exploring art and writing

Why Can’t I Read Books?

In Life, Stressed on November 4, 2010 at 9:19 am

Over the last three years there are two detrimental changes about myself that have developed into characteristics far more permanent than I’d like to admit. The first is my ever-increasing incapability to elicit a sense of anticipation when acquiring something new in my life; the second is my continuously decreasing capacity to read and absorb books, novels in particular.

I’m currently sitting in a Cardiff city centre coffee house. I thought I’d come in early before work so that I could liaise with an entertaining piece of fiction, specifically Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere; my flatmate recommended and charitably lent it to me several weeks ago, a welcome break from the likes of Murakami and Dostoyevsky (both of whom I have unconsciously decided to neglect over the past year or so). So I’m sitting on a pleasant and squashy chair, reclining with said book whilst preparing myself for an abundance of prose-induced pleasure. I lasted all of two sentences.

Cue the move to a more practical upright chair and a reassuringly sticky table.

This annoying incapacity to absorb literature has, of course, nothing to do with Neil Gaiman; I thoroughly enjoyed the first seventy-two pages when I barrelled through them on the train home last month. It’s just that, like The Idiot, which I forsook after reading over two thirds of the book, I just forgot to even pick it up after the first read. Subsequently and not surprisingly, I lost interest.

One of the contending factors that I’m presenting as my first excuse (laziness? No!) is the possibility that certain tendencies acquired whilst at university have stuck fast; you know, you put the novel down because you’re supposed to be reading that other book for your dissertation, the one you know you’ll have to read more than once because it’s so flowery and intense. It’s the academic equivalent of what I like to call Catholic Guilt. My next limp excuse is the panic and harassment generally experienced in the final year of a degree, but as I wiped my hands clean of that experience over five months ago I have to question its validity as an appropriate excuse. Laziness it is then.

So here I am, sitting drafting a blog in my notebook because it’s as if there’s a trigger in my head yelling ‘No! Don’t try and further yourself intellectually – complain to yourself on a piece of paper instead!’ I must admit that sitting in an American chain cafe and pondering the reasons behind my impending illiteracy is not how I intended to spend my hour of freedom before work. There’s the other issue as well: the lack of child-like excitement in my life. Is it unusual for twenty-two year olds to sit and mull over such a topic? Perhaps I’m just pensive today because of a dream I had last night; it had a kind of neon military theme and resurrected in my sleeping head the phrase: ‘you can pretend if you want to, but you know it’s going to get worse.’

I used to experience a hyperactive anticipation that would usurp my Child-Self when purchasing phenomenally amazing (how I perceived it at the time) items as a child/spotty adolescent. It first occurred to me that this manic, material desire had been quashed somewhat when I shelled out just under a grand in sterling to get my Mac desktop computer last year. It is the most expensive item that I have ever purchased in my entire twenty-odd years on this earth; even my piano, which I paid £400 for, doesn’t even come close price-wise. The difference with the piano, however, was that I could hardly breathe when we clicked the ‘buy’ button on eBay, let alone when it arrived on our doorstep. I dedicated the weeks following its arrival to an intense, musically orientated affair, now subdued but still remembered with fondness.

Not so with my Macintosh, I’m afraid. No, that pure and intoxicating – albeit materialistically rooted – excitement was not present when I went instore to pick up the giant white box. Nor was it when I was carrying it home (it was very heavy, blasted thing), or when I pressed the power button for the first time and the screen gleamed at me with all of its bright, shiny glory. I blame my age; I was sixteen or seventeen when I bought my piano and I was twenty-one when I got my computer. What the gods will I be like when I’m twenty-five? Thirty-five? Sixty? I dread to think.

Not all is doomed, however. I now find my hopes clinging to possibilities far more ephemeral than the purchase of a material object, but to me they are no less thrilling in prospect. For the last few months or so I haven’t touched my savings and so have managed to accrue an impressive £70, to be precise. It may not be much but if I sustain my willpower I may be able to shimmy on up to the Isle of Skye for a week or two of WOOFING next year. One ambition at a time, I suppose. I just can’t shake the feeling that what I need is a good, consistent stretch of fresh air and manual labour. Until then I’ll just have to gaze fondly at pictures of the Cuillin Mountains on the internet.

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  1. Hehe…I can so relate to this post! And I have to reassure you, that nope, it’s not unusual for a 22-year-old to ponder such topics as you’ve presented here. In fact, if I recall, no topic is safe in a 22-year-old’s mind! 😉

    Thanks for sharing. Now what novel was I reading before I happened upon Freshly Pressed today….. ???

  2. Nice post! Best wishes on your reading ventures 🙂

  3. Everything changes with time…it’s rolling with that change and staying motivated to be who you are that’s the challenge.

    http://www.runtobefit.wordpress.com

  4. What was your degree in? What grade did you achieve? Were you studying something you loved or something you felt you ‘ought to’ study? Are you living the sort of life that you imagined for yourszelf while you were studying? All of these issues and more might suggest reasons why you now find concentrating for long on a novel. Or maybe it’s just a phase. I have had a couple of barren periods in my life, one of a year and a half when I did not pick up anything more challenging than a glossy magazine. I always come hurtling back to fiction though. It restores me. Good luck restoring your love of reading.

  5. I totally just blogged about this today! I’m having the same frustration! I want to read. But wanting is not the same as doing. For me, I just find that everything distracts me. There’s always a way to procrastinate!

  6. You mention how you expect your literary apathy will increase as you get older but I always consider mine to decrease. I can imagine myself an old codger surrounded by books as it’s less effort by then than getting up and going outside! 🙂

  7. It sounds like you are having post-graduation blahs. I was an English major and stopped reading for a year or two. Breathe, re-group and you will find your way back.

  8. i feel exactly the same way. though I believe we are still young (im just a year younger than you.). many things can still happen. i blamed things for my demanding work and how it’s making my days so mechanical and routine. i quit it and looked for another, hoping to get my life back. you’ll find yours, too. i know i will. 🙂

  9. Does this ever sound like me! I got so burned out, I was convinced I’d never again do anything that required concentration, and I’d just keep getting stupider and more cynical until I died.

    What I found, though, is that if something came along that really interested me, I could concentrate just fine. Maybe you just haven’t found anything that really engages you in awhile. I recommend getting out and trying things that are as different from your regular life as possible–I bet it will help.

  10. Nice post! Congratulations on Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    http://www.tiallarising.wordpress.com

  11. Part of the problem is our infinite appetite for distractions. Which even I have a tough time dealing with.

  12. I’m calling it an issue, the same problem that you have addressed in this blog…I start but lose interest very soon, and things look gloomy and uninteresting, I?m only a bit older than you, but that same feeling has spanned over the last few years and isn’t leaving (you can read a bit through it on my blog)…what I have learned is that your wish of manual labor is good, trust me it helps, whenever I need a break that’s the first thing on my mind…and I have learned to enjoy moments…as you say excitement in teenage years are mostly materialistic…moments ahead of you, have deeper meaning, once you find it life starts again 🙂

  13. I can relate. It’s very hard to find a book I can sink my teeth into and stay with anymore. I blame it on time and the many distractions of modern life. I still love my MacBook Pro, though; I saved up for a year and hem-hawed about the purchase; maybe the delayed gratification helped? In any case, I’m 41 and the joys of buying “things” evaporated long ago. I find joy in connecting with the people I care about–making eye contact while talking, putting away and turning off the distractions, and enjoying life for awhile. Seeing things through my kids’ eyes and watching them become “people” gives me more joy than buying stuff ever could. congrats on being fp!

  14. I’m guessing you need to flex your creative muscles more. Grab a coloring book and only color the negative space, spend a week eating new recipes, exercise, meditate… That will help with focus.

    Or perhaps just find a better book.

  15. I was struck by the phrase from your dream… ‘you can pretend if you want to, but you know it’s going to get worse.’

    Some dreams for me have been sign posts and have given me clues, some of which I have unfortunately missed over the years. If you are brave… and if/when you read this – trust a deeper recognition… http://greatwavesofchange.org/

    I too have had similar military type dreams. I believe that your dream is trying to tell you something…

  16. I have it figured out for you…jump out of an airplane and then put the parachute on. I am 62 and I have sailed past blocks of life where my fascination with whatever I was doing was so mundane. For example, I was paid a lot of bucks to fly a forty million dollar jet from one party to the next. How insanely cool is that? I got bored with it as it wasn’t my true passion. You will just have to suffer success and look behind you to discover what merits your attention. Mine is reading and writing. I’ve been doing both for forty years and have recently discovered I was doing it all wrong. So here I am trying to learn how to blog and I don’t have the parachute on yet.
    I can tell by the way that you write, you have a talent. My second suggestion to you is not to expect so much of yourself. Second guessing yourself can become a habit. I think when I turned the jet off and skipped the parties, I did myself a disservice. Thinking back, it would have given so much more to write about if I had just relaxed a bit more.
    Excellent blog. congrats. enjoy the free fall…Bob

  17. Hi! Not being able to read books is disconcerting. The reasons you stated are plausible but I went through the same thing for about 4 years and I can attribute it to depression. I experienced something that drove me to a deep melancholy that I lost interest in lot of things I used to love, reading being the foremost. It got so bad that I can’t even read articles in magazines or the internet, much less novels. It was pretty scary. I start reading and then think, “This is all drivel. Something someone thought up and it’s totally irrelevant to my life.” Fortunately, after some intense drug therapy, I am back to normal and not just reading but also writing.

    Follow your instincts and go out and enjoy the sun. Some people get seasonal affective disorder from a lack of sunshine. Shopping therapy seems to be wearing out for you. But don’t lose hope. For me, growing older is better. I feel more grounded. If only my joints and muscles didn’t hurt as much. Enjoy your youth and energy. Take care and best wishes.

  18. I completely identify with this problem of not being able to read. For roughly two years after graduating from university I could not read what is referred to as, “literature”. So I started reading everything else. Books for children and pre-teens, cult magazines, instructional manuals, my old (awkward) journals, trashy newspapers, recipe books, the back of cereal boxes. Now I love and absorb the classic novel again but I’ve formed a habit of reading about six books at once. It’s just the way smart brains go. You’ll get it back.

  19. I have it figured out. Jump out of an airplane and then put the parachute on. You will miss all the fun of the free fall, but the objective is a soft landing. Reality sucks the wind out of that silky canopy of adolescent exhileration that we are suspended by. As we mature, we spend too much time fidgeting with the parachute. Should you survive, you will ask yourself why you jumped out of the airplane in the first place.
    I am 62 and there have been in constant free falls that lasted years and I missed it. I was paid big bucks to fly a forty million dollar jet from one party to the next. How cool was that? It became mundane and I simply shut the jet off and skipped the parties. It was not my true passion. I have always loved to read and I have been writing for over 40 years, and doing it all wrong. I never took the time to engage my passions, so here I am now trying to learn how to blog, but I can’t get the parachute on.
    Maturing whittles you down, but you should always be looking up for that billowing canopy above you and enjoy the ride.

    Good blog and I get it…congrats…Bob

  20. 1. I was just a lowly english minor and I still have a hard time picking up fiction because I associate it with schoolwork and papers.
    2. If you lose interest in a book, do you really need to finish it? Maybe it just isn’t the right book for you. No one can read the whole human lexicon.

  21. Ha! Great post.

    I feel the same way about reading. It’s funny that I used to go through paperbacks in a few days, just rip through them. And now it takes me longer than I’d like to admit. I’d like to think it’s because I’m distracted, but really, what else could I be doing on an hour-long train ride home from work every night?

    Gaiman’s Neverwhere is a fantastic bit of fiction if you ever get through it. 🙂

    Good luck with that and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Drive on,
    – M.

  22. Funny you should write this. I can relate to not being able to read a complete book of fiction any more (it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I just don’t), but I attribute that to the internet and, most recently, my Droid phone. I can also relate to not feeling much excitement in buying things, even things I really want. It seems the anticipation might be the goal as far as purchases are concerned — the buying, not the having. But I laughed when I saw that you italicized “Sixty?”! I am nearing 60 (57) and could hear my formerly young self visualizing sixty as incomprehensibly far away, somewhere I couldn’t picture myself at all! Laughable is what it is, now that I am almost there and still feel myself to be both 27 and 57 at the same time. Pile it on, it’s all layer cake, and the plot just gets thicker and thicker as you age. If you’re lucky, there will be frosting. Good luck to you with your fabulous career and life. As for me, I just ordered a very lengthy piece of fiction that I hope to read over Christmas vacation. What a treat that will be if I allow myself such decadent leisure.

  23. As someone who often reflects on who they are I certainly hope there isn’t anything wrong with doing so. It might mean you don’t spend enough time around intelligent people if those around you don’t do it.

    I’m in fourth year at the moment and I do read novels from time to time. Coming out of second year I had the same experience as you describe. I tried to teach myself speed reading in the spring semester. I stopped being able to concentrate on anything. When Summer came I couldn’t even pick up a novel. I started with movies, then comics that had incredibly obvious plot lines and finally managed to start reading fiction again. It is a disturbing experience, and definitely put me off speed reading. I was really stressed that year aside from school, so it didn’t help. Could that be what is happening with you?

    • It has been a very stressful year, although luckily things are calming down now. I’ve found that watching a film or two does help me get into a more appropriate mindset for reading. Hopefully things will improve as they did for you! Thank you for commenting – I’m glad that this has brought me across your blog, your writing makes me laugh and it is really well constructed. Cheers!

      • Thank you!

        It is a bit strange to hear that, because I read your writing and went ‘hey, here’s good writer, I should be more like her!’ 😛

  24. I’ve been wishing for a Mac since I was your age. If someone had told me that I would be purchasing it at age 53, I would probably have ordered one on the spot. I had a very different experience when I carried my big white box home and turned on my Mac for the first time….. Wow!

    As you say in your blog, you need a little fresh air. I’ve experienced the lack of anticipation and enthusiasm many times in my life – luckily it’s been temporary.

    Fellow WordPress blogger who incidently read your post

  25. My ability to focus dwindles by the day. For me, I think it’s a lack of sleep and too much gazing into a PC monitor. I now have access to a quiet space and am hoping to regain some span of attention for things I love that require a bit of focus: reading, writing.

  26. I took a break from reading post-college, which turned into a very long break, and then going back to grad school I realized how terrible out of shape I’d become. Reading is both a physical and mental habit that can decline at shocking rates of time, so I start to see why school breaks were designed to never go more than a full season. Turns out, our brains really can go to mush if neglected. Luckily, they can be sharpened and hardened readily as well.

    Nice post!

  27. WOOFING hey? Sounds intriguing. Is this something you can persuade me to do? I’m looking for new and exciting things to try because I’m so utterly bored. Anything up in the fresh air of the Isle of Skye could do the trick. Let me know. Send me a review.

  28. I posted a blog (http://littleexplorer.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/my-longstanding-relationship-with-books/) on the same issue of not being ‘able’ to read books any longer…but maybe came to a different conclusion!

    In my blog, I wrote about how “the worst thing about being stuck on books is that I end up with a pile of books on my bedside table which are started yet unfinished. When I have not finished a book, I feel like I do not want to start a new one until the other one is over. But of course this is a vicious circle, because the result is that I stop reading.”

    I love your writing style by the way, probably due to many years of good reading! 🙂

  29. Another blogger from Cardiff – like me! How interesting.
    I have a converse problem, however: my hoover-like devouring of as many books as I can get a hold of is actually beginning to stop me from functioning in any normative social/productive manner. 😦

    http://tomcatintheredroom.wordpress.com/

    • I’ve subscribed to yours and your friend Thom’s blogs – you write brilliantly and I’m going to use you as a kind of cyber-book-suggester. Thank you for commenting!

  30. First up- congrats on managing to save up 70 quid. Easier said than done nowadays. I love Neil Gaiman! Maybe it is not your “inability” to read, maybe it is that you need to go into some quiet corner to do so… I do ALL my reading on the tube… always have a book going… something good about those awful commutes…

  31. What an amusing blog post, I really enjoyed reading it. You can’t be as lazy as you think if you are producing blog entries as well-written as this!

  32. I used to read all of the time too! such an avid reader.
    but then, i downloaded something called AOL Instant Messenger and it went all downhill from there…
    ….oops is that an excuse too?
    i generally tend to favor laziness myself. =)

  33. I find this quite eerie. I have been feeling the same exact way. I happen to an avid reader.I literally love to read but lately, because I have been so wrapped up in school and academics, that I haven’t been able to sit down and do other things that I love.. However, just the other day, I made up my mind to FORCE myself to give myself at least an hour or two to devote to my OWN time and not academics.. I love to learn as well. I like being intellectual but I need more time for me.. I think yo should do the same. Obviously, you blog. I blog as well.. I know I don’t even know you but it might help. You’re very intelligent and I’m sure you can find little ways to get back into the habit of kicking back and reading a kick-ass novel. 🙂 I hope you don’t mind me commenting. I like the way you write and think. It’s very interesting.

    • Thank you! You have a point, it’s good to set aside a time where there are minimal distractions. You’re blog is fascinating and your photographs are very beautiful – I’m very grateful for your comments on my post!

      • anytime. Thanks for commenting back. I’m pretty new to this site. My boyfriend introduced me to it the beginning of this year because I was wanting forever to have a blog site for my photography. 🙂 I’m glad you like them. I put a lot of work into my photography and it’s one of my many hobbies. I love being outdoors! Thanks, again! 🙂

  34. Ahhhhhh this cut right through me. I’m 22 too and have been feeling the same way. On both topics. I don’t know if to say thanks for connecting with me, or sorry for feeling that way, or what. Either way, I’m here with you.

    • Cheers; whilst I regret that anyone is feeling this way there’s a certain pleasure in knowing that you’re not suffering alone! You’re poems are really interesting and I’m glad to have discovered Author’s Unleashed through your site! I hope that you get out of this block and that we speak again, Lucy.

  35. As a newly graduated 22year old living in Cardiff I empathise in several ways. I’ve found the http://www.volunteering-wales.net/ quite helpful in keeping me occupied, there’s a canal restoration project I’m hoping to get involved with when I can justify spending the £50 for their residential weekend.
    Maybe a book club would help with your reading dilemma? Maybe not, I shouldn’t worry though I’ve experienced similar disinclinations to read and the joy has always come back.
    Good Luck with everything

  36. Hi !

    Just wondering : can you listen to a book ?

    thanks for the nice post !

  37. This has gotten a lot of talk recently, but I also think part of it is all the new bombardments on our attention.

    Like you, I tend to read on the train. Now, in NYC, there is no internet, phone, or any type of service. So this is an ideal time to block out some distractions and read. Yet, still, there are times I start wanting to play games every day on my commute. Other days I just want to zone out to music. Others I want to read news. All this means, I’ll suddenly drop a book for weeks, finding it harder to get back to it.

    This little iphone gives me so many options, and I’m so used to doing so many things, I can’t ever seem to stick with a book day to day.

  38. Hey man, nice post. Have you ever tried an ebook reader or books on tape? I find them easier to concentrate on. Also, if you really are having trouble concentrating, I found that it helps to read a book and listen to it on tape simultaneously.

    best of luck,

    bmxbot

  39. “It’s the academic equivalent of what I like to call Catholic Guilt.”

    lol. what a perfect way to describe that feeling.

  40. I’m also 22 and I totally get what you mean. I read about 1/3 of what I used to read 10 years ago, which is scary! In college I don’t get as much time as I’d like to read all I want to read, and most of the time I’m not interested in reading the stuff I have to read. Ironic, huh?

    Maybe it’s just a phase. Or not. 🙂

    • I think our problem at the moment is that we’re still relatively young and so can’t even know whether this is even a phase or not! How frustrating. Whilst it’s good to know that I’m not the only one struggling with this, I hope you get your passion for reading back! Thanks for responding, Lucy.

  41. You’re absolutely right! Stumbled onto your blog via this entry and WP’s homepage and am so happy to find somebody else who recognizes this strange unabashed march towards jaded I suppose lethargy that we seem to be careering towards as we grow. And yet, there at the end, equally gleeful anticipation towards a small holiday. So perhaps what it is is that the equilibrium of our internal reward structure changes, rather than being simply a death of excitement. We as children control very little and see the trappings of wealth in very small terms: An adult, usually a parent, owns things we’ll never own in our young minds and is therefore both adult and wealthy. $1000 seems inconceivably high a price to somebody even in high school, unless you’re rather entrepreneurial or self-sufficient. So getting small things seems big to us as kids and nothing to us now. And getting that first big thing is overwhelmingly fascinating to use and tremendously indulgent, a sign of adulthood to come. And yet as adults, perhaps we are so used to having to make big purchases here and there, it is less of an exciting thing than an, “oh hell, another expense when I least need it” thing. So our priorities change and we instead begin to value the catharsis of a time away from our usual day-to-day more. I don’t know, just scratching my mind, you’ve really made me think!

    Incidentally, I reblogged this entry on my own blog, if that’s not alright by you let me know!

    • Hi Jon (or Beware The Albatross!),
      you make a very valid point when you say “as adults, perhaps we are so used to having to make big purchases here and there, it is less of an exciting thing”. I think that because I had to buy my Mac for work it didn’t have the same magic as the piano anyway (which I worked for two years to buy – that would be a big deal for me now, let alone when I was 16!); my Mac was purchased with a loan and so didn’t even have ‘blood, sweat and tears’ attached to it! The catharsis of time away will certainly be more appreciated. Thank you for your comments and for re-posting my blog – I look forward to getting to know yours! Lucy.

  42. […] I think this author makes a tremendously good case for questioning our changing priorities as we reach the traditional age of maturity and then onward, or in other words, as we grow up. I was very impressed with the blog entry and wanted to share it with my happy and indulgent audience. As younglings after all, we really have no strong ability to encourage our own horizons in the short-term, e.g. to navigate ourselves say to some far away village for that cathartic bit of manual labor and fresh air, or to some torrid tropical paradise for a bit of fishing and some sun. We make no vacation plans; instead we bind our movements to our parents or guardians to a great degree. What we live for is material in nature and very tangible. A book, a hug, a toy. When we reach the age where we can somewhat dictate the means of procuring a substantial item… It is therefore all the more sweet for how rare it is that we own something of great intrinsic value. After all, when you’re a wee thing it is a very adult thing to own something rather expensive. So perhaps part of the joy is that owning something more elaborate and extravagent than say, a checkers set, well, it is an initiation perhaps, a sign of adulthood to come. And yet as adults, perhaps we are so used to having to make big purchases here and there, it is less of an exciting thing than an, “oh hell, another expense when I least need it” thing. So our priorities change and we instead begin to value the catharsis of a time away from our usual day-to-day more. Over the last three years there are two detrimental changes about myself that have developed into characteristics far more permanent than I’d like to admit. The first is my ever-increasing incapability to elicit a sense of anticipation when acquiring something new in my life; the second is my continuously decreasing capacity to read and absorb books, novels in particular. I’m currently sitting in a Cardiff city centre coffee house. I thought I’d … Read More […]

  43. I’ve concluded that it is most certainly an ever increasing case of ADD.. at least in my case it is.

  44. Oh! I love Neil Gaiman, not mentioning Murakami… You should finish it, Neverwhere is really a great piece!

    • I’ve finished it since writing the post and I did love it! Murakami is one of my all-time favourite authors as well. Thank you, I’m glad you liked my post!

  45. What about adult A.D.D. It’s not a mental illness but affects millions of adults. When we were kids, little was known about this disorder. Check it out, there is nothing wrong with you. You may need to discover if there are any biological or otherwise conditions beyond your control that you can overcome if understood.
    Jim

  46. I could never read books myself.only the ones i had to read. I always found it easier to read articles on a screen. keep saving. nice read.

  47. Hi L. E.

    This happaned to me some time ago, and I was very sad. I could not read a book for maybe 3 years or so, and I was very depressed because of that (and because of other issues as well). When I started to get back again it was slowly. I tried to read maybe two to four pages at once, of good books, very well recommended by friends and reviewers. Then, after a year everything was OK, but the excitement you mentioned… Well, this is a very particular feeling. I can get it when I listen to music I’ve never heard before, and I really like.

    Take care.

    • Hi Roberto, I’ll agree with you about music being one of the only things that really excited me at the moment. I recently went to a concert to see my favourite performer and it blew my mind! It’s good to hear that you got your passion for reading back. Thank you for your response!

  48. I admit, I sometimes have trouble reading books as well. I think it’s because the Internet is so instantaneous and there are so many interesting articles to be read. I could spend my whole life on here and never read it all. However, once I really get into a book, I’m hooked and can’t put it down, unlike with the Internet, where I have no problem stopping to do something else.

    The thing I have noticed is that it’s much easier for me to concentrate on a real live book if I’m somewhere it’s impossible for me to be on the Internet: a bus, for example. I also like reading while walking and I am so much more concentrated whilst doing that.

    • Good point – the internet is a massive distraction, a lot more so than television. I read snippets of so many things and consequently don’t learn much. For the first time in a while I’ll be commuting this week so I can give reading on the train another try! Luckily I have an ancient brick for a phone so it won’t distract me too much. You have such good humour in your writing and it’s always lovely to read about Spain; I also never considered the connotations of calling a piece of stationary a rubber! Cheers for your feedback, I’m very glad that I’ve been introduced to your blog!

  49. I’m with you there.

    Growing up I hated books but as I grow up, I am trying as much as possible to get into reading books.

    In this age where videos are accessible everywhere and they can tell a story quicker then a book, it is an up hill challenge.

    Good luck

  50. Haha, I have the exact same problem, but I feel I’ve come to some sort of conclusion! It’s the book, it has to be, it doesn’t interest you in some way.
    A case in point is One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest. I started reading this book after I got back from my summer hols, on SEPTEMBER 12th! I am only up to page 126, and I read 40 of those 126 over the past week. I just can never seem to pick it up again soon after I’ve put it down. Now, in the meantime, I’ve read Crash by Ballard in 5 days, and a collection of Orwells’ essays, Books Vs. Cigarettes, in 1 day – admittedly that book was only 126 pages, but it still proves my point!
    These books, after I put them down, I was waiting till I could pick them up again!
    One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest is a great book, just not my time to read it!

    • I do believe you may have a point! Before I went to university I attempted to read The God Of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and I couldn’t finish it; when I complained to my dad he said ‘life’s too short to read a book you don’t enjoy. Now’s not the right time for that book, but in a few years you’ll probably read it and love it’. I haven’t read it yet, but I wholeheartedly agree with both you and my dad. Incidentally, I find your blog really interesting; I noticed that you’ve blogged about your struggle with your job and your dreams – both topics that interest me! Currently making a post that’s a kind of dream-log actually. Many thanks for your feedback and hopefully we will speak again!

      • Haha, I can’t wait to see your dream log! I’m always quite concerned about sharing my dreams, the ones I remember seem to be far more sinister than what most people admit to dreaming about!

  51. Maybe those of us who suffer from this problem have been mugged by reality. Reality seems these days to outstrip anything fiction might otherwise have surprised us with. Go out into the world and spend some time simply looking at things. This might refresh your sense of wonder, if it’s been drawn down too low. I once wrote that I possess a sense of wonder that sometimes possesses me; when that seems not to be the case any more, I put aside my pens and paper and computer and take a walk down to the Hudson River (I live north of New York City).

    • That sounds like a good plan. It’s easy to forget how just calmly concentrating can improve your state of mind; it’s how I got out of this conundrum in my first year of university. A long walk along the river Taff it is then! Thank you for commenting, Lucy

  52. Funny interesting lines that help to picture your thoughts! “..pondering the reasons behind my impending illiteracy is not how I intended to spend my hour of freedom before work..” Trust me, some days freedom comes in the form of my drive to work, when there are no chores, no kids etc.. and I am in a mad rush in my head as to what all I can do in those precious 20 minutes for myself, and in the process hurt my head even more!! Ha ha.. I think a lot has to do with our ever decreasing attention spans because of ever increasing distractions around us.. So, what is the problem you think, you just don’t want to read at all, or is listening an option?? Have you given a shot at Audio books?

    • Oddly enough I was considering audio books the other day. I don’t drive but perhaps a good book on the walk to work might prepare me for the day better than loud music. I think my problem is my attention span, lack of habit and culture-shock after graduating. And laziness, of course. I absolutely love your blog by the way, you you write brilliantly and I find your posts intriguing. ! I’ve signed up – hopefully we will speak again. Many thanks for your feedback!

      • L.E. Thanks for your feedback, I appreciate your kindness! And thanks for signing up, that’s an added bonus! This is the best I have got out of writing to FreshlyPressed folks, ever.. 😉
        TTYS
        Rachana.

  53. Just came across your blog. Great post…I’m an English Lit major so reading is practically all I do. But I’ve had months go by without reading anything I actually want to read! Crazy!

  54. I wouldn’t panic, at least about the reading thing. I remember leaving college and having to wait a year or so before I gave myself permission to read again. Too many course texts that I had to drag myself through (Thomas Hardy will never enter my house again, I can assure you.) Now I’m at the very old age of thirty eight, I’m visiting the library each week and picking up three books (usually novels) sometimes at random for the fun of an unexpected pleasure. I get up before the rest of the family so I can read at the breakfast table (which is FORBIDDEN!) and I read over lunch and at night before I go to sleep. Plus I listen to audio books when doing strictly manual tasks (I’m a playwright, so I can’t listen to words while I work.)
    As for the other part of your problem, rejoice in your freedom from material desires. My nine year old should be so lucky….
    http://www.dtrasler.com

    • You’re right, not feeling the peer pressure to own the latest tech (despite working in a computer shop) is a pleasant thing. And Frankenstein will never set foot in my house again after studying it at A Level! Thank you for your response – it’s interesting to read a playwrights’ perspective on things and I like your current blog about rewriting material. I will be revisiting!

  55. The writing is difficult to make up for some things, is inevitable. In my lifetime, but also happen often, writing about the inspiration, not inspiration, it is difficult to write an excellent article, sometimes you begin can be said is impossible.

  56. Sometimes it helps to read something slightly exciting to get the real juices flowing. I like a quick read for this purpose, something goofy with a flashy cover, then when I’m done with drivel, I will sit down and read something awesome usually by the master of espionage, John Lecarre. Happy thoughts and I would love to hear more about the Isle of Skye as it’s where my ancestors are all from.
    Regards
    Gvanguard

    • I think attempting a more exciting novel may just help me – I’ll give Lecarre a try! The irony is that after writing this post I blitzed Neverwhere and actually really enjoyed it. I love your blog – I will sit down and give it a proper read tonight. Many thanks!

  57. Philosophical phase !! It would soon pass and the reading bug will bite you again.A writer is always at the end of the day, a reader as well.

  58. Join the club, pal. Reading books is becoming a lost form recreation among the masses. Nowadays, we read everything online or on our Kidnles/iPhones (and these I believe are even harder to finish even though you have them at your fingertips most of the day). I think its because our mind has been programmed since early childhood to take things in at fast paces. Just look at TV commercials. We are losing the capacity to read a long book and reflect. Alas, the ADD/coffee/give me info NOW culture is taking over.

    • That’s why I’ve avoided buying an iphone! And also why I have quit coffee…two small steps. Thank you for your feedback, I will definitely be following your blog as it will be interesting to read about someone else who considers coffee as detrimental to their health as I do! Cheers, Lucy.

  59. I’m hearing this from my college students: that they just can’t sustain their attention to read full-length books. I am sure it has to do with the ever-shortening sound bytes of information that people call news. I am sure it has to do with texting. I am sure it has to do with pings and bings and Facebook and all the other modern conveniences because I bet you find it hard to read a menu.

    People can’t read well anymore, so how can we expect people to read critically.

    Maybe if you think about it as a huge conspiracy to dumb us down, it will get your anti-authoritarian ass in gear. Ya think? Keep the masses plugged into BeJewelled and they won’t notice we are spending billions in foreign wars. Or why we are doing it.

    All that said, you are a very good writer, so there is something in you. Maybe it is time to write – not read! 😉

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed.

    Come check out my bloggie: http://rasjacobson.wordpress.com

    • Hello!

      Thank you for your feedback – it’s interesting to here from a tutor that a pattern is emerging amongst students. Incidentally, my dissertation was on the negative side-effects of new media in the 21st century so I’ve spent a long time pondering the consequences of such an ‘immediate’ society. Even more reason to keep pushing myself! I’ve subscribed to your blog and am very much looking forward to reading your posts! Thank you and hopefully we will speak again.

  60. Oh, Luce!

    iPad for Christmas?

    I KNOW you want one… And maybe then once you’ve tried reading a book from it’s shining screen you will revert back to the faithful musty pages of the novels that are sitting on our upstairs landing, realising their abandoned existence and reaquanting yourself by just hugging them and telling them that one day you promise to read them with the concentration they deserve! For you are only 22 and I am sure, no – I KNOW, there are so many more ambitious and adventurous subjects that occupy your concentration at the moment. Such is the problem with the ‘stimulating’ boredom our jobs may present to our current situations in life…

    Ever feel like there’s a pair of wings just itching to burst out of your back? An itching that becomes more irritating when you try to read a novel that offers a fake world of the adventures these said wings crave… Bring on the Gaiman!

  61. It’s funny that so many other people suffer from this condition! For me I think it’s a mix of over-excitement and being overwhelmed. There are countless “must-read” novels out there that are bestsellers, were the inspiration for some huge political movement, or were simply highly recommended by a friend. It’s hard to not get pressured by the sheer number of books you “should” read! Halfway through “Gulliver’s Travels” it’s hard not to get distracted by the neighboring book on the shelf, such as the pleasantly worn copy of “A Farewell to Arms” or “The Metamorphoses.” I wouldn’t worry about it too much, at least you’re trying!

  62. hehe..once you have your children (they will come!!) you’ll be blogging about not getting the time to read:), personally I can’t read anything educational Try and try and try and i do try they just put me to sleep or make my eyes sore (I’m not very academic!) I tell my kids if they cant sleep read an educational book! they haven’t bothered to try it out.:)they just love to read everything else.
    and sorry but for me getting a piano would be soooooo much more exciting than getting a comp get back on it and feel the pleasure of music:)

  63. I hate to admit that I feel an affinity for this post, a familiarity even. I recently went to the library in my house and picked up “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Kundera. This was a book that inspired me and made me wish I was a better writer when I first read it. Now, I barely got through the first ten pages before I was bewildered. Has my brain slowed in the past decade? Have, like my brain slows down to the speed of my hand when freewriting, I slowed to the speed of the high school students I teach? Thank you for making me feel as though I might not be the only one in the world who is no longer absorbing what I read.

    As for the joy in materialism, I can’t identify, but I sympathize. I am un-surprisable (is that word?). I have never felt that joy of getting something new – even birthday and Christmas gifts. To have that and lose it must be tragic. Good luck.

  64. If you are going thru this at 22, I do worry about you! I’m 64, and for the past few years I’ve found it extremely difficult to read novels, and once upon a time I lived for them. I attribute it to the computer, on which I work every day, and read on, and socialize on, etc etc. I’m not sure how it happens, but it’s the only thing I can think of. I force myself to read but too frequently fall asleep. You mentioned reading a bunch on a train ride? The only time I read easily is on the bus; so I recommend you dump your car if you have one and go everywhere by bus or train–and if you already do, make it your reading time. In any case, I enjoyed your post on this topic. Good luck!

  65. I can relate to your struggle. I found myself checking out volumes of books from the library which then stayed in a pile by my bed until it was time to return them. I wanted to read them, I checked them out because they looked interesting. But still there was always a reason not to start, too busy, too late, too tired, and on it went. I became so stagnant that I created a challange for myself. A reading schedule if you like, of books others have loved. I am hoping that this will reignite my enjoyment for reading. I hope you recover from your disengagement from the written word too!

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