Monday, May 23, 2011

The Reading Life

One of my goals this year has been to read more.  I know that may sound strange given my profession, but I started realizing last year that I just wasn't reading enough.  When I was growing up I'd devour books on the weekend, usually staying up until all hours of the night.  Then, once I hit college I sort of... stopped.  Sure I read for class but I rarely read for pleasure anymore.

Part of that was guilt -- the feeling that if I was going to read anything it should be the mounds of homework I was always behind on.  Part of it was also my perceived lack of free time.  Once I graduated I spent more time reading and the year before law school I practically lived off books as food -- I chewed through several a week.

Law school was a lot like college -- I felt that if I were going to take the time to read it should be the mounds of course work (again, I was always behind -- even if I was up to date with the assigned reading there was *always* something else to read such as study guides and outlines).

And that's when I realized how busy life could be (though I'd later learn it could get a WHOLE lot busier) and that if I wanted to have books in my life I had to make time for them.  No longer was reading something I could binge on during a slow Saturday.  That's when I made the conscious decision to read before bed every night.

Let me tell you... this step, almost more than anything else, made me feel like I was turning into my parents who always read before sleep.  And now I realized why they did that -- there was no other time in the day. For a while this step solved my problem -- it got me in the habit of reading daily and I slowly made my way through the books on my to-be-read pile.

But last year I realized this short bit of reading time was no longer enough.  I'm drowning in books so much that my to-be-read piles have become more like mountain ranges (as I type this I have 25 unread books just sitting on my coffee table, five tossed on the couch next to me, a dozen on my ereader and towers of them lined up against my dining room wall -- not to mention the bulging bookcases and stacks on every other horizontal surface in the house).

I could probably break the books down into categories: craft books, research books, friend books, CP books, blurb books and then general reading books (books that look good, recommended books, books to stretch my horizons, etc etc etc).  But even then it's hard to prioritize what to read next (though CP books almost always skip to the head of the line -- I've read three in the past two weeks).

So I decided I needed to find more reading time.  The first step was figuring out where I spent my time and how to shift it around and right away I noticed something: because reading is something almost always fun, it never feels like work.  And because it doesn't *feel* like work I have a hard time allowing myself to focus on it during the work day even though it's something I should be doing for my job.  I'd find myself haunting message boards or reading blogs before I'd put down the computer and pick up a book.  For some reason, just being at the computer feels more like work that lounging with a book.

Really, all I had to do to find more reading time was (a) acknowledge it's part of my job and (b) allow myself to take the time to read.  Simple, right?  Sometimes it is -- especially editing CP books or skimming through craft or research books.  Other times I have to make the conscious decision to step away from the computer and pick up a book.

At the end of the day I realized it comes down to this: prioritizing reading.  During my tour I was talking with one of the media escorts who pointed out that if everyone gave up watching Wheel of Fortune (or some other 30 min show) every day and read instead they'd get through several books a year.  I'm constantly talking to people who lament their lack of time to read but when you ask them about TV they'll go on and on about all the shows they watch.

I know how easy it is to let a reading life slip away -- to queue up the DVR rather than flip open a book or to think there are other things that have to come first.  I've been there and sometimes I'm still there.  This year I pledged to be more conscious about how I spend my time -- to think about what I prioritize and then divvy up the hours of the day accordingly.

I prioritize reading -- reading broadly, trying new books outside my comfort zone, trying to keep up with my obligations while still expanding my horizons.  My day reflects that: I read first thing in the morning, last thing at night and hopefully more time in between.

Every day I choose to live a reading life and I hope that each of you choose to live your life according to your priorities as well, whether that be reading or some other passion.


Ros said...

I feel the same way. I find I can get more read if I acknowledge that I don't need to see the news three times a day, every time I sit down to eat. The added bonus is that lunchtime is now a lot less depressing, too.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post! I've struggled with trying to prioritize reading too, but anymore I consider it a part of my daily "to do" list, or a reward for completing writing goals. It is absolutely a part of our job and worthy of being made a priority!

T.S. Welti said...

I struggle with this as well. I go through waves where I devour a few books a week, then I don't read anything for a few weeks. It's not ideal, but priorities change daily. Today, I have to catch up on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Off to read. :)

David Kazzie said...

OK, I give up. What's a CP book?

Carolyn Abiad said...

Sigh. Catching up with the TBR list is impossible. I cancelled cable (gasp), read at night, read in the morning, Kindle in waiting rooms, but I know what you mean. Reading in sips isn't the same thing as a weekend binge, is it? Anyway, I hope this means you'll be Dining & Opining soon? :)

Anonymous said...

wow I'm the same way..not with finding time to read
My trouble is keeping up with my ever growing TBR pile
its like for every two books I barrow 5 take thier place and not only that but the library can only get the books so fast so for every non delivery day that I don't have a book in my hands I'm wasting time I could spend reading but only becuse I'm not getting the books fast enough lol

booksick is what I call it when you get overloaded by books becuse reading should be fun! but then you look at your TBR list and think "this is fun?"

but yeah its crazy

Unknown said...

Ack! I made the same resolution this year--and, surprisingly, I'm doing pretty well! The difference for me has been different formats--I bought a Kindle (which I read much faster on for some reason) and I'm doing a ton more audiobooks (through Audible, which Ilove). The only problem? I'm ignoring the ever-growing stack of PAPER books I already have to read!

Kristin White said...

Audio books have been a life saver for me! Not only do they keep me company during my very long commute to work, but during all household chores, etc. My books are on my mp3 player and if I am driving, cleaning, mowing the lawn or having a slow day at work I am listening to a great book! I still sit down and read hardcovers too, but I fly through audio books and I actually look forward to those mundane tasks now. I just spent 4 hours cleaning my house and was "reading" the entire time! I know audio books can be expensive, but your local library is an excellent resourse as many offer digital downloadable books to borrow the same as hardcovers.

Carrie Ryan said...

Sorry David! CP = Critique Partner. I've been reading drafts this week (and they're all awesome which makes me happy!)

BBC said...

Excellent post, and yes I feel the same way. As a YA librarian, it's my JOB to read and know the market so that I can push the right books on the right kids. Yet somehow I read less now than I ever have in my life. Those stolen moments are all I have for reading, and usually there's a little voice telling me I should be writing instead :)

bibliopunkk said...

I'm happy someone is expressing this... too many people have let reading wither from their lives. I was always a reader but working in a book store has opened up a bigger world to me. Having to read for handselling is almost like retraining your brain. I probably spend about... 3 to 4 hours a day reading as an average... way more than you mentioned, but the half hour a day is a good start (maybe everyone needs to go on a reading training program). I almost never sit down and watch tv anymore, and when I tell customers that they are stunned. It's almost an oddity to do something for entertainment that does not involve a screen or a channel changer.

Incidentally, your TBR pile reminds me of mine. le sigh.

David Kazzie said...

@Carrie -- Thanks! I had about 20 guesses. Wasn't even close. since they keep bumping their way to the top of your list, I kept thinking they must be zombie-related.