started it months ago.

A few weeks ago I read "Hush, Hush" by Becca Fitzpatrick and "Elphame's Choice" by PC Cast, two books which had been loaned to me by a young friend. Both held my interest enough that I finished them in a weekend. But I didn't want to read anything beyond that.

I have about a hundred books on my to-read list, among them the sequel to "Hunger Games," the most recent Vampire Academy book, the last Stephen King novel, some Neil Gaiman, and on and on, but I can't wrap my brain around fiction right now. I am trying to write a very complex book (complex by my standards) in a slightly different genre than I am used to working in (but one I have loved since I was a kid) so it takes all of my brainpower to focus on my own story.

I've been telling myself that I just don't have time to read. I don't have excess brain capacity to read. And besides, when I'm in the middle of writing something, I don't want to be influenced by anyone else's style.

But there's more to it than that. I have absolutely zero interest in reading fiction. I was impressed by Strout's book but not inspired by it and that's odd for me. Typically I get all fired up when I read a great book - it makes me want to write well too.

No, the reason I'm not reading is that I'm afraid to read. I'm afraid to read something really terrific because I fear my writing won't live up to it. I'm afraid to read something really bad because it will make me angry it was published and my most recent books have not.

Whether you're writing or not, sometimes reading fiction is just not happening. Anyone else ever feel that way?