Aside from my hopes of going to graduate school, I’m pretty much done with school now. That’s an uncomfortable feeling for me on its own since school is all I’ve ever known. Literally. We throw toddlers at school and they don’t emerge until their 20s these days. If then. I mean, anyone in my age group is already familiar with the ‘ten years of experience or masters degree’ for supposedly entry level jobs problem.
I really don’t want to get into that mess though. Instead I’ll focus on another sad fact I’ve realized this year: Reading as an adult is super hard. When I was a kid I could blow through five to seven books a week. I don’t mean little kid books either – I was reading chapter books younger than the teachers seemed to be pushing them. Alongside the easy little books, of course. I was killer during reading contests at school.
Then, like so many avid readers, I followed the path of reading less for pleasure and more and more for classes. In high school it wasn’t really an issue. About the only book I didn’t like or find easy to understand was Catcher in the Rye. Get all your hate out now, I still don’t like that book. I recognize it’s great and you are welcome to like it. I don’t. Anyway, when books are easy there’s room to wiggle around and check out other stuff. Plus there was always a lot of down time because I was that nerdy kid that finished tests early. In college there was a fair bit less time and a lot more books that weren’t particularly easy. Plus there wasn’t exactly spare money to buy books. I mean there was a library but I definitely always had an excuse not to go.
I guess I just never had to go out of my way to really seek out books. They had always just been there. When we went shopping there were the books, and I could grab one and take it home. The school library was nestled right between my English, History, and Math classes. I didn’t have to go off my usual path to find a book. As soon as I was presented with a challenge I crumpled. Don’t get me wrong – I did find a lot of books during college that I loved. I still have a bunch of them on my shelves now. But I became even lazier about books.
It’s almost like I’ve forgotten how to find the good ones. I know I’ve become pickier, and I know a lot of the stuff I used to like doesn’t even catch my eye anymore. I also know that there’s a personal level of struggle. A full time job I don’t really like, a social life I have to really work for if I want to have anyone to talk to at all let alone find anyone to potentially date, all those darn adult responsibilities like grocery shopping and waiting at the DMV. Technically I guess there’s time at the DMV. If I have a book to read.
I bought a whole bunch of books last year, then promptly didn’t read them. Most of them proved to be a bit heavier than I could handle (such as stories dealing with depression). I still want to read them. But now still is not a good time for those kinds of books. Actually those books are probably an even worse idea now than they were last year.
So now I’ve been a bit stuck in a new place – hunting around for books that spark my interest, even remotely, and hoping that I’ll find it in myself to read them. Part of my tactic has been joining Goodreads and going back through books I used to like and trying to branch from there and hoping something will re-ignite. While I do remember why I loved them and can still appreciate those feelings, I think I’ve changed too much now Though there are a few books that came up as recommended on those which look promising. They just aren’t available at my local library. So I went to the next level of recommendations to find a few that were. These ones weren’t quite as intriguing but pickiness is part of the problem.
Writers need to read. They need to know their genre and they need to learn from the pool of other writers. What worked, what didn’t. What sparks the imagination and makes the reader hope for more. Writers are readers who took it to the next level.
I have checked out four books from my library. It gives me both some free reading material and a deadline to read them by (August 8th at this moment). Right now I’m finding it intensely difficult. It’s been five days and I’ve read a third of the first book. Most of that reading happened in the last 24 hours. This is a start. In between that reading I’ve also managed to do my job, write a little, go to a local game night meet-up (which I super recommend – meetups are great for finding things that are going on so you don’t have to put in the effort of planning something out yourself, especially when you feel completely drained), and dealing regularly with all the emotional baggage I’m dealing with but am not going to be sharing with the public. Oh, plus the exhaustion. So much exhaustion. Great for those days when you know you need to sleep but there’s not enough hours to get everything done.
The point I want to get at, I suppose, is that we need to keep trying to read. Make a stop at the library, find something that seems interesting, give it a try. Please also don’t get mad at yourself for being a busy adult. I played that role for several months there and there’s certainly a lot of shame that goes around the internet for aspiring writers who don’t read, but have a bit of sympathy for yourself. We, at least in America, are set up on an 8-8-8 schedule. 8 hours for work, 8 hours for ‘play’ (which includes lunch breaks at work as well as time commuting to and from work), and 8 hours for sleep. Plus two days off on the weekend if we’re fortunate. In between all that we still have to take care of our basic needs as well as spend a bunch of time preparing food – if we’re trying to be healthy that is – and squeeze in that social time I mentioned above to help prevent total insanity. And, oh, we still have to be writing. Don’t forget writing, all you hopeful writers out there. Or hopeful editors, proofreaders, professionals of any sort. Writing can boost just about any career because it can put your name out there in great ways.
I don’t have the answer for how to squeeze in reading. Most of the time these last two years my main reading sources were short news articles or listicles or something that could easily be squeezed into 15 or fewer minutes a day. I’m hoping that these varying experiments of mine will yield some results. If they do, I will write a part 2 sharing them with you. But in the meantime you should try experimenting too. Read a chapter a day. Pick up an old classic you loved and re-read it. Pick up a new book you’ve been dying to try. Definitely spend some time going through Goodreads and making a list for yourself of everything that sounds interesting. Even if it’s a book written for a different age group. I personally really want to read the How to Train Your Dragon books one to see how truly different they are from the movies and two to see first hand if they’re something my nieces and nephews might enjoy.
Enjoy yourself. Reading is supposed to be a good thing for enjoyment, not a chore.