This is an essay by Williesha Morris.
“The DaVinci Code” was my omen.
The hugely successful novel that everyone insisted I wouldn’t be able to put down? I put it down and never came back to it.
I promised my niece I’d get through the “Harry Potter” series before the final movie. That flick has come and gone. Her half-read copy of the third novel in the series, “The Prisoner of Azkaban,” is in my room.
While some folks may have a handful of books on their shelf they have yet to read, I have dozens. The saddest part is that I wasn’t always this way. I adored reading and writing as a child. My earliest memory of reading was the Golden Book “Little Bear.” I was five years old and didn’t know how to pronounce the word “thought.” I asked one of my parents and kept on going.
Books, magazines, encyclopedias. I ingested anything with words on a page. I took several facts from the encyclopedia about San Francisco and turned it into a love story about two lawyers. Years later, I still had a copy, and I finally saw in person what was depicted in those unsatisfying thumbnail photos.
My love for the written word sparked a career goal. After editing my sixth grade newspaper (since my classmates didn’t need my “Dear Abby” advice) and visited the local paper, I was hooked. I stuck with that goal and became an editorial assistant for that paper many years later.
However, I stopped reading for pleasure consistently around age 12. Here’s why:
My first year of required reading for honors English was the summer before the 7th grade. I was disappointed I couldn’t read the normal fluff books I’d read like “Sleepover Friends” or “Sweet Valley High.” I ended up donating a lot of books to my sixth grade teacher.
I had to read “The Yearling.” The monotonous 1938 exposition and the tragic ending left a terrible taste in my mouth. And since English was always my strongest subject, I’d be doomed to this type of reading through college.
It is a simple but torturous process: Read several books. Write several boring expositions on them and be tested later. Discuss. Repeat.
Though without these classes, I may have never enjoyed the rich literary experience of authors such as Shakespeare, Morrison and Barrett Browning. But I also trudged through Garcia-Marquez, Steinbeck and Dostoyevsky – all legendary authors that bored or confused me. When I focused on journalism and literature in college, I could never make time for fluff. I had to dive into historical autobiographies and non-fiction texts. By then, my love for reading and writing for fun had dwindled.
Opening a book became totally associated with studying.
Web browsing is the bad habit I can’t break. Like many people who grew up in the height of the computer age, the entertainment value of the Internet far exceeded what I had experienced. Simply sitting and reading wasn’t nearly as interesting. It has become so difficult to focus and digest what I’m reading, I get frustrated, particularly when I see friends getting through meaty novels in days.
Though it has useful benefits, it also became a source of social fulfillment. Ironically, I still haven’t embraced e-readers. I still believe nothing can match the feel of an actual book and listening to the turn of pages.
Yet, I still have a difficult time with sticking to it.
- Join or start a local book club. This has been effective in the past because of the social benefit to it. There is still pressure to complete the book before the next meeting, but it’s nothing like it was in school.
- Reading for a few minutes at a time and taking breaks in between. No matter how slow I am, I will continue.
Much like eating healthier and exercising, I really do think reading often should be a vital part of everyone’s daily life, especially writers. But like most healthy habits, it’s very difficult to maintain. What drew me to this blog is the hope that I will return to my old ways. Plenty of people enjoy the web and endured summer reading but still make time to read before bed, during work breaks or on vacation.
Even if my reading habits never fully return to a passionate hobby of mine, I still have wonderful memories of reading from my youth and later in life.
How do you balance other pastimes with reading? How has your level of reading changed over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Williesha Morris is an administrative consultant and freelance writer in Alabama. Her focus is partnering with business owners. When she’s not browsing the web or blogging (you can read her here), she enjoys spending time with her husband playing games or watching Big Bang Theory.