Me? Read a Book by Me?

A while back, I heard a celebrity who’d written a book asked what he likes to read. His answer? “I like to read my own books!”

You’d never hear me say that, and that isn’t just because humility holds me back. I genuinely wouldn’t mean it. In truth, I haven’t picked up and read either of the two books I’ve released since I completed my final edits before publication.

When I finished my first draft of my first manuscript in 2010, I couldn’t wait to read it. “A story by me!” I thought. “How could it not be my favorite?” After all, I’d always enjoyed and been proud of my works in school. I figured this had to surpass any of those.

Not long into it, I discovered the experience didn’t bring me the joy I expected it would. For starters, I wasn’t surprised or moved the way I am when I read others’ stories because I knew what was coming, even if I’d forgotten some parts. I also wasn’t just passing time and engaged in the tale; I was spotting the many typos and inconsistences that plague most first drafts. On top of that, I could ‘hear’ my own voice, an activity that makes some of the best singers reportedly cringe. All in all, I couldn’t get lost in it as I had in countless other works.

Once I was done, my mom inquired, “Do you like your book?” I had a hard time responding. How could I say no…but could I honestly say yes? I’d invested well over a year in this story. Why wasn’t I jumping to give it a five-star review? Did my lack of enthusiasm mean I shouldn’t be doing this?

In my reflection, I appreciated that the issues I mentioned above factored into my less-than-overjoyed reaction. Gradually, though, I also realized that my instincts—despite being young and inexperienced—were telling me something: namely, it wasn’t yet good enough.

As my writing skills developed and progressed further, I reaped more satisfaction from reading my work. That isn’t to say I glean the pleasure I do from ordinary reading, however. Drawing off the illustration from my last post, the captain of a ship never gets to bask in the carefree aura his passengers can.

For those of you who’ve just begun writing, then, don’t despair if your first few read-throughs leave you less mesmerized than you anticipated. Most of us are our own worst critic and will see more slipups than anyone. And da Vinci wasn’t kidding when he said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Whether your story is on a flash drive buried in a drawer or in book form on countless people’s shelves, you’ll always find something to change.

Nonetheless, we can use that heightened skepticism to ensure the quality of our writing. It’s disappointing when we find our supposedly finished product less than satisfactory, but it’s better to catch that now before we have to hear about it from someone else. Only you know the exact way you want it to come out, and only you will derive the most pleasure when it does. Hence, being your own reader may have its awkward moments, but it’s worth it. In time, you’ll feel like a chef sampling his creations, taking bite after bite until he gets the recipe just deliciously right.


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