When I was younger I was a voracious reader. I read thousands of books. At some point in adulthood it tapered off, and now I’m lucky to read a few books a year. I’m so out of reading I can barely remember what I have read. Maybe 3.5 this year, a couple of sci-fi and a pulp. The half is Barrett’s Caligula: the Abuse of Power, which is a great resource but also very large and dry. I need to return to it.
The lack of reading is bad for me as a human being, but it’s doubly bad for me as a writer. I’d gotten into a habit of consuming very little of other people’s work when I was actively creating, and I’m almost always actively creating. I’ve slowly gotten back to watching shows and, to a much lesser extent, films, and I need to get back to reading regularly. I’m a bit of a library sale junkie so I always have interesting books lying around. I have a library card. Also, I finally embraced ebook technology and have a reader, so between all three sources there is no lack of material.
The brain is a muscle trained in various things, including reading, and my reading muscles have gone soft. At the end of the day I find I don’t have the energy (read: will) to read a book, and that’s mainly because I need to retrain my brain. It’s a much better way to wrap the day and prepare for sleep than watching something on a screen or staring at a monitor. From a practical perspective, I work at a computer all day long and I need to stop doing that in the evenings. 1) I need to unwind and refresh my mind in the evening, not work more. B) When I code at night I make mistakes, and sometimes unraveling them the next day takes longer than if I’d just waited to work on the problem with a fresh mind. I have said this to myself a few times in recent weeks, but I need to make it official: after dinner, no Internet, computers, or phones.
There was a period of time where I made a really concerted effort to read short stories, but in some ways it’s more difficult to find an enjoyable short story than it is a longer work. I like the form, but it’s not the same as the immersion you get from a good book.