To Read and How to Read Again

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I sit one arbitrary morning with a book in my hand with the novel intention of finishing it in the day. It was only 300 pages long and I’d been wanting to read it for ages. I read a few pages but I realize I’d been skimming over passages; not really paying attention to the words, rather randomly picking sentences to read before turning pages. I puff in annoyance and begin again, only to have the same happen once more. Before I could give it another go, my phone vibrated with a message. The book abandoned, I spend two hours chatting and the next three on a movie. It is evening when I am reminded of my neglected book when I see a book sale on Amazon. Duly ashamed, I close all 56 tabs and  log out of Facebook. This time as I sit reading, the meaning of the words escape me on account of the motion picture playing in my head, of me singing Centuries by Fall Out Boy to a stadium full of people. It was getting quite frustrating. This wasn’t the first time it was happening. It had been months since I had been able to read well, the way I used to, gobbling books by tens every month. And it bothered me. So I sat in contemplation to figure out why this was happening to me. The reasons could be:

  1. The world had run out of good books which could keep me interested.
  2. I had suddenly become very popular and had a very active social life to manage.
  3. Facebook had become surprisingly engaging.
  4. I worked too hard and therefore required more sleep so it was okay if I preferred sleeping to reading now.
  5. I had acquired a new hobby which was demanding.

Since none of these were true, I kept on with my supine ponderings. I eventually came to the following realisations:

  1. Internet had conditioned me to easy, fast reading. Short pieces of news, quick reviews, tiny abridged stories, miniature everything. I no longer wanted to give reading the time I used to and it showed in my impatience.
  2. The reason I now skimmed over paragraphs was that I had become used to listicles. “10 things you should know about llamas”, “15 reasons why you are chocolate cake”, “5 reasons you should be crushing on Fawad Khan” etc. etc.
  3. The pings and the rings of my gadgets interrupted everything and had made me fidgety. My attention span had reduced significantly and I distracted easily.
  4. When I travel alone to college, I read like crazy, a book a day on good days. So time was an important factor.

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I came up with a few solutions to get back to reading

  1. Chart out a reading schedule to make sure I read everyday.
  2. Make a reading list. I derive pleasure from crossing things out since crossing people out is illegal.
  3. Switch off the mobile during my reading time.
  4. Learn how to read again by starting with short 200 paged books.
  5. Read out loud when I feel myself getting distracted. Or write sassy comments on the margins to keep myself interested.
  6. Start with genres I can never resist.
  7. Meditate to set my head straight again.

I gave this a week and I have to say, improvement has been tremendous. I have realised that I read better mixing it with something I love, like light music or coffee.  It is a process which requires personalisation and it will take time for you to find the perfect combination. If nothing works for you for a long time, you might want to visit a psychologist. Sudden changes in reading pattern are indicators of anxiety or depression, so it could be something serious.

I’ve checked five books on my list this past week, and read them well, after a long time. I am finally reading for pleasure again and I can see this winter will be fun, with a little sunshine and my warm blanket to make the bliss absolute. Hope it’s just as fun for you. Happy reading to you.

(Featured Image)

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