My last post, Read to Write, discussed the importance of reading while a writer is working on a project. There were a few comments made about “mental editor” or “internal editor,” which spurred this post.
As a writer, it can be very difficult to read solely for pleasure. Writers are often reading books with an eye for structure, setting, plot and character development. This is what I would call an occupational hazard. In my case I can’t get through a book without searching for typos, grammar and punctuation mistakes. When I find a flaw I am disappointed and annoyed. I tsk-tsk as I move on, wary of more glaring errors.
This particular (annoying) habit of mine could be a result of having been a copyeditor. When I first took a job with a teeny-tiny publishing office, I trained myself to be vigilant for errant commas and apostrophes, misspellings, and poor sentence structure. I became so entrenched in my $8.oo an hour job that I took to the streets with my newfound death-defying editing skills. I would catch typos in menus and flyers and signs, point them out with ferocity and satisfaction, as though I’d caught miscreants lurking about town.
Long after I left that job and got married and had children, I was still wielding my editing knowledge with abandon. I didn’t worry that this might be a small problem, like an editing addiction, until I started writing with the intent of publishing. As my desire to be a serious, committed author grew, I read books differently. Reading for pleasure soon gave way to reading on a mission.
I have finally learned to ease up and step into a book after making a deal with myself. I decide ahead of time what infractions I will forgive and what infractions are indicative of careless writing. My expectations will vary with every book, every author. I dearly want the author, the book to soar above my expectations. Such a feat is the only weapon that neutralizes my internal editor. Then I can settle down and read a book the way it’s supposed to be read – for pleasure.
How about you? Do you have an internal editor? How does it affect your pleasure reading?