Becoming A Writer Made Audiobooks Lose Their Luster for Me

I now need to see the artistry and craft of the written word

The more I write, the less I can listen to audiobooks. Something seems to be missing if I cannot see the words, punctuation, structure, and white space.

I published my first piece a little more than 2 months ago. The process of writing started a couple of weeks before. Originally, I thought of it as a project to get through a mystery illness I was experiencing at the time. I not so affectionately call it “my COVID-20.” I can’t even do illness the way everyone else does.

I wasn’t quite sure where writing would take me. I definitely didn’t expect to find a new creative passion. I thought that maybe I could write some informative content about what I know; business. I was stuck inside four walls from lockdowns and a personal quarantine.

My thought was to try to use this downtime as well as I could. Maybe I’d have some content I could use for my business website at the end. I’d never tried writing and creating my own content before.

I have always been a reader. I got hooked on reading very early. And if it was a topic I was interested in, I could read a book multiple times.

In my elementary school library, we had to list our name on a ledger in the back of the book every time it was checked out.

My name was listed multiple times on the ledger of every dinosaur book in that library.

Some of them had only ever been checked out by me.

Before COVID-19 Lockdowns

As a busy, professional living in Los Angeles, I never really found enough time to read as much as I wanted. Between work and time spent on the road commuting, there wasn’t a spot on my schedule for it. I was always reading a book but it took too long when the allotted reading times were so fragmented.

Then I discovered Audible. I could listen to books.

I could take back the multiple hours of time spent in my car every week. All of that previously wasted time now had a purpose. I could create my own personal life curriculum.

I love biographies, business growth, literature, fitness, psychology, books about wine; really everything. I decided to put together a list of all of the world’s great works of literature that I hadn’t read but had always intended to.

I started there. Don Quixote. The works of Proust, Dostoevsky, and Hemingway. If you think that these novels are solely entertainment, you are mistaken!

I was in a masterclass every time I hit the road.

Start of COVID-19 Lockdowns

When the lockdowns took effect in March, driving got dramatically curtailed. My primary time for listening to audiobooks was in the car. Los Angeles is infamous for the hellaciousness of its traffic. And it’s not a myth.

It really can be hell.

Angelenos have a deep connection to their cars. Routine destinations are further apart than in other cities. Things are really spread out.

Combining the traffic with distances creates a recipe for a lot of time spent in the car. Perfect for audiobooks.

The lockdowns changed all of that. I missed the time listening to books.

I tried driving around with nowhere to go early in the pandemic. I wanted an excuse to get some listening time but it just wasn’t the same.

I settled on a routine walking around my neighborhood in the early morning. I’d listen to a book while walking. It worked but the time was still much less than all of the hours in the car.

I started reading more physical books again.

Since my COVID-20

At the beginning of my COVID-20, I couldn’t sit up, think, or read anything. When my health improved enough, I decided to try to write. I had no idea what I was doing. I just started.

I still make a lot of mistakes. At least they’re better mistakes than when I started. I didn’t even know the basics; format and structure.

Some of the early efforts are cringe-worthy. When I look at pieces I’ve written just one month ago, I have to ask myself “what were you thinking?”.

As things progress, though, I am seeing the written word differently.

Recently, I had the opportunity to get in my car for a long drive. I was so excited. Angelenos have a romance with driving. So this is a big deal. I’m still not allowed to go into my office and is a general shortage of destinations in the midst of the virus pandemic.

Furthering the excitement of the drive was that my Audible credits are piling up. I was ready to get into listening to a great book again. I’m not going to name the one I started with. I know it’s a superb book but I couldn’t get into the listening experience.

Something was missing.

I tried a different book. Maybe it was a ‘good thing’ with the first one. The second choice wasn’t working either.

So I tried another. Same thing each time.

I found myself thinking about the words on the pages of those books.

I wanted to see them.

I wanted to see how the writer was constructing the sentences. Where the punctuation was. I had to see the white space on the page. It’s no longer enough to just hear the words.

It hit me.

To experience the true artistry of the written word, you need to read the words and not just listen to them. Especially if you are a constructor of the written word yourself.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with my Audible subscription.

There’s a chance that things will return to whatever ‘normal’ is. But it doesn’t seem soon. The longer the pandemic drags on, the farther the end seems. I cannot the destination from my vantage point.

Whatever happens between now and then, I’m focused on reading the words on the page.

If you are a newer writer reading this, has the same happened to you? Has writing heightened your appreciation of reading?

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©2020 by Brent Rupnow, CEPA, CFP, CLU, ChFC