I used to read a lot as a child. From magazines to flyers to murder/mysteries, I devoured everything I could get my hands on. Feature stories, popular magazine columns (My Embarrassing Moment / Ask ——– / Book of the Month), comic books, flyers, information brochures etc.
All it took was one great sentence and I was hooked.
My love for reading began early as a child. Starting with fables and fairy tales, I slowly worked my way up the ladder. At each stage of learning and reading, I found an author to fangirl over and devour. From Enid Blyton to Sidney Sheldon, my reading journey was carefully charted. Each fantastical world leading to the next.
Blyton’s treacle rivers, Noddy’s adventures and Elizabeth’s shenanigans (Naughtiest School Girl series) led to the crafty mischief of the Five Find-Outers. Their cases and triumphs paved the way for Nancy Drew & the Hardy Boys who in turn paved the way for R.L Stine’s spine-chilling thrillers.
Stine’s carefully-crafted murders and the masterfully-penned trials of the mighty Fier family gave me a satisfying taste for blood, revenge and murder; laying the foundation for Sidney Sheldon, Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark and Danielle Steele to follow. From there it was a hop, skip and jump into the wonderful, immensely comfortable world of romance fiction with Nora Roberts, Lisa Kleypas and Julie James to keep me company. I spent many a riveted afternoon getting lost in their worlds.
Somewhere along the way, I fashioned for myself a nice, cozy little rut. Cocooning myself with their happily-ever-afters, I ran away from non-fiction, science fiction, historical novels and political thrillers. As the word levels of those novels got tougher and their stories denser, I burrowed deeper into my hole. Anything that required a comprehension span past a certain reading level was automatically rejected. Newspapers were cast aside and feature columns, opinion pieces selected solely on the ease of their topics.
I still read, mind you, but I clung to familiar genres – rom-coms, young adult fiction, simple fantasy fiction with your everyday vampire/shape-shifter/werewolf tropes. Nothing that required dense concentration or paragraphs of description. The storylines were accepted, the characters familiar and the plots simple. I chose easy conversation and witty banter over any story that required an extensive setting or premise (think World Wars, minor revolts, various political climates, characters with depression or those grieving over a loss).
And as I clung to these simple novels, I found hidden surprises nestled in those tried-and-tested story arcs. An unexpected hurdle for the lead couple, a lovable character who could use their own book or even a simple line that amused me with its clever phrasing.
Through this phase, my love for reading stayed constant. And unfortunately so did my writing.
With time, I found my words treading the same circles, returning to the same dreams, the same characters, the same thoughts. And in their sameness, they began to sound false. No matter what I tried, they weren’t as impactful as they could be. My memories, feelings, thoughts, opinions – they began to sound trite and forced when penned.
And I couldn’t have that. Not as someone who’s been in love with words ever since she heard her first fairy tale. My words deserved better and so did my writing. Fired up with this realization, I went back to basics. I retraced my favorite books down the ages and even hunted down a few I meant to read the first time around.
Hopefully this time, the journey will lead me somewhere different. Perhaps down a new rabbit hole.