I occasionally review movies, but most of my freelance reviewing (as with fellow Inferiors Hand and DiFi) is books. And I also end up reading a lot of books for other purposes: writing cover copy, interviewing authors for publishers' websites, writing reading group guides. But the point is, like Lucius, I wind up being exposed to a lot of stuff I would never pick up on my own, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it's just not my cup of tea. Or maybe it's something by an author whose previous work I haven't enjoyed or have downright hated. Doesn't matter. It's a gig.
But it's impossible to separate the threads of our creative lives completely. The stuff I read for professional reasons, rather than by choice, nonetheless ends up contributing to my overall idea of what it means to be a writer, including aesthetic and political concerns. What I've found, somewhat to my surprise, is that exposure to the crap (by my definition) has helped me to be more discerning in my critical judgments and, in a weird way, less arrogant in making them. Or not less arrogant, because I can still be pretty damn arrogant, but maybe less condescending would be a better way to put it. I suppose you could argue that the relentless drip-drip-drip of the bad and the mediocre has simply worn away the sharp edges of any critical faculty I may once have possessed, but I don't think that's the case. I think it's given me a much broader view of the field than I otherwise could have had, and given me a sense of the likes and dislikes of a wider readership.
posted by paulw