Tuesday, December 22, 2015

When You Start Reading Again

When I was young I read a lot. I actually don't remember being that hot on reading until I was in 3rd grade or so and I discovered Spaceship Under the Apple Tree, which was the first sort of science fiction I read and which became the first series I read. There were only three books, but I loved them. From there I began to devour books. I read quickly and I had a good memory for what I read. It only got worse as I got older because reading was a way to cope with a lot of things for me. But also, I loved being swept up in another world.

When I started writing for money, I stopped reading. I had very young children and not a lot of sleep and I was working from home. We lived in new places with poor libraries and then...I just forgot that reading was a part of me. Grad school compounded this. Reading became entirely product oriented. I read to write or discuss or both. The twins were born right after the third book came out and I never made it past the big Quidditch match at the start of the book. I read the vampire books because I was able to get hold of them between the end of my first semester of classes and the start of the second and I read all four of them in one week. And then nothing even remotely like it for years.

When I came out to Provo to find us a place to live, which was pretty darn stressful, I found the public library. It's nice. It's quiet and recently updated and there are computers the public can use for up to two hours. If you don't live here you can show ID and get a code to use the computers for a couple hours that day. I found it very useful. After we moved here, it took us a bit to get back there, but eventually we did. The boys and I got library cards and we've been there more than once a week since.

And I have read about 5 books a week since.

These are no classics. They're small mystery novels and romance novels with little more than kissing. Yesterday I picked up a humorous biography from one of the Big Bang Theory actors. But I had read somewhere on the Internet in the last year that even just reading silly fiction like this--not the good stuff from "Best of...", but your average paperback--is good for you and good for your writing.

I have noticed that one of the effects of reading more is that I have begun to feel less nervous about my attention span. My attention span is, apparently, just fine if you put a little kissing into the story. Of course, my research doesn't really lend itself to that, but it has made me wonder--every bit of research always has a story to tell. The object of the game is to bring out the "so what" of whatever it is that you were studying. If you don't have an answer to that, you don't really have anything new to say on the subject and you're better off writing about something else. So if a romance novel is better with a smidge of detail about those two innocent kisses (I gave up bodice rippers a long while back, but I won't judge you if you never did--so long as you don't judge me for reading romance novels in general) then what is "the kiss" in article about professional development? What makes you want to wonder what else that author has written? Compelling characters, a problem that really does need to be solved, and the suggestion of a solution or a future. All those things are part of qualitative research, but we aren't always very good at telling the story.

Another side effect of reading more fluff is that I have come to realize how GOOD it feels to daydream, to imagine, to roll your eyes at the ridiculousness of the plot, to thoroughly enjoy a very well-written parody of the genre...there is a role for this kind of escape.

Don't worry--it's not an exclusive diet.

That said, in a world in which we read more and more soundbites, mini-articles, social media--all on tiny screens of our smart phones, etc. (Which, I should add, I don't have--I can't read books on my phone anymore. I do have one of those oversized five lb. iPads. They're good for playing FarmVille 2. and holding an electronic copy of the scriptures.) It's very nice to read a story from start to finish. It's very nice to consider reading strictly for the purpose of entertainment. We live in a world in which there are ever increasing ways to be labeled as deficient and ever increasing types of "reading difficulties" or disorders or whatever you want to call them.

I am remembering the importance of giving both children and adults the freedom to read and enjoy books that aren't necessarily very well written or edited just because. Because it's nice to enter a world where you only know what you need to know--you aren't bombarded with information all the time. It's nice to put yourselves in the shoes of another and to know it's going to turn out well. It's nice to read whatever you want to read and know that nobody else will even notice you're reading that. When I do turn back to an article, I notice I read it better. I skim less, notice the big picture more, do a better job of remembering who contributed to the writing, and do a better job of thinking across texts. I've always been good at the last bit--but it seems letting my brain read whatever it wants helps me do what I've been doing well even better.

Nothing deep here. Just a few thoughts late at night when reading scriptures after a Christmas-themed romance novel by Heather Graham.

1 comment:

Dramamama said...

Great post! I gave up e-books a few months ago and have truly enjoyed non-illuminated reading time again.