May 13, 2008
Reading Your Own Writing
Do you like to read your own work after the fact? I don't! I usually want to rewrite it, reorganize it or completely revise it. (Do I sound like an editor?)
Some authors tell me they like to read their books. They find it gratifying. One author told me that he read his own book through three times the first week it popped off the press. Another author told me that she doesn't mind rereading her own books, but hates watching video of herself speaking. (Oh, yes, I had to agree that watching myself on video would be a much worse proposition than reading my own writing.)
I've been reading Henri Nouwen's Sabbatical Journal. And I found it interesting to come upon his description of the experience of reading his own book aloud while taping a recording of Life of the Beloved:
Although I wrote Life of the Beloved, I never read it. It is quite an experience to read a book that you yourself wrote more than four years ago. All through I wanted to make changes, rewrite, correct small mistakes, and adapt it to the circumstances of today. But I realized that the best thing would be simply to read it as it was and save my energy for new books. It is amazing how, within a few years, one's ideas and feelings shift. Today I would have written Life of the Beloved quite differently. And still the book continues to be popular.
And so if you, like me, dislike reading yourself, take comfort in the fact that even Henri Nouwen found himself wanting to rewrite his published book. But then he choose to allow himself to move on to new work. I am so glad he did.