Growing up, I had an extremely long bus ride to and from school every day. Couple that with living on a pretty remote farm and I didn’t have a big circle of friends I could hang out with whenever I wanted. Add one more element – my parents loved reading Science Fiction – and you have someone who reads all the time. If memory serves, I was inhaling books at the rate of one every couple of days (I did still have chores to do morning and night).
That rate of consumption lasted right up until I hit college. Homework, study and work seriously ate into my reading time. I think things slowed to where I was only reading a book every couple weeks at that point.
Writing my own books slowed things down more
When I began writing my own books, I slowed down even more but I kept reading. I made the time and, when our family began to grown (see had kids), I read a bit more still (although those took the form of children’s books out loud to my own children).
I didn’t quit entirely though.
Publishing put a (temporary) end to reading
Then, I had my first published novel and that stopped me reading for a long time. Looking back, I think I was putting too much pressure on myself to write and not be influenced by other books. I was only reading one or two books a year at that point. I also started playing video games and watched more television; neither of which seem to promote long attention spans.
I refer to attention span because, when I would pick up a book, I’d find myself losing interest quickly. That wasn’t a factor of poor writing. Just not enough focus on my part. I know, I’d read posts from other people talking about how many books they had on the go. They always made me wistfully think about my own former obsession with reading. I just wasn’t able to quite get back to it.
In January, I picked up a book I had loved as a youth. I read it in under a week. I quickly picked up the sequel and read that one just as quickly, making time to just sit in a comfortable chair and let the story carry me away.
I’m now on my sixth novel of the year – still not super fast reading – but I still have the demands on my life that most grown-ups do (darn responsibilities). The difference is, I’m overcoming the short attention span I have developed the past several years and I’m enjoying the stories again.
I have also realized what many have said before; a writer needs to read. I think the reading is bringing me back to my roots and making me want to get back to my own stories again. I’ll just have to be careful not to lose my newly rekindled joy of reading.