What I mean by that is that I have forgotten how to enjoy reading fiction. You know that longing for a book? That feeling of severe anticipation? That staying up late to finish the next chapter which turns into the next six chapters? I've lost it. And I miss it. I still accumulate books as fast as (or maybe faster than) usual. I listen to audio books often enough. But if I think about the books that I sat down and read last year, I'm sure it's less than 10. That is embarrassing, but beyond that, it makes me sad. Reading fiction used to be such a huge part of my life. I have excuses - like raising a kid who is now almost 6 years old, and building a law practice. But the point is that I miss it and I want to make some changes.
Besides the pleasure in stories and characters and the escape of getting into someone else's life or another place, the ability to read and enjoy fiction is so beneficial.
I have a friend who loves reading non-fiction. I do too, of course, but she really loves it and she reads non-fiction almost exclusively. I tease her that because she reads no fiction, she has no empathy and she's a cold, stone-hearted individual. It's a joke between us, and I don't honestly believe she has no empathy, but it is absolutely true that reading fiction allows us to see the world through a lens we might not normally see. I'd give you a source for that fact, but 1) I'm too lazy to look it up, and 2) it seems too obvious to really need a citation.
You know how Google and Facebook and basically all of the internet sees what you search / read / post / discuss, and then feeds you search results and ads that cater to those interests? We're becoming people who only read and see things with which we already agree and believe. Reading fiction is the antidote to that. It gives perspective. Of course, with fiction, you can end up reading only books and stories with characters who believe as you do, but let's talk about one problem at a time, shall we?
Another benefit to reading is the focus it gives. I have an extreme lack of focus lately. I am a small business owner, and a single mom. I spend so much time thinking about efficiency and multi-tasking that I often feel like I'm in a whirlwind and I just grab the post-it note that happens to be flying by me at the moment. I need to take time to slow down and center myself. Reading fiction is good for that. It takes me out of that whirlwind, places me in a serene garden, and forces me to sit and think about only one thing at a time. I've been doing that with movies a lot in the last year - if you go to a movie at the theater, you have to focus only on the movie. If I watch a movie at home, I'm sewing or cleaning, or playing Tetris on my phone. I need to do something similar for my reading.
I often notice that when I take that hour each day to read, I begin to focus more when addressing other parts of my life. If I can sit still for an hour to read, I begin to focus more when answering emails. I begin to be better at keeping a clean house so that I can get to that reading time.I spend less time playing phone games and more time giving my brain a rest - yes, engaging the part of my brain that exercises reading comprehension gives the other parts of my brain time to recover. I'm going to monitor this more throughout this year as I read more.
The other big benefit to reading fiction is that it sparks my creativity. I am a writer by day. I'm an attorney, and basically the only thing I do is read and write. I write appellate briefs, which are usually intense and large projects, involving combing through thousands of pages of evidence and transcripts to find the nuggets that will help my arguments. It also involves reading and researching case law and precedent. Often, when I am done with a day of reading mundane transcripts, I don't want to come home and read more. I'm getting older and my eyes get tired more easily. Staring at a computer screen all day isn't helping. But the truth is that the times I'm reading fiction regularly are the times I've written the best briefs. My language gets more colorful (in a very tasteful and professional way, I promise), my analogies are brighter, and my thoughts are more coherent.
I'm part of a small, rather unique online group of single mom attorneys. The internet is wonderful for allowing a very narrow group of people who live all across the country to come together and provide love and support as we navigate life. We've talked a lot in the past few weeks about our thoughts and goals for 2019. Here's what I've come up with.
1. I am going to choose two words for 2019: PERSPECTIVE and FOCUS. These words will be present in my mind and will direct my actions. Everything I do will be done with focus and will consider all perspectives.
2. I am going to read more this year. I have agreed to a challenge with my group, part of which is to read one hour a day - phone and electronics off - nothing but me and the words on the page. This reading is going to be in real books. Time spent with audio books does not count. If 2018 was the year of the podcast for me, then 2019 is the year of my return to books. I'm going to keep track of what I read - daily pages, the books I read, etc. And I'm going to write a post here about each and every book I read this year. I'll also keep track in Goodreads, but this will be home base. If I don't finish a book every week, I'll do a weekly update on Sunday or Monday.
3. I'm also going to floss every day, but that seems irrelevant to this post.
Here's to a year of gaining more perspective, more focus and whittling down the pile of books I own but haven't yet read.
P.S. The pictures in this post are my daughter enjoying snow for the first time yesterday. Yes, she's almost 6 and this is her first time in snow. We live in Southern California. Don't judge.