I’ve been thinking about how much time I spend reading, “Is it an escape from goals I want to accomplish? Could all this reading I do be a bad thing?”
After some soul-searching, I’m slowing down my reading consumption and shifting gears to include more writing into my day.
How it All Started
Reading has always been a big part of my life. One of my fondest memories is lounging in our suburban backyard during summer vacation with a good book. I had eclectic tastes and I remember the librarian peering at me over her readers as I checked out the salacious Backstreet by Fanny Hurst (Queen of the Sob Sisters). The librarian asked me if my mother knew what I was reading. She did. I remember her disgusted look and raised eyebrows, “You like this trash?”
I became an expert on our local library’s inventory. As a little girl I would have to go to the library to check out a heavy armful of books for my mother when she wasn’t able to go for herself. I was under a lot of pressure to remember what she’d already read!
My Habit Includes Both Fiction and Non-Fiction
In the 1980’s and early 1990’s I read mainly for self-improvement. Barbara Sher’s Wishcraft: How to Get What You Really Want and Ernie Zelinski’s The Joy of Not Working and many others helped show me the path to reach my financial and personal goals. After I started working at Kumon I read mostly fiction as ‘reading for pleasure’ was a big part of our programme’s curriculum so I had to lead by example! I used the Kumon Book List to track my efforts by checking off each book as I completed it and then writing a short summary to remember the contents. It was a satisfying part of my job that I enjoyed!
After I retired I ramped up my reading. I devoured many best sellers in business and self-help: Tony Robbins, Gary Vaynerchuk, Dorrie Clark, Jim Rohn, Lisa Nicols, Scott Stratten, Dan Pink, Judith Glaser, Alan Weiss, Robert Cialdini, Mari Kondo, Judith Glaser, Simon Sinek, Liz Wiseman, Elizabeth Gilbert, Byron Katie and many more.
A Typical Stack of checked-out library books
Starting a Blog
One of my goals in retirement was to publish a blog so I began a daily writing practise after being inspired by the teachings of Writing the Mind Alive: The Proprioceptive Method for Finding Your Authentic Voice, Writing Down the Bones, If You Want to Write and The Artist Way. I started a weekly publishing schedule but I never developed a routine strong enough to keep me going and things started to fall apart after a couple of months–I just wasn’t enjoying writing and instead I sat in my recliner reading more books from the library!
I remembered a chapter in The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron where she suggested cutting out an activity, like reading, that you enjoy so you can free up your creative space. As I thought about how hard it would be to stop reading for a week I remembered what people used to say about my mother, “She reads too much!” At the time I couldn’t fathom that reading could be a bad thing. But now, I realized how she used reading as an escape from the world. Now I was continuing the pattern with my own reading addiction. I had dozens of books in my Vancouver Public Library ‘For Later’ folder, several books checked out with a bunch more on hold. Since I retired in January the library had taken over my life. I was spending hours each day reading my checked out books, logging into my library account to reserve more books and several times a day I’d check the status on my holds and remind myself of my upcoming due dates and also made frequent trips each week to my local library branch.
So once again I turned to books for help. Conveniently my hold on Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes became available. It’s is geared towards content marketers but it has useful tools for anyone who wants to writes. Handley suggests setting goals for the number of words written rather than for the amount of time spent writing. This was something I could get my head around. I like setting and achieving goals and thought this approach could work for me. She suggests you churn out 500 words then go back and do your editing and tweaking.
Managing My Habit
I have now decided to treat my blog like a job. I tend to be a morning person. (It helps that I have a construction crew jack-hammering across the street starting at 7:15am Monday to Friday.) With a schedule in place I’m starting to look forward to writing and I’m keeping a lid on my reading habit. Now it’s like a yummy desert I can indulge in and enjoy!