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Ever since I started taking my writing seriously, I have had trouble getting immersed in books. Every reading session devolves into analyzing the style, characters, themes etc., often with a view to what the writer is doing wrong in my not yet humble opinion. (I am just starting out and twice as infuriated with what I write. Is it envy? I am not sure.) The experience is educational, but getting too focused on the craft means I can't give the words the distance they need to do their magic thing. Language itself starts feeling alien. It has gotten to the point where I find myself putting down books fast, turning to music or art instead for inspiration. With no musical training, it is easy enough for me to ignore a song's simple chords or formulaic structure and just "feel it". As long as I successfully avoid paying too much attention to the lyrics...

Did you experience something similar when you started writing? How did you overcome it?

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    Sounds like you're reading like a writer. The only thing I'd suggest is to find and take pleasure in the great, inspirational stuff. (If you can't find any, then... read better books?) – Ken Mohnkern May 13 '16 at 19:18
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    You may just have to slog through this period. You're learning about how the sausage is made, so you're going to examine every piece of writing to see how it's put together for a while. Eventually, the more you write and the more you're satisfied with your own work (particularly in comparison to other work), the less you'll need to focus on the nuts and bolts of everything you pick up. – Lauren-Clear-Monica-Ipsum May 13 '16 at 19:39
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    @LaurenIpsum Thank you. I sure was hoping to hear something like this when I posted the question and it is reassuring. – R. A. May 13 '16 at 19:42
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    I am totally feeling you right now. I'm either in the throes of ecstatic inquiry, or tripping over my own hesitation, falling into a mire of mechanics, and missing out on the magic. But I am finding that the denseness and spaciousness of poetry helps me break through, and I've made a practice of making "found poems" out of various forms of printed text. It's just a creativity exercise, but I get to have the fun of "wayfinding" form without self-critical attachment to material. – Bea Bonmot May 13 '16 at 23:44
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    @LaurenIpsum is right, you just have to get through this phase, it happens to most (if not all) of us. I have a tip on how to get over it more efficiently ("quickly") but you won't like it: Get rid of the expectations you have in regard to your writing. Don't take it as seriously as you claim you do. It is said that Bakhtin, when he finished his dissertation while in exile in Kazakhstan (I think), he realized he'd run out of tobacco paper. So, he did the only natural thing: used the only copy of his paper. Later, he said "So what, I knew I'd written it, and that was enough for me". – user16555 May 15 '16 at 9:20
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I had a similar experience with movies. Watching movies was my favorite hobby, then it was entirely ruined when I watched the second Hobbit movie. I found it so bad that it ruined everything that I watched for a year. I constantly picked holes in the plot, relationships, acting, everything.

Ironically enough it was the third Hobbit movie that fixed this obsession for me. That was because it was so close to being good, despite still being an awful movie. I realized why it caused this change in me to happen, so hopefully this will help you with your situation.

Make up your own story. And by this I mean pretend the issues aren't there. Every piece of art is flawed, even masterpieces, which most people are willing to look past due to the fact that the rest of the piece is exceptional. But for others who create the art, it is easy to spot what could have been done differently.

So imagine that it is different. Iron out the creases in your own mind. Rather than not trying to analyze the work, go into too much analysis. Think past what is on the page and make up your own ideas about what could have happened behind the scenes to make it make more sense.

If you disagree with the motivation for a betrayal, conjure up your own elaborate backstory that explores a deeper motivation for the character that explains in your own mind. If a character literally defies the laws of physics to overcome an obstacle (looking at you 'Legolas running on falling bricks' scene), just pretend it didn't happen, and something else happened entirely.

As an example, I love the Darth Jar Jar theory of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. A movie that I previously didn't particularly like is now actually incredibly entertaining by over-analyzing things that happen in the film, and coming up with a unique theory as to what is going on behind the scenes.

It will allow you to more easily distinguish how good pieces of writing are. There are great pieces of fiction with boring parts, and there are utter train-wrecks with incredibly engaging individual scenes. You can discern the good from the bad, and it's actually a really good thing.

There are some things that are so bad that they are unsalvageable, and so good you will be immersed and never need to do any over-analysis to fix them in your own mind. Either way, you can appreciate them for what they are. Then you can start to appreciate the flaws, and understand that nothing will ever be perfect, but still like them anyway.

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  • Great solution. I've done this before, but explicitly giving myself permission to go with it rather than trying to suppress it and focus back on the text made for the most fun time I have had reading in ages. Thank you. – R. A. May 26 '16 at 12:49
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I experience this all the time, though I don't see it as a bad thing. I embrace it as an opportunity to learn more. If I want to experience someting without analyzing it, I try listening to it on audiobook, or reading it to music. Not music with words. Orchestral music. Since I usually read action/adventure books, I resort to movie soundtracks. These help to immerse me in the book, and I don't analyze it as much. But if you're reading something like a realistic fiction book, you could put on a jazz beat, or for historical fiction, try a piece of music from that time-period. Good luck!

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