Thursday, October 30, 2014

I Wish I Was a Faster Reader

I wish that I was a faster reader. At the moment, I have four books out of the library plus one my youngest daughter recommends. I’m reading two books at once (Donald Hall’s Eagle Pond and Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators) reading one at school each day with students and the other at home to read with the cats. Reading Hall here at school just now, I got wishing that I could speed through these books and dive into the next two. As things stand I’m on track to finish forty books this year. That’s nothing to sneeze at, but I dream of hundreds and reading fast.

I’ve been lazy about it. I can set my mind and schedule to more reading. The last two days I’ve gotten out of bed early enough to write my Morning Pages and have half an hour to read before work. At night, I take my book up to bed early rather than lingering before the computer or television. I read to sleep and my sleep is better for it. Laziness keeps me from reading, though it would be convenient if I could get up to a higher speed as well.

Wanting to read much faster is fine, but I need to remember that I have the ability to write very fast and reading slowly might be a trade off. I’ll type this essay in fifteen minutes, revise it for half an hour, read it aloud making small changes, and then be ready to publish in an hour. This is a skill I’ve worked on, learning to type fast, letting writing come out of my fingers instead of my head, developing the habit of writing now and revising later. I should appreciate being able to write fast especially if I’m dreaming of reading faster. You got to stop and smell the roses. Mac Davis told me so.

I am a faster reader when I read regularly and find books that pull me in. I’ve got two good books, but the history in Isaacson slows me down especially as he talks about very early days. I’ll pick up the pace when the characters and story are more familiar. The Hall book, however, is slow going. The words are like whiskey, to be sipped and savored. I’ve been reading for four days and am only fifty pages in. Even that feels like breakneck speed.

Some of my reading struggle is that I find myself distracted. A page and a half in my thoughts drifts. I’m out of practice with reading and not present. I was five pages in when I knew that I wanted to write this. Part of it was that I have a good idea and time to write, but another part was knowing I could crank out my own words as fast as I could take in his.

I’m unwilling to take a speed-reading course or search for tricks. Instead, I keep reading, hoping to build up my speed and stamina just as writing every morning makes me a better and faster writer. I go to the library for books I hear about from friends and on NPR. I keep requesting renewals and running up fines on overdue books.

I wish that I was a faster reader because there is so much I want to take in. As a child I fancied reading every book in the bookstore at which I worked. This despite the fact that I was responsible for unloading the boxes of used books that came in each day. Other books keep coming. I had better hurry and finish these so that I can make room for those and all the others I know I’ll want to read. It’s slow going, but I love it.