Why I Read

20 Jun 2012

Visual stories exhaust me. There is an excess of information that I am required to process in order to comprehend them to my own satisfaction and if I cease to focus on this deluge, even briefly, I am lost. This issue is lessened at the theatre, because my attention is fully directed in a single, all-consuming direction.1 Mild irritation becomes major frustration when I am watching something on my television as I consistently feel that I am missing important information and attempt to resolve it by making liberal use of the Pause button which allows me the freedom to rewatch (or at the very least, thoughtfully ponder) a scene until I understand it — at least, understand it enough to feel comfortable with moving on.2

While reading, my mind is allowed the opportunity to wander: I visualize characters and the way that they interact the world around them; I follow paragraphs or conversations with an attention to the language used and imagine cadences that color the text; and I am free to stop and go at my whim, letting myself be influenced by the ideas contain within the writing. There are the details of the text and then the details of my imagination, both of which are equal partners in the experience of the story.

In this sense, the act of reading is a method of flexing my creative muscles. Where movies and television drain, a novel will invigorate. This is one of the reasons that my cable package has been dramatically reduced to the minimum necessary to view hockey games — and, come the fall, I will probably rid myself of that in favor of NHL GameCenter.3 For the television shows that I insist on watching, I would rather make use of my Apple TV.

I do not read merely for entertainment; I read because it is the process by which I am able to write. I read because it allows me to breathe.

  1. Although it does explain my desire to assault random strangers who insist on pulling out their phones during the movie. 

  2. Which illuminates the frustration that my roommates feel when they choose to watch something with me (or: the anxiety I feel when unable to do this). 

  3. Sportscasts often slow down the narrative for the viewer with instant replays, different camera angles, and commentators explaining the action. Worth noting: I do not have the same difficulty watching a hockey game that I do a tv show. Is this because of these “tricks” or is it because sports force me to focus or is it because sports are significantly less difficult to follow than Lost?