How I Read Constantly But Don’t Really Read


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photo credit: The letter G via photopin (license)

My friends do it.

Hell, they publish lists of books they suggest. Dana’s periodic review list inspired this post, although I know Julia and Letizia (and probably others whose names end with na or ia) write about the books they’ve read.

They rip through them like I rip through pizza.

I just feel like saying, you know what? I don’t read. I mean books. I read tons of words, every day. On your blogs. On social media. Sometimes, even for work. On Saturday, I even learned that there are interesting things to read on the back of wine bottles at Food Lion.)

It’s just, the book stuff, you know?

I haven’t used a bookmark in at least as long as I haven’t used Axe body spray. There are bookmarks in my life.I used to slip them into Choose Your Own Adventure books when I was a kid and coaching books when I was coaching kids.

So much reading, writing

There’s also a limited number of hours in a day.

Even more limited at night, such as 1:35 a.m., after work reading and catch-up-on-the-NFL reading and inbox reading and a few of your Facebook IM readings. I’m just 171 words into a post that could have as easily been about #TheStruggleIsReal.

Reading maybe stands for something else here.

It’s 2:12 a.m. I’m lying on the floor. I’ve pounded through SEO pages and interviewed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan. I looked around the locker room for Roddy White and Devonta Freeman. (dude! You’re on my fantasy team!) since I woke up.

I’ve fallen asleep 17 times writing this post.

I’ve read and responded to important emails. Way important. Words have skipped around in my head all day. I picture them in a tornado twirl, or maybe that’s a toilet bowl twirl? It’s hard to tell.

The same way I failed to take all my meds or import my contacts to my new (and Elise’s old) phone, the words that swirled didn’t come from books today. Tomorrow isn’t looking too promising, either.

So much reading

I try to pinpoint reasons I can’t shove an actual paper book into my backpack that I wear in this vagabond existence I find myself in.

A man without a home doesn’t need an address to turn the pages of a compelling book, does he? But what if his to-do list includes writing, some there so long the lichen has attached to it?

What if his inbox were a plant, it’d have shriveled and died?

Or if those emails were goldfish, they’d be floating at the top by now? Because there’s always reading to do, in the inbox, in the workload, in the blog world. Does it count? Even the stuff I want to get to, but can’t?

Because there’s also other reading that has nothing to do with words on a page.

Reading people, for instance. Or signs. Or even yourself. Now that I’ve revealed glimpses of my scattered Scrabble pieces of a thought process, maybe it’s time to choose photos and put this to bed.And myself.

It’s tough when words fail if they’re your tool of choice.

Reading, then, becomes integral

It also enlightens me, words’ failure. You set words aside and hope actions and circumstance can dictate your next steps, rather than words, which have always, always worked for you.

So when I wake up in a couple of hours to again face the stack of words and reading that might be expressed or might not be read, maybe I’ll pick a book off the shelf and drop it in my survivalist backpack, and when I do stop to eat tomorrow …

Maybe I should turn a page and set a bookmark and move forward.

And even if I don’t turn a page and set a bookmark and move forward, I’ll read enough today. Words and feelings and circumstance. They’re what compose my life, and dictate my path, even if I can’t see it. There’s an innate treachery in reading.

We’ll read a defense or get our readings from a glucose monitor.

Out of necessity. Often the defense is disguised or the monitor won’t give you a number, and then you must improvise. Improvisation has its own set of treacherous traits. We read into things. We fail to see the writing on the wall. Sometimes, all at once.

Thing is, though, we can’t help but read.

How to get to tomorrow’s words

My eyes that couldn’t stay open for writing are suddenly alert like it’s 4 p.m. Almost snack time. The readings continue. When words are hard, when words are easy; today we’ll arrange the words, and maybe there’ll be a synchronicity that makes it all make sense.

It’s reading. It’s all reading.

It’s essential, every day, on promising days and treacherous days because that’s what will lead you to tomorrow’s words. You just can’t easily write a review about this kind of reading, that’s all.

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45 Replies to “How I Read Constantly But Don’t Really Read”

  1. I love to read, but sadly there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to indeed read as much as I would like book wise. I do try, but still there are times I do get to read more and then times not so much. Spit just is what it is I suppose.

  2. You’ve fallen asleep 11 times while writing your blog post yet you still manage to use the word, “synchronicity .” That takes talent my friend…real talent. I tips me hat to you 🙂

  3. I am in the middle of two books and the last two nights I didn’t crack either one of them. I want to read, but I have far too much to do to read right now. I hear you. Maybe it is the kids, maybe it’s school, or maybe I am just too overloaded with tasks around the house. But, I do love to read. Have a great week.

    1. I remember the days of two books at once. Don’t you have papers to read? If you find time to read, extra, that’s cause for props right there, Clay.

      Hope you have a great week, too. I’m determined to make headway.

  4. I read, sometimes as an escape from life while others to enlighten it, but mostly as an escape.

    I don’t know how your standing after being up all night, you rock. I’d be an ideal candidate for the Walking Dead if I were in your shoes this morning.

    1. It’s a definite escape, and back when I did read, I could put myself right into a character’s shoes. (Not as easy to do watching Arrow, for instance, and setting myself opposite Felicity Smoke, you know.)

      I’m the Sitting Mellow right now, night quite the Walking Dead.

  5. I don’t know how you do it… I am too tired by 10pm to come up with 10 dollar words and yet you use them well in your posts…Love reading your posts- and quite frankly, I think it counts as reading. I love to read too, and pick up a quick novel to read sometimes, just because I want something different and fun to read. Around here, we are voracious readers!!! There just isn’t enough hours in a day… Or maybe, in me….

    1. Oh, it’s easy Vicki – just make a series of bad decisions (even some good ones) and before you know it, it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve not posted yet.

      I realize the world spins on whether i post, but it’s good for me to stick with the program – and interesting to read over the post in the morning (it was like I’d read it for the first time.)

      We should have a nation hour of reading every day. that’d get me.

  6. I used to read more than one book at once, plus write, work and read online. Now…I have no idea what book I left off on. Maybe I have an obligatory-resolution-like goal for 2016 now…

  7. Recently, I bought 2 very popular best sellers that I really wanted to read. After they sat and sat on my bedroom floor, I finally bought the audiobook for one of them. I listened to it in just a few days while driving around in my car (it’s a 25 minute drive to the store or better, where I live). I enjoyed it so much I bought the audiobook version of the other book. What a great solution! Now I am reading a book that I’ve asked to write a review on. It’s so juicy with great info that I’m reading the actual book with pen and highlighter in hand. It will be a while to get through it, but it will be worth it.

    Sometimes, it’s important to prioritize what’s most important. The way I see life, what’s most important gets pushed to the top of the list. If you’re not sure what’s most important to you, take a look at what you absolutely make sure to get done no matter what. Based on your being up past 2am writing this blog, I’d say that taking care of yourself, getting good sleep, isn’t high enough on your list.

  8. i say reading is reading, wherever we may find it. i love books ,and many times fall asleep to them. when raising my girls and working and school and…it was all i could do to read a list or a school paper or a sign. we spend our time doing what matters to us most at any given moment –

    1. I’m reading right now, in fact. there are worse things to fall asleep to than books (the highway, for instance.)

      What does it say about me that I spend so much time on my blog and drinking coke zero?

  9. Dana and I have said – we always find time to read books. And I do, but my library fines are high from taking my sweet, sweet time.
    And I read so much. I first skim and put things in my head. Then I thoroughly read later. I’m not sure why I do that. Sometimes even when skimming, I have all the time in the world.
    It’s just the first read-through, though. Who knows why?

  10. I read most nights at bedtime. Sometimes for 30 seconds before I fall asleep. Sometimes for 45 minutes if it’s good. Also, I sometimes read while the kid is playing in the bathtub at bath time.

      1. You gotta read something more recent than Hemmingway to stay awake. Nothing against the H-man and his old men and seas and bells tolling, but something more like John Grisham or David Baldacci would be better for keeping you awake. Though Andy Weir’s “The Martian” is awesome – my favoritest book ever, maybe.

  11. I actually prefer to write than to read.

    It feels something like a chore to read stuff at times… but you know what?
    I’m online most of time and I’m actually always… reading!

    Nevertheless, you’re so right!
    I really need to find some extra time every day to read, especially some good books I have back home waiting for me. 🙂

    Thanks for posting this Eli!

    — Mike

    1. I’m with you, Mike. I know a lot of the writing process is reading. I shouldn’t discount my reading load just because it’s not on paper.

      Getting away from the screen would be the benefit, though.

      Look forward to reading your blog, too.

  12. The struggle IS real, my friend. Of course emails and blog posts count as reading (high five!), but there is research to show that social media is ruining our ability to concentrate on longer, more complicated texts like novels. I want to keep my brain healthy, so I’m gonna keep fighting for reading time. How about audiobooks for those long runs I know you take? 😉

    Keep trying, Eli, and thanks for the shout out!

    1. Word, Julia. I wonder if i could still get lost in a good story. I definitely think a variety in reading material keeps my brain juicy.

      I could use an audio book for those long commutes I take! Thanks for the inspiration.

  13. Should I be flattered that I inspired this post, or should I be worried that I stressed you out needlessly? I’m going to take it as a compliment. I have always read like a fiend; if I had to choose just reading OR writing I would choose reading in a heartbeat. And while I enjoy reading blogs and online essays, they will never replace a thick, juicy novel. (I bet you’re thinking about steak now, aren’t you?)

    You are reading constantly, just not books. And that’s okay – you’re expanding your mind, and that’s always a good thing.

    1. you inspired, Dana, not stressed. Definitely a compliment. You inspire me to give it a shot someday again.

      There is something about a book or even a newspaper, and you can’t say that it’s because you can take it in the bathroom, because tablets and smartphones go in there, too.

      (I was thinking about steak long before your comment, but your comment was the sauteed onions and bleu cheese chunks on it.)

      I learn something in blogs every day, Dana. Ain’t it cool?

  14. I have been here too. I read every day, but I don’t read and immerse myself. It is on the fly, between folding the towels, washing clothes, and reading blogs and writing posts. It seems life just flies and reading has to be quick and easy to fit in the day’s chaos.

    1. It’s tough to get that sit-down-with-a-book time, isn’t it Mary? If I get that quiet moment, I’ll be asleep in 11 seconds. I wish they could put books inside my glasses so I could read them on the go.

  15. I’d say us bloggers do more than our fair share of reading – more than most people I know that’s for sure. I read at least 15 blogs per day. Then some days I may have skipped and suddenly I have 50 to go through on a Friday night. woot woot – crazy times here! But most of the time I’d rather read than watch TV, or play the video games even my 40 something hubby can’t leave alone. Stephen King said once “you can’t be a writer, if you are not a reader,” and I while I may not agree 100%, I do get the point because I know how reading inspires me. Words inspire me.
    Right now I am reading Herman Hesse “Trees” – highly recommend. 🙂

    1. Hell, Rore, I’m reading now! If I get 10 or 11 a day, I consider that a good day. I suck at video games and haven’t like a TV show since Orange is the New Black (Hi Pipes!)

      Reading is good exercise for a writer. How many times have I gotten inspiration from yours and other blogs? Thanks for the recommendation – I’m determined to get an audio book in the coming days.

      1. Trees is a short section as part of a bigger collection. But if you are still looking into Buddhist ideas/thoughts, than Hesse’s Siddhartha is the one to read. But “Trees” is a really a beautiful piece.

  16. It’s tough, Eli! Especially when you’re holding down a blog, and you put out many more posts than I do.

    I finally made (even surpassed) my Goodreads goal this year of 25 books. I had to work at it though. Definitely watched less movies, but I did it. I also didn’t publish a book this year so that helped, but with a more demanding job—one that is all about creating content—it’s been hard to find the time.

    1. There’s only so many non-bleary-eyed hours in a day, right Britt? Some of the reading I do is my own words going by my face.

      Wow 25 books – I’d say that’s my solid number from 1998 to today. Maybe less Orange is the New Black?

      It’s good for the soul to create at work too, isn’t it?

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