Unless it’s been boring for a good while, then it’s probably time to dump it for something else. But I found I tend to start skimming when I’m not really focused on reading a book.
One thing that helps me fall back into a narrative or idea structure is to consciously slow down, wringing nuance and understanding from each word until I forget everything but what I’m reading. This helps re-focus, and if you’re not getting lost, metaphorically, you’re Somewhere Else.
Now apply the same principle to your work. Slow down. See if that lets you re-focus and lose yourself.
I mean your creative work, the stuff you’re making and thinking about outside the job that occupies your work day. And I don’t mean to the point of not doing it, no. That’s too slow.
Artwork, art-work, art –> work is different than other tasks. It’s the hole in the paper. It’s flow. It’s a time warp. The world around us is bursting with improvements in media tech and a lot of it messes with our attention spans and focus. It’s how it’s being designed. The cure, or at least palliative, is creation. It forces us to both slow down and to focus.
Art isn’t just a pleasant way to pass the time. It’s a vital human pursuit.
NBC News, of all places, posted this article on books, which is somewhat related to this post. It’s one of those mid-length articles so jammed with links it feels meticulously researched, even if many of the links point right back to NBC itself. I agree with a lot of the points, though, and can’t say it better than this header:
STORIES ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE TEACH US TO BE THE TYPES OF PEOPLE WE WANT TO BE
I watched this amazing short bit featuring writer Siri Hustvedt talking about how reading literally possesses you. I can’t disagree, and since I believe books are food for more creativity, it’s worth sharing here, I think.
I’ve got a lot of books. They’re in the bedroom, they’re in the living room, they’re in the garage because I ran out of shelves to put them on and need to donate or give away some. I love them, and I love their form.
But they’re bulky. They weigh me down as I move through my day and across town. I forget them upstairs, and forget to put them in my bag when I head off to work. E-books have changed those (very small) problems. I have dozens of them in iBooks, and they more or less sync up my current page across devices. I can read them on my laptop, I can continue on my phone at the coffee shop. I have a mini-library in my pocket.
But. They have no presence. Or, rather, their presence is entirely ephemeral.
After I finished several e-books and audiobooks in a row, I decided to read my mom’s old copy of A Wizard of Earthsea, printed in mass market paperback form in 1980. The difference is stunning.
I’m 28 pages in, and completely enchanted, having a tangible object to read. It’s been months since I felt pages under my fingers. And the smell. Good lord, this thing is decades old and its dark perfume is giving me nostril orgasms.
There are distinct advantages to digital art, I’m fully on board with that. But we can’t forget the sensory power of physical things. It’ll be there so long as we have nerves to sense with.
[Jared] Horvath and his colleagues at the University of Melbourne found that those who binge-watched TV shows forgot the content of them much more quickly than people who watched one episode a week.
“Reading is a nuanced word,’ [Bakshani] writes, “but the most common kind of reading is likely reading as consumption: where we read, especially on the internet, merely to acquire information. Information that stands no chance of becoming knowledge unless it ‘sticks.’ ”
Or, as Horvath puts it: ‘It’s the momentary giggle and then you want another giggle. It’s not about actually learning anything. It’s about getting a momentary experience to feel as though you’ve learned something.”
Slow and steady, the trope that keeps making comebacks.
The world also lost a great light of writing and art this past week. Ursula K. Le Guin was a genius who lived a long and creatively fruitful life, and she left us with so much. Margaret Atwood’s eulogy in WaPo was one of my favorite remembrances.