I have a confession to make: I don’t read very much.
Many people probably wouldn’t think this was a big deal, but it kind of is. Reading and writing have a yin-yang relationship. Writing is creating words for consumption through reading which yet fuels more writing. They just don’t work well without each other. This is a problem that I aim to remedy and one that runs a bit deeper than what you get at face value.
The underlying issue is something that plagues many of us, some of us much deeper than others. Devil, thy name is Instant Gratification! Little Rush, Son of Elation, Itch Scratch. It goes by many names. I’m always receptive to that next delicious, sharply satisfying distraction. Pretty much whatever it may be. It’s really a wonder that I have gotten anything done lately. My core issue is that I am an info junkie. The more bite-sized, the better. I just have to know things. It might come as a surprise to people to know that I do not enjoy playing trivia games, but ever since I was a child, I watched Jeopardy…for fun.
Most days, my attention is consumed with the likes of Reddit, Wikipedia, TV Tropes et al.—though less so lately due to my return to social media. The bits of bite-sized info in a nice, easy to parse list are fantastic to gorge myself. I can literally scroll for hours on end and have done it on many occasions. It may even be possible to consider this an addiction. I would not be the least bit surprised if that were actually the case.
The issue is less what occupies my time in this fashion and more that it takes my time. Period. For the most part, I find the time to meet my word goals for my writing on a given day. Well, barring other excuses that are pretty easy to find too. The largest issue is the fact that this has shot my attention span all to pieces.
I used to read a hell of a lot. Often a few books at any given time. I have no idea how I kept everything straight in my head, but I somehow did. Now, I have a hard time focusing on a single book and seeing it all the way through to the end. I don’t love reading any less than I did then, but I just seem to have developed the attention span of a gnat. My brain is getting the equivalent of snacks when it needs full meals. I’m feeding it cocaine cookies when it needs a ribeye and veggies. It just loves the squirt of dopamine from these little info bumps. Like snorting a fat gagger every few minutes, the effect is similarly deleterious.
A writer cannot hope to be good at what they do without doing two things:
- Writing. No-brainer. Of course a writer should write. I mean, it’s in the name. Though you would be surprised at the number of people who just like the idea of being called a writer and who don’t actually wish to put in the time and effort.
- Reading. A good writer should read their ass off and it should be words of substance. Words of length and depth. Words that fill pages and volumes. Not “How To Write the Next Great American Novel” or other such drivel. And it shouldn’t just be the genres you are familiar with. There is a lot to learn from things outside your wheelhouse.
I’ll have a stretch where I’ll slam through a good book in a couple days no problem, but right after that, I’m back to stuffing my brain with trivia trash cocaine cookies. Smartphones just make it too easy.
There’s hope. Deadlines give me hope. Honestly, one of the best things about having this blog is having my self-imposed deadlines. I have a duty to deliver content on the days that I have chosen. Will any of you hold me accountable if I don’t? Maybe some, but many would possibly lose interest and move on to something else. Which means it’s up to me to keep on schedule. I do this because I want to give you all something to read at regular intervals. I’m finding it sort of trips my trigger more than those mental gaggers I keep snorting. I dig it.
I will focus this laser and do some surgery. I will keep crafting these posts. I will replace that need for little info bites with something more productive. I can work with that and make progress from there.
One day I’ll read as much as I need and stop drugging my brain with dopamine candy.