I used to look at books simply as stories. Stories involving words that I would read in a period of time shorter than four hours. Stories that I would just devour, and then they would be gone—I could revisit them, but the original mystery would be diminished. In other words, my experience with books used to consist of only the first four-ish hours I spend with them, and not really much more than that.
My perspective on this has changed drastically.
See, I wrote a book. It’s pretty long. I spent almost a year writing it, bit by bit every day. And now I’m editing it. A lot. And all of that put together takes a lot longer than four hours.
Now, when I look at my bookshelf, I don’t just see a bunch of stories that I have devoured and will continue to reread from time to time. Instead, I see a ridiculous amount of work that I don’t think very many readers appreciate.
I know I’m pretty judgemental about anything I read. If I don’t like it, I say so. If I do like it, I say that too. If I dearly love a book, then I will rave about it for a very long time to come. One of my best friends and I had our first-ever conversation because we both adore The Night Circus, by Erin Morgenstern. My friendship with another close friend is existent partially because of a debate about Asimov vs. Bradbury. Yet another friendship came about from Richelle Meade and Rainbow Rowell books.
I have, at some points, decided that some books are more or less valuable than others. And now I’m starting to rethink that. Because even the most derivative, overwrought, overthought plot line in existence took effort to write, and took a lot of time to be completed. I can say with some authority that all of that effort? It does not happen without some belief that the book is good.
I have doubted my own work. I have worried that no one will read it. I have been terrified that all of my work is for nothing, because it will just sit on a dusty webpage in an unclicked-on browser, and no one will think about it for more than those four initial hours. Maybe not even that.
So who am I to judge other people’s books?
I am coming to the conclusion that nothing anyone writes can be downright bad. Maybe it could use a little work. Maybe it could use a little originality, or a little finesse. But I think any book should be appreciated, solely because it is a book. Someone took all of that time and effort to write it, and someone believed that it is good. I appreciate that. I have to. No, a “bad” book will never end up on my bookshelf. From a reader’s point of view, it will never be one of my favorite stories. There are many things that it will never be from a reader’s point of view.
But from a writer’s point of view? I will also never believe that I am better, or a better writer than anyone who has managed to finish a book. I may have written a story that I consider to be better, but books are more than stories. And that writer will still have done all of the work to make that book more than just a story.
I stare at my bookshelf sometimes and I know that every spine on it, whether standing perfectly straight or very slumped, is the result of an unconscionable amount of work and time to accomplish.
As such, every book deserves more than those four hours of attention. I may not like every book I read. That’s okay. I don’t have to like it. I just have to appreciate it.