This is an essay by Glori Surban.
Working as an online freelance writer affords you many luxuries you otherwise wouldn’t have if you’re on a 9-to-5 job. But it also has a lot of challenges. After all, it’s still a business.
But the challenge, or let’s call it, “the change” which stood out to me the most and caught me by surprise was (drumroll) my deteriorating love for reading.
I know what you’re thinking. And yes, I have to admit it’s a little embarrassing. As someone who writes for a living, I should be a voracious reader, a lover of books, a mistress to words, a connoisseur of ignoring people because I’m so entranced in a story. But for a long time, I wasn’t. It’s why I said “the change” took me by surprise.
I didn’t even notice it until one day, when I remembered the low stack of untouched books on my desk. (Books I swore I was going to devour when I bought them.) I picked one up, read the cover, skipped the foreword (a bad sign), read the first few paragraphs of the first chapter, and flipped through the pages like I was handling a deck of playing cards.
It dawned on me: I, official bookworm of class ‘09, have become a skimmer.
The Unnoticeable Effect of Being an Online Reader
The web is constantly updated with content, both good and bad. Most people would only read a headline to decide whether a blog post is worth a read or not.
Looking back, I realized the only times I seriously read something word for word was when I was researching for blog posts for clients. And even then, the process of finding reliable information took a lot skimming.
Here’s how it usually goes: You get a bunch of results in Google, you click each page, skim the material to see if it’s worth reading, and you do the same with the fifteen or so other results to be thorough.
This isn’t necessarily bad. Skimming is a sort of a required skill when you’re an online content creator. You need to be able to quickly judge a piece of content so you can spend more time reading the worthy ones to help you create.
The problem was, I unconsciously applied my skimming habit when I read for leisure, the kind of reading that got me interested in writing in the first place. As a result, I no longer found it as enjoyable as I did before.
I rarely read any fiction anymore, I skimmed ebooks instead of actually reading them, and I shared posts just because they had nice titles.
My traitorous eyes automatically skimmed everything!
The Audiobook Effect and How It Could Help You Too
It all started the day I got my smartphone. I’m not usually one for gadgets and I’m pretty old school, but I had business reasons for getting one. Anyway, it was nothing special, a standard LG Android phone.
Audiobooks were something I was already interested in even before I got my smartphone, so I wanted to listen to some. I did, and I made three important observations:
1. No skipped pages.
This may not sound like a big deal, but if you’re a writer and you suddenly realized you haven’t essentially finished (as in read-the-entire-thing-and actually-understood-it finished) one book in a space of one year, it’s a little alarming.
Listening to audiobooks forced me to listen. To every word. A good audiobook is like a blockbuster movie you wouldn’t want to take a toilet break from. You want to listen to every word so you could understand and follow the author, especially if the narrator is excellent.
Listening to Tina Fey’s Bossypants was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The book was both hilarious and oddly comforting. And I heard every word of it from Tina herself. Every word.
One a side note: I have thick fingers, making touchscreen manipulation difficult. I simply didn’t want to go through the trouble of skipping and wondering what part of the book I was in.
2. Better understanding of the material.
Prior to listening to the audiobook version, I’ve read Susan Cain’s Quiet. Or at least I thought I did.
Upon experiencing it in audio form, I realized that I didn’t exactly read it as thoughtfully as I should have because, once again, I skimmed and skipped some pages that I thought weren’t interesting enough. I also didn’t really make the effort to truly understand it.
Audiobooks allowed me to understand books better, maybe because the sound of the words being spoken is irresistible to me or perhaps because listening is the only task I have to focus on. I can just close my eyes and let the words flow.
3. Eye strain was no longer an excuse.
There used to be a bunch of ebooks that I always promised myself to read, but I never got around to it because I was too tired and my eyes needed rest. Eye strain was my go-to reason for not wanting to read any more than I thought I should.
As you can imagine, such an excuse doesn’t work on audiobooks. I listened to Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup and Steven Pressfield’s Do the Work while lying in bed (a little ironic, I know). My eyes and my body rested while my brain absorbed the wisdom of good authors.
So how did listening to audiobooks revive my love for reading?
It’s simple. As I developed my audiobook habit, I rediscovered the joy of “reading” a book in its entirety, the awe of understanding a concept, and the excitement of connecting with interesting characters.
Now, every time I read an ebook, a little voice inside my head reminds me of those joys, of the sense of fulfillment at reading and understanding a book.
For self- and peer-proclaimed bookworms (and proud of it!) like me and you, this is a feeling like no other.
So if you’re experiencing “the change” and just realized it, don’t fret. Try an audiobook. Perhaps know someone who you want to encourage to read, let them try an audiobook. Get back and give to the others the gift that keeps on giving.
Glori Surban is a freelance blogger with a renewed passion for reading. She helps small business grow their online presence by providing quality blogging and guest blogging services. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.