To Call Me An Egghead Is To Insult Eggheads

It's a cloudy, chilly February afternoon, on the brink of the weekend, and I'm sitting here eating a cucumber and drinking a cup of coffee.  (My tastes have never been discerning when it comes to knowing what to put together to make a meal.)  As I said, it's nearly the weekend, and the really busy part of life, for me, is about to start.  I mentioned around the beginning of 2011's holidays that it seemed to me that the quiet part of my life was about to be packed up and what most people call "holidays" was, for me, the really hectic time.  An enjoyable, but definitely a high-paced, hectic time.  My life is somewhat backward from most other people's.

Joy asked me on Facebook if I had any advice about finding time to read when life (for her, at least, and probably many others) is taken up with schoolwork.  I have a few ideas, but the problem is that they are not actually mine.  To put it simply, reading is my work.  When I gave my father-in-law Signs Amid the Rubble for Christmas and added that I had already read it and loved it, my brother noted how few books he had read in the year (he legitimately has little time to do anything but work), and I had to explain, somewhat abashed, that reading is my work, and that is why I do so much of it.  Again, at a gathering I flung out a piece of knowledge (which was not very trivial and I do not actually remember what the conversation was all about) and when I was asked how I knew my little tidbit of fact I replied, also abashed, that it was my business to know such things.  It's simply what I do.  I don't know if it does anyone else any good (except to clarify that Vercingetorix was a Gaul, not a German), but I like to think it does my own writing some good.  It wouldn't do for me to be mistaken in my facts or lacking in knowledge while at the same time trying to be a novelist.  And I have no idea what I might need to know, so I simply take in everything I can.

And here I sit, on the brink of what is the end of the workweek for most people, and what is about to be for me the beginning of two days of not having enough time or energy to do what I like: reading.  Reading is my business and my life is open with acres of time in which to do it.  So much of the advice I have for you (any of you) has to be gleaned from Abigail.  She has schoolwork, and office work, and house work, as well as her reading and writing, all nagging at her to be done.  And yet she gets it all done.

Make a point of reading before bed.  This is something I'm trying to institute myself.  Don't look at the computer, stay away from television screens.  Bundle up in your pajamas, crawl into bed, and read some from your book.

Read in the morning before you "start your day."  Once you get into the flow of the day, it's sometimes hard to break off and pick up a book.  Go to bed early and get up early - and read a bit before you get going!

Have "book stations."  If you're like me and you're reading more than one book at a time, find places you tend to be in the house for any length of time and assign books to those places: your bed, a chair in the living room, a place at the kitchen table.  When you're there, pick up the book and read.

Multitask.  Unless you tend to have sit-down meals other than supper, in which case it would be rude to ignore your family, read while you eat!  This can grow awkward when your food requires a fork and a knife and your book requires at least one hand, but necessity is the mother of invention.  You'll find a way around such problems.

"Never trust anyone who hasn't brought a book with him."  Got a bag or a purse?  Stuff a book in it.  I have designated reading areas at my local grocery stores.  While I'm waiting for the rest of my crew to finish, I plunk down and read for a spell.  Even if you get carsick while reading (which I do) take a book with you anyway.  You never known when an opportunity to read may arise. 

Break it down.  I'm reading three books at present (The Flowers of Adonis by Rosemary Sutcliff, On Christian Truth by Harry Blamires, and 1215: The Year of the Magna Carta by Danny Danziger and John Gillingham) and two of them have short to manageable chapters, the sort I can easy read in a day.  If you have a lot you want to read, take it in bite-size pieces (I did this with Thera, whose chapters are few and huge) and put the book down and move on once you have accomplished your goal for the day.  Slow but steady wins the race.

5 ripostes:

  1. Awesome advice, Jenny. I've had to come up with lots of creative ways like this to just sit there and read. Ahhhh. If only reading *could* be my work. But I fear till I have my own household and my schedule is of my own making, I can't assign myself that job and hope it is taken with the credence I meant it. :D I am going back through the LoTR series because I haven't read them since I was eleven so all my "modern" knowledge of the series comes from the movies. Anyway, I was absolutely astonished to find how shallow I am about some things: The cover of this copy of The Fellowship is so torn and terribly ugly I had a hard time picking it up to read! ;D Awful, I know. But these things do matter to me. Funny, that.

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  2. Haha! :) I have to chuckle when this turns into an advice column periodically. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is only us women, in generality, that so dearly love to be asked for and to give advice... or perhaps it is only the topics that arise are feminine. In any case, I do the same thing admittedly. I just thought I would add another tidbit to the thread- that is, the penslayer might have acres of time to read, but in my experience, those who have time have it because they make it. If one awaits a time when one has one's own household, that is great but... the dynamic definitely changes again with the arrival of children and other people whose needs have to come before one's own. If I were to wait until everything in life provided time for it, I'd wait till I was retired. But by then I wouldn't read because good reading skills are habits. As for harking back to school/college days, I always checked out 10-15 books over any holiday and took them home. I never finished all of them but I set out to finish at least half of whatever I brought home. It doesn't make sense to be in school and NOT read, but it is all too easily done. Be in charge of your education. A good grade is just a letter on a piece of paper while good research or quality thoughts or new understanding is the stuff of true education. Try for both but prioritize the latter. My two cents, and I won't charge! :)

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  3. Ania - I suppose the reason this blog turns into an "advice column" from time to time is that we're all in this strange business of writing and reading and living together, and the truth is we don't really know what we're doing, so we like to ask help from other people (who probably don't know what they're doing either, but when the blind are all you've got, you've got to let them lead you). On occasion I'll be asked questions, and I do my best to answer them with as much thought and as much tongue-in-cheek as I can manage. It wouldn't do for me to not take other people's questions seriously, and it wouldn't do for me to take myself too seriously.

    Rachel - Don't fret, old bean! You get quite a lot of reading done, I think, judging from the little bits and pieces I hear from you. We none of us ever read as much as we would like, but you swallow up a decent amount with the time that you've got. ^.^

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  4. Well, I always said Abigail has the stuff of genius :D. No wonder she got published at fourteen years of age!

    Thanks, Jenny, for taking the time to write up a post with these ideas. It was great! I echo Rachel's sigh... would that it was our occupation to read and write in turns, like you do!! Alas, for folks like me still in school/uni, the biggest thing is to balance time and set priorities right and to steal any, I repeat any free moment to catch a line from a book. It is so frustrating too, that my home-school curriculum's literature readings are rather sparse though inspiring, Pilgrim's Progress, The Hiding Place, Robinson Crusoe etc. And also, most of the books assigned for me now I have read before!

    However, there are those moments, like reading in the grocery store etc. P.S. I eat most meals with one or more members of my family, so it is rude to read :p

    I was at first so daunted to start reading 'The Silmarillion' and wondering how on earth I'd find the time amidst my schoolwork to read such a large and in-depth piece of literature! Finally I came up with a plan, much like that piece of advice you gave, to read 'The Silmarillion' on the drive to church and back on Sundays since we live more than forty-five minutes away from our Church. Yes, it sometimes can be dizzying, and the small-print of the book doesn't help matters much. At first too, the book seemed hard to get into (take cue from all the elvish/Valar names!)... but last week, on our drive to church I got to read somewhere in the mid-beginning of the book, and got swallowed into it so much I forgot my dizziness and the long, exhausting drive in the process of learning of Feanor and his stubborn rebellion against the Valar. I was enraptured, and when I came home I slouched on my bed and read on for a lot longer than I intended!!

    Reading in and of myself is no challenge... whatsoever, but school, taking up most of my day, really leave very little time to satisfy my appetite for books. And if I sneak and read, that horrible guilt that goes with it is difficult to live with in a peaceful frame of mine. And in the evenings, I find I cannot read because it is the only time in the day I find time to write! I guess a good way would be to balance it out with one evening of reading and one evening of writing ;)... or rather, just making sure not to allow any spare moment to slip from my finger!

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  5. But I thought voluntary and voluminous reading was the exclusive purview of eggheads?

    "I have designated reading areas at my local grocery stores."

    ...ok, now you're in another category altogether.

    But yes, time for reading is dearly bought but necessary. No matter how hectic my work day might be, my lunch half-hour always includes a few pages of a book. It's not much, but as you say it adds up, and I find the short sessions well-suited to heavier works that require time to digest. In the past couple years I've taken down Ulysses and Gravity's Rainbow, and am currently marching through Infinite Jest; all worthwhile endeavors.

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