5 Simple Tips to Help You Read More - Don't Worry, You Have Time
As I've written in prior posts, I've committed to reading 30 in 2018 I'm doing this for an entirely selfish reason, I want to become a better writer.
It won't be easy. Finding time to read is hard, but through my life, I've developed a few tactics and practices that have made reading more, more accessible. I thought I would share these tips because I believe reading is essential to every single person, every career, and every industry.
Reading and Writing
The greatest book I ever read on the craft of writing (and Top 5 overall book) is Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
In the book, King discusses reading a lot. King exhorts reading as an avenue to better writing. King asserts that great writing starts with a love of reading. In other words, you need to consume great writing if you want to spit it out.
And, he's not talking about blogs, magazines, twitter, texts or bullshit that a person with a blog writes.....uh, wait a minute. Oh, sweet irony! We're talking about books, long-form reading by crafted professionals.
"On Writing" has so many great quotes advocating reading.
“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There's no way around these two things that I'm aware of, no shortcut.”
“Books are uniquely portable magic.”
“Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
King's book is an unapologetic love letter to reading, which makes sense. It seems pretty apparent that if you love writing, you should enjoy reading. Reading is the consuming of writing.
I think Martin Scorsese watches movies for his enjoyment first and foremost.
Larry Bird probably watched basketball on TV just for fun.
I'm assuming that Mario Batali loves to eat great food
And, I'm pretty sure Donald Glover loves friggin everything because he does everything well.
Side Note - Even if you're not a fan of Stephen King, I can't recommend this book more. You learn so much about his life, vices, and career. The book was written during the time that he almost died from injuries in a car accident. "On Writing" is the type of book a person can only write while faced with their mortality. It's so honest that it can't be called bravery, but rather atonement.
A Common Goal
As I have said, if you want to become a better writer then you should read more. But, what if you don't want to be a writer, why should you care?
In the movie Broadcast News, William Hurt tells Albert Brooks, "We are all just salesmen." That's not true. I think we're all writers.
Writing is one of the oldest and most basic forms of communication. Everyone uses it. As we get older, we use it more and more.
It makes sense. As a person advances in life and business, there becomes an increasing demand for that person to work less and communicate more.
Think about it; it's a pretty classic career structure. You start working a job; you prove that you're good at it, then you start doing it less and teach other people to do that thing. Your ability to communicate, educate and lead becomes more important than your ability to do it.
Also, as we move further into the digital age, we are writing more than ever. More emails, powerpoint documents, social media posts, text messages, whatever.
More jobs work remotely, and clients are spread all around the world. You don't talk on the phone with clients or coworkers, you write to them. In fact, I just spent two months on a job exclusively emailing and IM'ing with colleagues. I never spoke to them on the phone, and I'd say that I met only ten percent of them face-to-face.
Talking and interacting with people is so 20th Century. It's all about the writing baby. Can you get the people you work with and for to read your stuff?
I'm guessing you made fewer phone calls today than you did on this date ten years ago, five years ago, two years ago.
Do you work in an office where everyone has headphones on and pounds away on their keyboards?
As I write this, I'm sitting in a Starbucks, and everyone is writing on a laptop. Nobody is talking with each other.
Even the scary bearded man next to me has been writing the same sentence in a tattered red notebook for the past two hours. I won't allow myself to gaze over and read that sentence. I'm pretty sure it's the passcode to Hell.
The Big Excuse - I Don't Have the Time
I think most people want to read more. I hear people say it all the time. I've said it for the past three years.
But, I also hear this, "I don't have time!" "Who's got the time?" "Dude, do you know how busy I am?" "I got kids."
I get it. We are all too busy with our careers, social life, family life, kids, fantasy football, and stopping the decline of western civilization. It all takes time.
But, I think if we are honest and make a few changes, we can all read more. If it helps you professionally isn't that reason enough.
Reading really is fundamental!
Stephen King, one of the most prolific popular writers of the 20th century, writes around ten chapters a day. That's impressive. He also reads approximately 80 books a year.
I once read 35 books in one year. During that year, I learned some pretty helpful tips that can help you read more.
I think we can all find time to read if we set ourselves up for success.
Unless Donald Glover is reading this. Then, forget it, Gambino. You probably don't have time.
Tip #1 - Read What You Want To Read!
This seems pretty obvious, but it's where a lot of us screw up. Sometimes, we guide ourselves by what we think we SHOULD read, not what we deep down want to read.
You may think that you need to pick up a book that's really hard. You need to challenge yourself and expand your horizons. You don't. At least not to start.
There are no "Must-Read Books." I think that's a myth.
I tried to read War and Peace once. It was miserable. I hated it and thus, I gave up.
So, I never read War and Peace. So what? Neither has 99% of the planet, and this blue orb keeps on spinning.
High School is over! Your 9th grade English Teach Mr. Lynch is probably dead. (RIP) Read whatever the fuck you want. I give you permission.
Let what you love be your guide to reading more. What do YOU like to do? What's YOUR passion? What are YOU fascinated by?
Do you like sports? There are a zillion great sports biographies. Do you like Fashion? Read about Fashion. Do you like the band Nickelback? There's probably a book about them. Wow, there is, and it's FREE. You have no excuse.
I don't care if you like Porn. Read a bestseller written by a porn star. Just read you sick little monkey.
There is no right book to read and who gives a flying fart what other people say what "good reading" is.
As interior designer and party planning author, Jon Bon Jovi once said, "It's your life, it's now or never."
Side Note - Gaining the knowledge that that book exists was worth writing this article.
Tip #2 - Stop Reading When it Sucks
I hate when I'm out to dinner, and somebody says to me, "YUCK, this tastes terrible!" and then I watch as they take two or three more bites.
What are you doing? Stop dummy! You just told me it tasted terrible. Stop eating it.
This goes for reading too.
Keep in mind, the tips I'm providing here are for people who want to read more.
You only have a certain amount of time to read today, tomorrow, and in this lifetime. So, please stop reading books that you're not getting anything out of. If you get 40 pages in and it's awful. Stop.
We all do it. We buy a book. We're excited to dive in and experience the joy of reading!
We get about 40 pages in, and we realize that we hate the book. It's boring, or maybe the subject matter wasn't what we thought it would be.
Maybe the tone of voice is grating. Maybe the pace is too slow, and you're in the mood for something else?
My advice is break up with the book. You are in an abusive relationship. Put it down and pick up a new book. Again, I give you permission.
But, you must move onto a new book. Don't stop reading. Stop reading that book.
Now, I'm not telling you to read unchallenging books. This isn't an excuse to read what your kid is reading. You should be reading books at your level, but even tricky literature can be enjoyable. If you hate it, you will avoid it, and you won't move forward.
The goal is to read more.
You may come back to that book later on. This too may pass. When you return, you may like it more. Or, it might still suck and in that case, keep moving on.
Tip #3 - Don't Read on an Electronic Device
This is a recent addition to my philosophy, and you might not agree with this piece of advice. You also may not need this advice. You may be perfectly happy to read on a Kindle or iPad.
Good for you....Awesome. Wow.
But for me, reading on a device that has internet access is like trying to study for a chemistry exam in a strip club. At some point, you're going to look up from your textbook and it will be a long time before you go back. Chemistry will lose.
So, just keep that in mind, Millennials. I know you're all magical, hybrid compassionate unicorns that have been able to multi-task since inception. OR, multi-tasking is the unicorn. And, unicorns don't exist.
From my point of view - The internet and everything on it is a drug, and we are all addicts. I believe if the internet broke down for a week, America would turn into the final action sequence from Children of Men.
Silicon Valley is engineering their apps and content to keep you wanting more and more. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever: These are vices. I don't care if you make your money off them, on them or through them, they're drilling a hole to the bottom of our brain stems and pulling on our addictive strings. They are becoming very good at playing our psyches like an instrument.
Don't believe me? How many minutes before you check your phone in the morning? Faster than Jesse Pinkman hits that pipe, bitch!
I'll admit it. If I read on an Ipad, I'll be checking the Celtics score faster than you can say, Bleacher Report. I'll check the scores, see what our crazy Orange President is up to. Check in with my friends. See if Orange Julius got us into a war.
Before you know it, I've wasted forty-five minutes and got no reading done.
So, why do it at all? If I were an alcoholic, I wouldn't go wine-tasting with Keith Richards.
Bad example. If Keith Richards ask you to go wine tasting, go wine tasting. I'll give you a chip for that.
If I really want to read, I'll do my best to eliminate distractions. I will focus on the story and get lost in the reading. When I get lost in a good book, I can burn through pages. Time flies.
Plus, I like holding a book. I love the weight, thumbing through the pages and the smell. I also find it more rewarding to see a stack of completed books.
I get it! I'm old. Piss off.
Tip #4 - Stop Watching Reality TV
One of my favorite phrases is, "If you got time to LEAN, you got time to CLEAN."
Reality TV is your brain leaning.
Look, I don't have anything against Reality TV. But, don't complain that you have NO time to read if you're checking in to see what Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kamie, Koo Koo Katchooo and the rest of those Knuckleheads are doing.
Don't get all sad. I'm singling out reality TV to make a point. You got time. My point also goes for watching any regular season sport, singing competitions, game shows, playing fantasy sports, playing video games, playing games on apps, drinking beer, listening to podcasts and browsing social media.
It's all passive. Passive activities don't demand anything from you. Reading does.
If you do any of the above. Awesome. I do too. I'm just asking that you take a look at what your spending time on. Do an inventory. Ask yourself, Is this active or passive? If you want to read more, cut down on some of the passive activities.
Some will say, "You don't get it, Mike, I deserve this time! I'm really super busy, and life demands so much of me....."
Congrats! You have time.
Tip #5 - Read Multiple Books at the Same Time
Now, you may say, "What? I have trouble reading just ONE book. How am I going to read multiple books, you bushy eye-browed jerk."
First, is it really necessary to get personal? My eyebrow hair grows fast.
Second, reading multiple books actually makes reading one book much easier, and I can explain.
Think of yourself as the programmer of your own personal streaming content apps like Netflix or Hulu. Now, let me ask you, Are you going to put one TV show or movie on the app?Of course not. And why aren't you going to do that? Because of somedays, I'm in the mood to watch Stranger Things and Black Mirror, and on other days I want to watch Chuck Norris in Delta Force. If you don't have choices, I'm going to go to another app.
The same thing goes for reading. If you want to read consistently and more. You have to give your brain choices. Some days you won't want to read a biography. You may want to read a crime novel or horror story. Mix it up and read something different tonight. You can even read two different things in one night. Is your mind blown yet?
Before you know it, you'll have polished off three books in the time it usually takes you to read one.
Also, read Fiction and Non-Fiction. They turn on different parts of the brain.
Yes, that goes for men too. Even men can read fiction. I promise it won't turn you gay. I've read many fiction books and have lived a successful heterosexual life up to this point. If this changes, I'll let you know.
Go to Amazon.com now and buy three different books - different genres, authors, fiction, non-fiction. Do It!
So that's it, five useful tips to get you started.
I have more, but they're pretty obvious stuff. Read in a comfortable and quiet place. If you tend to fall asleep, don't read in bed. Stuff like that.
But try these 5 to start and see if you can make some headway. I believe in you. You can do it!
Be sure to tell me if you do and if reading is making you a better writer.