To read what averts or what attracts?

[Originally written in June 2013]

The simple answer is: do both.  But with an emphasis on reading what attracts until it doesn’t attract any more.  Once what attracts begins to sound the same—once you feel like a genre/subgenre/writer/work becomes monotone, move on…if your enthusiasm brought you enough motivation to reach the point of feeling exhaustion with the whatever-it-is,  don’t lament it.  Surely you’ve lived long enough to know attraction does not remain constant?  And that’s fine.  We don’t keep eating baby-food our whole lives.  Taste is dynamic.  What attracts one day may avert the next, and vice-versa.

Perhaps a simpler answer is: do either one, so long as you’re doing something.  If you are reading what attracts you, enjoy that attraction while it lasts (yes, it may always attract you on some level, but it can only stun you once).  If you are reading what averts you, think about what it is about the work that averts you: in what ways are the functions and techniques displeasing you?  What is it that it lacks and what is it that it has?  Is it actually bad writing, or is it not meeting certain expectations (or both)?  Examine both your desire and your disappointment; examine what the work tries to do.  When necessary, forgive/acknowledge the limitations/influences of its historical context.

I tend to think: I write what I want to read.  I avoid techniques I find annoying or dull.  We can learn from our aversions (even though these aversions will, like attraction, probably not be constant…but it’s probably easier to lessen attraction than to lessen disgust).

Surely some potential readers out there share similar aversions.  Unless you are working on an assignment/something for someone specific, I don’t think there is a reason to write “for” an audience.  The audience exists somewhere in the human population.  Your taste is not so unique that no one else’s can possibly match it.  You have a potential audience, whatever it is you do.

I think there is value in reading what you “don’t like” and well as what you “like,” but I do imagine that there is an ideal ratio between the two.  I expect that to maintain some sense of sanity/happiness, you should be reading more of what you like.  Have those honeymoons, and go through the phases of taste.

What’s your ratio like of reading what averts to what attracts?  Is the ratio affected because of your duties to an institution (being a student or instructor)?

How constant are your attractions?  How constant are your aversions?

What do you think of this idea of writing what you want to read?