Inspired by a video by James Hoffman, my favourite coffee Youtuber (and the first thing anyone will know about me is that I love coffee, in fact I love it so much I was a barista for ten years, mostly by choice), I took note of how badly I've been treating the books I've been reading, and my own writing. In writing over the last couple of years, I have learned one thing a little sooner than I perhaps should have. I'll warn you, this is just my experience, and your mileage may vary.
I'm hoping to relay what I've learned, I'll say - When You Learn To Write, Everything Tastes Terrible. As in, you start to develop a critical eye for the craft, the construction of narrative, character arcs and whatnot, and you start to realise what is Good, and what is Bad. And you realise just how many books don't meet this mark - and especially your own writing.
That threw me for a loop, when I discovered that the books I read and loved when I was younger were Bad, and I should feel Bad about liking them (I won't list them here but I'll just say that many, many, many others have levelled the same charges at the books on this list).
Like James chasing the best taste, I kept chasing the next best book and when I wasn't hooked in a few pages, I dropped it. I chased that same thing in my writing, feeling paralysed when I just couldn't reproduce the best of it. I became a perfectionist, and my writing suffered for it, turning the screw even deeper. My friends and family suffered for my mistake (sorry) - it affected my mental health, further throwing me for a loop.
All I really had to do was step back.
All I really had to do was realise that without the Bad, there can be no Good. Without having something on the page to write, I could never fix it to make it better, and as I realise now, editing can take as long or longer than the process of writing that first draft, just to make things perfect. You have to work at it, but if there's nothing to work with, how can you make it better?
I now read those Bad books, if for no other reason than to know what I shouldn't do in my own writing, or different ways of thinking, of constructing a plot or creating a stronger and more genuine voice. And I enjoy the Good books even more when they come along, because it's all the more special.