Why Reading Matters

It’s hard to keep reading something. Even something you love, it’s difficult finding the time to finish (unless you have a ton of time on your hands or a fast reader like my whiz-reader of a boyfriend). Studies say that an online reader spends 8 seconds reading your stuff. That’s an incredibly short time in which to grab your readers attention and hold it there until you get your point across.

Images and video have been known to carry attention spans for longer than your average bog-standard text content, and those of you who read my blog regularly know these are not generally the mediums I turn to when writing a post. Image and video work if they need to, but writing about writing and implementing visual aids just to get more views kind of defeats the purpose.

Plenty of blogs create content purely with just words. Are these more or less “successful” than those posts with visual aids? Perhaps. But sometimes reading requires more than 8 seconds. Sometimes reading requires the writer to write more than 500 words (my posts average out at about 1,000 words). But what if you have a blog, or a site, and find you have nothing much to say?

I know I haven’t updated my blog as much as I did or probably should. Part of this is being busy with a new job and with other things going on in my life. But most of this is down to quality. I don’t see the point in writing everyday if what I produce isn’t any good, doesn’t have a point, doesn’t connect with anyone.

If you’ve been a follower from the start, you’ll notice my posts are becoming less personal, less emotional and more objective. This doesn’t mean my personality has gone, but that I was often using this place as a sounding board for my emotions, and it shouldn’t be meant for that.

I’m a writer and I write. I feel bad sometimes when I don’t write as often as I should. I also feel bad when I see those advice posts and comics across the internet like “I want to write a book.” And finding the character never does.

I figured though, that it’s okay. My goal in my writing career actually isn’t to write and publish a book. It isn’t to make this blog a “success” or to be a successful screen writer. Why? Because I’ve never been or had any of those things happen to me, so how will I know that any of these things will make me happy?

Ultimately, I think everyone searches for happiness in some way. The sad and lonely part about this, is happiness is like chasing a rainbow. Most of us strive to be who we want to be, to work in a job we want to work in, or anything else that we believe will make us “happy” and many of us never get there. We’re still just kids, chasing that pot of gold.

But I’ve come to learn that happiness is a mood, not an end goal. Some days I’ll be so happy, so content with “right now” and some days, it won’t seem like this. Mood depends on lots of factors, situations, people, places, whether or not you feel like crap (women often have a deep dip in happiness each month for around two to three days :p). So why strive for a mood? You wouldn’t try to live your life reaching towards being angry, or sad, but these are negative emotions. However you also wouldn’t like to be constantly ecstatic, or overjoyed, or excited and these are generally positive emotions.

Happiness is not a destination, and lots of people will tell you it is the journey that makes everything worth it. But here’s where my post started – we are far too busy, with the internet, with the latest new thing, with Facebook and Twitter, too busy trying to “be happy,” to even notice the journey we’re on.

If the average online reader takes 8 seconds to read an article, how fast do you think their life is going? This is not to say that the reader becomes bored, only that 8 seconds is probably all you need to see if something interests you. But often writing – and reading – takes patience. Ever read a slow-moving book only to feel moved by a poignant ending? Ever picked out a phrase in a song or a point in an article, even though the rest of the work is white noise to you?

If we constantly scan, and not really see, we miss things. We judge others before we really know what their life is about. We make snap decisions and then regret our choices. We say hurtful things and then spend more time, energy and emotion making up for it – especially where loved ones are concerned. If we only see the tip of the iceberg, how then will we even know what makes us happy? Would we probably miss it even if it finally came to us?

I think often, most of us do miss it. So far ahead are we looking to where we want to be, so closely are we looking at what we want, we forget to look at what we have. We forget to look, not at who we want to be, but who we are.

As I mentioned, I’ve stopped putting pressure on myself to write “a book” or finish a story or script. What makes me happy is writing. If I only ever get this far with writing, this far with my blog, it doesn’t matter. Because I am happy now, doing what I do and writing what I write. And the thing about publishing is once you place your work in the hands of another, it no longer is yours. You have to watch them tear your words and your emotion apart like lions eating zebra and there’s generally nothing you can do about it.

Pick up a book. Any book. Chances are, that book is not 100% the authors work. But that’s okay. The idea is theirs, most of the leg work has been done by them. Only the editors make it so the authors message is said in the right way, and the publishers make it so it is said to the right people.

That’s why reading matters. Would you spend 8 seconds reading a blurb on a book and decide it’s not for you? Or would you take a chance and be pleasantly surprised? They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover, so you shouldn’t judge a blog post by its author.

Reading matters, but quality reading – much like writing – is the most important. Sure, most of us like to read entertainment articles and features, humorous posts and offensive posts. But too few of us read something that makes us think positively and which holds meaning for us past the initial content. Sometimes it does well to delve into something great, if only for five minutes because I believe reading, developing and self-knowledge as well as understanding and learning, can make us all a little better at how we treat each other.

That’s the point I want to make. Too many of us read each other like a post online – 8 seconds and we judge. We judge because we want it our way. If it does not hold our attention, we lose interest.

And yet we pay more time and effort to those who are offensive than we do with something – or someone – we find indifferent. We strive to be heard, and sometimes that means knocking someone else down. Usually when this happens, people aren’t listening to you – they’re focusing on the fallen victims. Your voice goes unheard, and this voice turns from passion into frustration into anger.

Then when it turns into anger, people listen at last and tell you, you can’t say that. You can’t be like that. You can’t be this way. You can’t talk like that. You’re different. You’ve changed. I don’t know you anymore.

But I know you. I read for more than 8 seconds. I know you and I understand. I understand my readers. Because I too am a reader, and looking to connect with something. I know you and it’s okay. It’s okay to be different, to be off one day and on the next. It’s okay to step away from writing, or from whatever you think makes you happy because in the end, that’s the reason – we all strive to “be happy.”

But it’s okay to stop striving and just be. Stop trying to find happiness, chances are, you already have it.

Look at yourself for more than 8 seconds.

You’ll know what I mean.



One thought on “Why Reading Matters

  1. Pingback: Day 4: Catch Up Time – March | The Lefty Writes

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