On Too Much Reading

At the turn of 2015 I vowed to stop reading. It was truly a new year’s resolution to close the book, close the browser, close anything displaying too much text. I was fed up and sick on information. My gluttony was intellectual and spiritual, as I sought wisdom, instruction, knowledge, validation, and answers in everything I read. I cannot say when this behavior took hold, but it advanced and accelerated in college and hardly slowed afterward. I had always read voraciously to nourish and inform my soul, never slowing to consider the side effects, because no one ever said that reading was bad for a person. No one ever let on that it could make one feel overwhelmed, uneasy, dizzy and disoriented, ill by over-consumption.

The resolution did not stick, and of course, it wasn’t really meant to, not forever that is. Still, no more than twenty four hours passed before my reading habits resumed, not even slightly curbed. I gulped articles over work breaks, downloaded books in PDF format and read them on my monitors in intervals between tasks. I fell asleep with volumes of poetry and essays beside my bed. I practiced Dutch with local newspapers and gorged the etymology of unfamiliar English vocabulary. My hungry eyes raced across pages like the eyes of a ravenous man scan the contents of a buffet. I had always wanted to taste it all—until I did not want another morsel.

During a conversation I had with my father roughly two years ago, he stopped me mid-sentence and, in efforts to rectify one of my runaway trains of thought regarding my relationships to writing and reading, said, “But honey, reading is an escape; writing is an expression.” He went on to encourage me to practice more of the latter, even if it meant less of the former. This struck me as an at once bold and inspiring assertion. The realization was there, though, and made explicit: The acts of reading and writing are complements, and a balance must be struck, tailored to each literate individual. Reading does not have to be an escape, and indeed my undergraduate training was in reading actively rather than passively, but admittedly I had been grazing words, sentences, essays, articles, and books constantly—only occasionally stopping to digest. Full digestion, for me, means reifying my reading experiences by putting them into my own words, by writing about how those experiences influence me.

The gluttony persists. My constipation, too, persists, and this blog post is an attempt, once again, to abjure. This time not to abjure the act of reading entirely, but to renounce its primary claim on my time and vital energies. For a spell, that is. I shall turn my attention to writing more prolifically. I shall detoxify my system by abstaining from too many new impressions and by purging those which have gone stale and clogged my system. I shall let that which has gone into me find its way back out.

I will not hold myself to refined expression. This is an untried experiment for me and ipso facto will be messy and unpredictable. For once in my life I shall not balk due to arguments of quality versus quantity. My intention is to spew. My intention is to get messy, to let go of words and see how they arrange themselves on the page.

I am ripe with education and experience, skin nearly bursting to share what is within. Others may now take a bite of me. And my hope, of course, is that the menu will become more appetizing with practice and with time.

One response to “On Too Much Reading”

  1. Deirdre Avatar

    Right on! I love this (and you), and feel it’s what you need for yourself. You’re a real prize.

    Liked by 1 person

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