The Write Way to Read

By my own definition, lately, I have not been a writer.

Why? Because writers write. I haven’t been doing this.

Unfortunately, my ability to write is closely linked to my mental health and for what feels like the last two centuries or so, I’ve been trapped under the ice in a lake of depression. Only quite recently was I able to finally kick through the heavy sheet of numbness above and feel the sunlight for the first time through the cracks in the ice. You never realize how much you appreciate the ability to feel until it’s taken away and given back.

Since my last post a number of things have happened. I have applied to graduate school to the master of library information studies program, my manuscript has started to resemble something similar to a novel, and I read another book from my list and Huckleberry Finn (I am excited to FINALLY understand all of the references to it in well, pretty much every movie and book ever). I’ve also been analysing my reading habits and I’ve decided to make a new goal for them.

A while ago I came across this image:

These statistics sadden me beyond words, but it’s not the tremendous amount of non-bookish people in the world I want to focus on, but the last little bit that says, “Reading one hour per day in your chosen field will make you an international expert in 7 years.” I tried to look up who initially said this, but I was unsuccessful.

However, wether the information in the image is credible or not (I mean, can reading every day for an hour ever really be a bad idea even if it doesn’t make you a specialist?), it’s a fascinating idea. Since I came across this image, I haven’t been reading for an hour every day because I’ve been stumped by the idea of what to read. What would I like to be an expert in? I have so many different interests, committing myself to only one genre/topic for seven years seemed daunting and, well, boring. That’s every day. Every single day for seven years. That’s 2,555 hours of reading in the same subject. What if I chose to be an expert in flowers and a year into the project, discovered that I really couldn’t care less what the difference between flowers and weeds are? Would I start over in a different subject, or would I just give up? Thoughts like these paralysed me from acting on any impulse to train myself to read every day.

It dawned on me yesterday that it really doesn’t matter what I read as long as the act of reading actually occurs–that’s the important part. As I’ve mentioned before, I have an obsessive personality and it comes out when I read books as well. I need to take breaks from reading because the way that I read isn’t healthy. I don’t eat or sleep or really, function like a human should. All I do is devour page after page until I’ve whipped through the book so quickly, that unless it was a particularly amazing book, in a few weeks I’ll have a difficult time remembering exactly what I was so obsessed about. This trait of mine can be particularly problematic when I tackle large books that take a bit longer to get through. I tend to emerge from my reading frenzies like a strange emaciated bat creature who has forgotten how to socialize with the rest of the world.

I believe that if I learned the self control to stop my reading frenzies and limit myself to only an hour a day, but do it every single day, I would actually be a much more productive reader than I am now. It’s that whole tortise versus the hare parable (except in my case it’s really more like obsessive bat creature versus like, I don’t know, being a normal human being). In the wise words of Stephen King, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” So that is what I intend to do.

I am pledging to make a goal not to become a specialist in any specific topic in seven years, but to kill the bat creature by learning self control and reading every day for an hour. As a result, I will read more by doing it more productively and I am not limiting myself to any subject. It will be difficult, but now that my mental state is better, I believe I am up for the challenge; I am excited to see how many more books I will be adding to my 50 Book Pledge shelves once I’ve begun.

Bring it on, batsy.

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