Growing up in eastern Iowa, I remember summers lasting forever. Fishing trips. Camping trips. Family vacations. Summers seemed to go on and on. Time ebbed. Waiting for Christmas breaks and family visits seemed to take forever. Semesters dragged on indefinitely.
It seems time races now. Television seasons blend into each other. Summer movie releases come and go. Marking time on our smartphones and social media makes time go even faster. Technology doesn’t help. Weeks and months race by more quickly. Summer break 2014 is more than half over.
As our minds race from text to text and post to post, we’ve sped up our ability to scan and weakened our ability to slowly read for content. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Writers read. Pick up a book. (I think a tangible book helps at first. Turn the screens—and phones—off for a bit if you can.) Find something you’ve always wanted to read, but defaulted or created a reason to put it off. Track down a high school’s summer reading list. Dig up a college English department’s pre-freshman literature checklist. Pick something long and intimidating. (Hello, Moby Dick!)
If this is new for you, start yourself with a half hour a day. A little “you time” during lunch; a chance to decompress before dinner … or after. Create a routine. Make it a habit. Once it’s become a welcome diversion, stretch it to an hour. Count how many pages you get through during the time. Do the math. Figure how long it will take to read … Moby Dick or To Kill a Mockingbird. Stay on track. Be intentional.
Find books you want to read. Pull them off your “I’ll-get-around-to-it-someday” stack or list. Juggle the genres. Try a little classic fiction then choose something contemporary. Read a biography of an intriguing figure in your profession. Find a history book describing a place and time you’d like to have been. Choose a political book that challenges your opinions or a religious book that conflicts with your beliefs.
Read for content. Read for information. Read for entertainment. Read it slowly enough to take in the words and ideas. Put aside any speed reading techniques you’ve learned. Slow down time. Stop it quietly. Be in the moment with a book. Feel your heart rate slow. Feel your breathing even out.
While the world careens at a breakneck pace around you, take a pit stop each day to pick up a book and make deposits in your brain bank; a break from the rat race. Writers read. Great writers read more.