Self-challenge #1: Read More
I just recently decided I wanted to be an author. An author of books. Books that people read – and yet, read I do not. Not as often as I’d like anyway, and certainly not often by most standards.
When you look back, at school is pretty much where most of us felt we reached our reading quota for life. We read because we had to, so that we didn't fail the course or grade. You’d think that because we were forced to read so often – and because there are so many different genres and types of books – that we would've just naturally realized the inherent value of books, and gone on to read the rest of our lives using every spare chance we got.
Instead, it turned us more into manipulators than anything. We used CliffsNotes, or SparkNotes, or even our siblings’/parents’ notes. And we did this to pretend we had finished reading something we didn't have time to – or didn't care to – read.
But valuable learned manipulation skills aside, we were assigned books to read simply because they were in the school curriculum. Some of them were chosen for their “greatness” (though who’s to say what constitutes greatness such that every kid growing up should read it?) while others were chosen because they fit in with the material the teacher was teaching (a subject we may not have cared about, or felt was relevant or of interest at the time, anyway). This led us to the general understanding that books are rarely interesting, and you read only when you have to, or are told to – that you read books to learn – and who wants to spend their free time learning?
I do – and if you’re not a complete tool, you should too.
So fast forward to now, and we find that most of us have reached adulthood, and – surprise, surprise – we don’t read very much. We convince ourselves we don’t have time. Or are tired. Or have other obligations infinitely more interesting. Why? Because somewhere along the line, we learned that reading is more laboursome than any other way to spend our free time. But in thinking that, we couldn't be more wrong.
The truth is, reading is a form of simultaneous learning and entertainment that has the power to do so many things:
- Allows you to be mentored by and taught by an influential, famous, brilliant, or even dead person regardless of your age, or status, or era, or any other factor that may limit you in life as you currently know it
- Transports your mind through time
- Frees you/distracts you from things that you may not want to think about
- Teaches you anything about nearly any subject you could be curious about
- You can take a book with you virtually wherever you go – even where there’s no electricity, or internet.
- And many other benefits that would take forever to type. You get the gist.
And so you have it: a mere raindrop of a list in an ocean of legitimate reasons to read.
When I decided I was going to write a novel (and consequently make a career out of it once I realized how much I truly enjoyed the process), I looked into a whole bunch of blogs and books filled with famous writers’ advice on what makes a person write well. And you know what most of them said? “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Stephen King is credited as saying that, and he was definitely not the only notable writer to believe so.
For the record, I don’t believe that that’s true. Mainly because I have just written what I, and many friends and strangers, believe is a novel worthy of reading – Rise of the Morningstar – and I did so without reading very much prior to writing it. However, I don’t want to run the risk of being a writer – and more importantly, a member of the human race – who is blinded to the advice of those more experienced than him. Especially if I think myself to be correct before I've even tried applying/experimenting with their advice in my own life first-hand.
So, this day, I am hereby declaring to myself and in front of all my friends that I will read more. And if you feel as I do – that you don’t read enough, but would like to – then join me in posting as your status on Facebook, or tweeting the following affirmation:
“Friends and followers, this day, I promise that I will read one book a month. What do you recommend? #DarkholmeChallenge” [ Tweet this ]
Post it. Tweet it. I dare you. And if you’re too scared to, then it’s likely because you don’t intend on following through. Maybe you’re deceiving yourself into thinking you don’t have time, or are tired, or have other obligations and plans you think are more interesting. But in the words of Joseph Brodsky, a famous poet and essayist, “[By reading,] you stand to lose nothing; what you may gain are new associative chains.”
Take the challenge with me today. The first book I will read is called “Nine Stories” by J. D. Salinger. It’s a collection of his short stories. And I’m going to read it (and review it) simply because Salinger is a famous author and I have never read any of his work. (You may know him for his novel “Catcher in the Rye” if you read it in school.)
So, without further to do, it’s time to broaden the ol’ horizons of the mind.
For the writers out there: do you find your writing has improved by reading more?
For the readers out there: What is your single, all-time favourite book/story of all time? What makes it your favourite?
Post in the comments below!