Monday, January 23, 2012

The Musings of a Would-Be Reader

OMG two posts in one night. This one is related to the last one, though, so I kind of felt obliged to post it at the same time.

I love to read. I love stories, I love words, I love getting to experience a new world through the pages of a book... I love to escape. I'm good at it, too. I was always a couple years ahead of my class in terms of reading skills. If one of my teachers gave me a good book, I'd be way ahead of the assigned pages after the first day. I got through the fourth Harry Potter book in a day and a half (with breaks for eating, playing, sleeping, etc.) and I read the fifth in a total of about 15 hours. I would read at night in the poor light of my bedroom, which is probably why I can't even see my own computer screen from a foot away without my glasses. I would read in the car and get sick because of it, but I would still keep on doing it because I never freaking learned. I just wanted to read, damn it.

I still love reading now, but there's just a bit of a problem. I don't do it. Because of that, I feel this little pang of guilt every time I see Carole Barrowman make a post about the joys of reading. Why guilt? Because I have an anxiety disorder and I take everything as a personal critique even though I'm not really sure she realizes I exist (but she did respond to me twice on twitter and I'm probably going to send her a link to this when it's up so if she does see this... uh, hi, Carole, I liked your books and I apologize for any and all impulsively-written tweets I have and will likely send to you in the future, even though they're probably not as bad as I'm making them out to be but I like to have all my bases covered). Which obviously means I need to respond by making up excuses to make myself feel better discovering what has kept me from being as avid a reader as I was when I was younger.

First of all, I'd like to point out that I still do read. It's just that most of the reading I do nowadays takes place on the internet and comes in the form of news stories, blogs and facebook or twitter feeds. Oh, and webcomics and whatever text there is to be found in video games. I do still read actual books on occasion, too. The last one I finished was I Am What I Am, for which I made a fantastic little cover out of bluish-purple construction paper because it has a face on the cover and it was making me nervous because every time I looked at it I felt like John Barrowman was staring into my soul and judging me and I don't like it when books are judging me because it's not very polite so I made a cover for it and the preceding book Anything Goes so that I wouldn't have to put either one under a stack of other books in a corner on the other side of the room whenever I wasn't reading it just so I could get through the day without feeling like I was being watched. And judged. I don't have any posters up in my room for the same reason. Other than that, the only books I've read in the past year and a half were the ones that I had to read for school, and since I graduated, I've sort of been in reading limbo. If that exists. I got a Redwall book that I hadn't read yet that I haven't gotten through, and there's this German children's book that I got that's about some kind of crime mystery thing but I don't really know what it's about because I haven't actually read past the first page because it's in German and I don't like having to look up words when I'm reading because it throws off the flow.

So I think the main issue here is that I like to read, but I just... don't. Which is weird, because when I was little it was hard to make me stop reading. So the question is, why is that? How can something that's been such a huge part of my life be slowly fading into a memory of who I used to be?

Short answer? Internet. Long answer? Well, it's complicated.

I guess I have a very specific type of book that I've always liked to read, but now that I'm older I've started moving away from what I loved when I was little and moving towards... well, I don't really know yet. Which is kind of problem because it's hard to find things when you don't know what you're looking for and you have a tendency to ignore anything that falls outside of a very narrow set of interests because anything else is New and New Things are Scary.

More than that, the act of reading a book requires the ability to sit down and concentrate on one thing at a time for more than five minutes, and I'm just not very good at that. My attention either shifts too easily, or it doesn't shift at all. Some days I'll be all over the place trying to accomplish twenty things at once, and some days I'll spend ten straight hours playing Pokémon. My concentration will be entirely on one project, and then I'll find a 5,000-piece puzzle in the closet that hasn't been finished and that project will be forgotten for a month.

The way I process information has changed, too. I'm just not that good at processing the contents of a standard book page. I need more structure than the usual return-tab format of paragraphs in a book. To put it bluntly, I would read a lot more if books were printed with pretty colors and distinctive paragraphs that don't blend together to look like a massive wall of text that makes my brain shut down whenever I look at it. Or even if I could just read stuff on my computer, rather than having to hold a book open, which bothers me because it requires me to hold my hands in a funny position and my fingers get stiff easily so it's hard to find a comfortable position to read in.

So I guess it's just a matter of finding the time and finding a book that catches my interest enough. And by 'finding the time' I mean 'remember that reading is fun and actually do it for once instead of failing at Zero Isle South for the fiftieth time because I have no patience for leveling up my Pokémon and I keep getting K.O.'d because of it.' We'll see how that goes, but for now, I'll just settle for trying to finish one of the fifty other projects I have going on at the moment.

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