Reading is important. In fact, I would argue that it is the single most important things in a society — having a literate citizenry. I am not saying that every citizen should be an avid reader (although I wouldn’t be against that), however it should be made so that every citizen be able to read. The question though here is, how important should reading be to me?
Being a writer, reading is directly related to what it is I do. To write, one must read. To write, one must have those who also read. To read, one must have writers. These are only a handful of axioms specific to the writing part of the equation. But what about a writer who does nothing but read?
Lately, that is all I’ve been doing: reading. If I am not spending time with family or doing chores, working, or running errands, I am reading. Not writing. While the reading itself is not a bad thing, I feel that I am doing nothing more than using it as a reasonable escape from the task of writing — because as much as I love writing, it’s not easy.
Steven Pressfield, in his book The War of Art, called it “Resistance”. He gave it a full personification and all. He treats it like a spiritual force that is working towards keeping him from what we are wanting to achieve. He argues that by treating it as a living, breathing entity that does not have your best interests in mind is a good way to go about it. I would say that it is better than nothing as it helps to solidify these nebulous ideas that always seem to get in the way of work. In other words, all those little distractions, feelings, fear, reasons that keep us away from our work are the doings of a single entity trying to derail our efforts. (Similarly, he treats the Muse as such as well, but conversely as the force that is pulling us to our work.) Reading has become the latest weapon in Resistance’s arsenal against me. It is extremely effective.
I mean, how can I disparage reading? Well, when it is being used as an excuse to not do something I want/should be doing, then it is a problem. It’s certainly more subtle and less dangerous than someone who reads while they drive (I’ve seen a few in my life), but it is along the same avenue — reading to avoid doing something else or as an excuse to not be doing something else is just another form of procrastination.
Procrastination is Resistance is procrastination. Anything that is being done instead of the task at hand is part of it — even if the thing being used as a distraction is a good thing. Reading should not be treated any different. Unless the time being used is scheduled (like the reading I do on purpose every morning right after journaling), or if there is legitimate free time available, then it is nothing more than a way to help Resistance.
Part of me doesn’t want to resist this though. Reading is something that I enjoy and would like to put an effort into enjoying more often. It’s taken me into my 40’s to capture this love for books and reading I’ve had off-and-on all my life. Maybe my patience has finally caught up with my temperament, or maybe in a way I’ve gotten over the craving for video games and movies? Not certain, but in either case, I am seeing it as a good thing that reading has become such a force in my life, but on the contrary I cannot allow for it to become more important than writing. As important, maybe; certainly not more important.
So what do I do? I want to continue reading more than just the 20+ pages first thing in the morning (I made it a page count rather than time for a myriad of reasons). That typically only takes me about 30 minutes depending on the book and how awake I am. Plus I limit it to that because the intention is to start writing (which if I am honest, rarely happens). But while I also read more, I don’t want it to become an excuse to avoid the task of writing — no more than I want anything to get in the way of writing when I should be writing. And throwing out the task all together — like one would do for a bad habit — is out of the question. Reading is writing; writing is reading. The two go hand-in-hand.
What I will need to do is to become more aware of when I am simply avoiding something else that I should be doing or if I am reading because I either scheduled the time or have some free time to do so. Whether I want to believe it or not, I do know when I am avoiding something. (I might not want to admit it, but I know it.) When I understand that the reading is an act of avoidance, then it will mean that I will have to confront those feelings and figure out why. Why am I avoiding writing? Why am I using reading as the excuse? What am I afraid of? How is it that Resistance is acting here? Maybe then, I can find that balance between two things I should be doing… just not at the expense of the other.