Monday, January 6, 2014

A life spent reading


During this first week of the year, I stumbled across a quote by Annie Dillard. She reminded me, "How we spend our days is how we spend our lives." Then she expanded on that to say, "Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading - that is a good life."

I had to stop and think about that, because I do consider a day free to do nothing but read is a good day indeed. As I pondered, I began to see what I think she meant. And she's right.

Consider the benefits of a life spent reading. We stimulate healthy paths in areas of our brain which might have been left dormant otherwise. At parties, we have the potential to begin interesting conversations. We never need to worry about being bored in unexpectedly empty hours. Instead of moping about how we have nothing to do, we relish the sudden opportunity to get stuck into our books. If we're caught in a queue or waiting room without our books, we simply pull our fully loaded reading devices out of our handbags or briefcases and we're all set. If we're bloggers, it isn't difficult to come up with something to spark a blog post because our minds keep ticking over with what we've read. As I skimmed through my blog to see the tone of last year, I noticed how often I said something occurred to me because of something I'd read. If fiction is among the mix, we may be more empathetic people than those who don't read. Even scientific studies have indicated that. Imagining ourselves in other people's shoes comes easily to us, enabling us to intuitively sense how those around us might feel, making us more sensitive in our relationships. We may be more familiar with the experience of having sudden flashes of insight or unexplained answers to questions we've been pondering, without actively seeking them, because they come to us from within the pages of our books. We are more familiar with the interesting features of the world without physically having to visit each place. And our imaginations are healthy. They get more aerobics than those of people who merely opt for watching TV. There are huge benefits to a life spent reading.

BUT to have the benefit of a life spent reading, we have to be able to spend part of our days reading without feeling that we're wasting our time. There's where people may sometimes come unstuck.

It's increasingly difficult for people to justify doing that in the twenty-first century. There's usually something pressing and urgent to be done within each 24 hour block. We feel lazy if we're caught with our feet up, reading a book, while there are still dirty dishes in the sink or wet towels on the bathroom floor. When we feel as if we shouldn't read until all the housework is done, there's very little time left over. If your house is like mine, one room is being made messy while another is being straightened. If we are lucky enough to be caught up in the pages of a fascinating book, how easy it is to call the day a write-off and say, "I spent too much time reading," or "I did absolutely nothing."

Now that we're beginning a new year, I'd like to encourage us all to remember the great benefits of a life spent reading, and remind us that we won't achieve those good things listed above unless we prioritise at least a little while each day to read. And if we really want to feel as if something good and constructive is coming out of our reading time in the short time, we can leave trails of our experience through reviews left on our blogs, or any of the many book review sites. That's a good record of our life spent reading, which might be springboard for those of many other people.

I wish you all happy reading in 2014.

Paula Vince is the award-winning author of contemporary, inspirational novels such as "Best Forgotten" and "Picking up the Pieces". She lives in South Australia's beautiful Adelaide Hills, which she uses as the setting for her novels. Her most recent novel, "Imogen's Chance" will be published in April, 2014.

22 comments:

  1. A great blog Paula. Thanks for giving me permission to put my feet up and read. I could relate to almost everything you said except the bit about having to do housework before I read. Nope - never worried about that (LOL). Could also relate to the waiting room point. The only time I ever get impatient about waiting is when I've forgotten to bring a book. Interesting moment at the dentist recently when I walked in holding a thick book. He said that was something he didn't see much these days. I thought he meant people reading in general, but he meant that most people bring in their Kindles or iPads. I guess it gets more people reading. Thanks for getting us off to a great start with the first CWD blog for the year Paula. Now excuse me - I have to get back to that book!

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    1. Hi Nola,
      It's lovely to see people out and about in waiting rooms with proper books. Good on you. Enjoy your book :)

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  2. Lovely post, Paula. I'm always looking for the next opportunity to hide away to read.

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  3. What a great post! Needs to be in the newspaper. I'm sure I was born knowing how to read and as a child had been known to read in the bath, while washing up, getting dressed, eating (still do), travelling and under the sheets with a torch at boarding school. Reading expands our knowledge, our empathy, our problem solving. 'Keep Reading, People." It helps with writing too.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth,
      You've reminded me that I used to do similar things, in my childhood. I'd walk around with a book held before my nose, on the way home from shops and doing other things. Aren't kids funny? But they know something we get fobbed off as adults. Let's keep reading!

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  4. Next time I'm found neglecting other duties with a book in hand I'll say: "Paula said I should!"

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    1. Hi Meredith,
      Lol. Yes indeed, we've got to get our priorities straight.

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  5. Thanks, Paula, for your encouragement to keep reading. I love Annie Dillard's writing, by the way, especially 'Pilgrim at Tinker Creek'. I have to lie down a lot at the moment as I have back trouble, so I have plenty of time to read--especially since it's a bit hard to get into any real writing while having to lie on my side to type!

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    1. Hi Jo-Anne,
      I'm glad you have the chance to read but very sorry about your bad back. Hope you feel better soon.

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  6. Yes Paula I agree, if I didn't read I'd have nothing to write about! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi Susan,
      Yes, that's absolutely true. We have to keep our tanks full.

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  7. Great post, Paula. I am indebted to my father who encouraged my love of books by often bringing me home children's classics. Still love reading, especially in the evenings - a guilt-free zone.

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  8. Hi Debbie,
    My dad did the same thing when I was small. Isn't it great that something like that can have such long dividends? I also agree that reading at night is a great thing to do.

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  9. Great post Paula. It's a long time since I've been able to just read for the whole day but I can always find a half an hour or more to dip into a book - taking a break, having a meal (on my own), waiting for appointments or kids...hard to imagine a life without books.

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    1. Hi Jenny,
      At this season, it sounds pretty much the same for me. Proof that if you want to do some reading, you can always fit it in.

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  10. Thank you so much for this post. My life is spent reading for sure, amongst other things. An apologetic for reading is much appreciated!

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    1. Hi Elaine,
      I agree, we certainly need encouragement, when all those things I mentioned above are happening every day to undermine us.

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  11. And there is much that we Christians need to read, like these faithful words from Charles Spurgeon http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

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    1. Hi Mike,
      That does sound like a good spring board.

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  12. Hi Paula
    I thought I was the only person who had to get the 'jobs' done before they could settle down to read (although I have been known to be stirring a pot on the stove and managing to squeeze in a couple of lines of a book)!
    And it is good to be able to share what you have read.
    I have holidays coming up and am not planning on going anywhere - but the lounge with a book or two!
    Thanks for your post!

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  13. Can't imagine a day not reading. Thanks for permission to sit and indulge Paula. While we are reading we are learning about life and writing.

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