There are two kinds of people in this world: those who find reading to be restful and relaxing, and those who believe it to be an added stress. I, personally, am one of those people who had once felt that my mind was too messy to add any other narratives. I often suffered the pressure of reading rather than the peace that I now feel when indulging in a paperback. The following article will describe how I took the turn from reading as a chore to reading for joy. And, hopefully, you will be inspired to add some more casual reading to your to-do-list as well.
When I think back to my childhood, there are only a few books and series that I can remember really moving me; the obvious being the Harry Potter series, as well as A Series of Unfortunate Events and A Wrinkle in Time. As I grew a bit older, Fahrenheit 451 stood out in my mind, along with other classics like To Kill a Mockingbird and Little Women. You’ve most likely noticed that almost all of these titles are often required reading in public schools, and that’s because that’s all I would bring myself to read. I wasn’t experienced yet enough to know that reading was something I enjoyed, but the required school reading piqued my interest here and there. And whenever I was blown away by a book, I was head over heels for it, but still considered it a fluke. Although I had never described myself as someone who liked to read- in fact, I proclaimed that I “hated” it – I did describe myself as a writer. Now there’s a conundrum.
Ever since I was nine, and was given my first Harry Potter journal, I had recorded my thoughts, feelings, and poetry. My mother’s basement is filled with tubs of old journals that I’d stored away from grade school to present, and many are scrawled with embarrassing admissions and drawings of hearts around the names of my pre-teen crushes. I also would recite the poems I was working on to my family at Sunday gatherings; many of those recitals still the brunt of jokes among my aunts. Regardless, the writing was that thing that everyone knew me for while I was growing up. And, somehow, I thought that it was completely separated from reading.
That is until college. Even as I carried a notebook around with me everywhere, feverishly scribbling down ideas, I didn’t put two and two together until an author visited one of my creative writing classes and stated point-blank, “If you want to be a writer, you have to read.” And it made total sense! Of course, I would have to read to freshen the writer’s bank in my mind, just as anyone would have to practice their art in life as well as in their hours of creation. A rock climber doesn’t just fling themselves at a mountain; they practice, and they learn from others. For writers, those “others” are other writers, and the best place to gain these insights is in their written works. How do consume those? BY READING!
From then on, my life changed. I think it was that very night that I decided to read every night before bed. I noticed differences immediately; not just in the flow of ideas, but also in the tranquility that this regular practice of reading allowed me. I didn’t dread reading anymore, but somehow I looked forward to it. And, a few months in, I started to note that reading had become easier. Books that I had previously picked up and tossed aside for their difficult jargon seemed suddenly tolerable, and the pace at which I devoured the words themselves increased tremendously. Up until then, when I’d read in school, I felt the pressure of the “chore” it was to be told to read something that I wasn’t necessarily interested in. But when I had the freedom to choose whatever I wanted to read, I realized I’d never actually hated it. Quite the opposite; it was like finding a long-lost piece of myself that I never knew was there but always felt connected to.
My receptivity to reading opened like a flower to sunlight, and I’ve never looked back. There are times when my journaling takes a long lull… but this is very rare with reading. If I’m going through a reading block, I feel other aspects of my life suffering. If I can’t read enough to satisfy my cravings, I experience more stress and discomfort in daily life. The peace I gain from the routine of reading is too valuable to quit seeking. The joy I feel at the end of a day, when I can take a moment to myself, and read with a warm cup of tea and a candle is priceless. Reading has gone from an experience that had “stressed me out” to one that staves off stress for me in its many forms.
All this to say: if you don’t consider yourself a reader, ask yourself “have I really tried?” And, if you’re a writer, why not adopt some more reading into your schedule? You might be surprised at the inspiration that floods your thoughts. Reading can be a joy for you too!