The Importance of Reading (and a New Year’s Resolution)

by krstaten

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So I just finished reading my 9th book of 2016.

No, that is not a typo. I really have only finished 9 books in the last 11 months and some change. Yes, I know that is a very small number. I’m as disappointed as you are.

I used to read at least 40 books a year (usually around 50). The last couple years, depression and executive dysfunction have been kicking my ass hard and my reading has dwindled. But only nine books? Single digit? It’s shaping up to be my worst reading year ever. Or, at least since learning to read.

I’ve got two more books to get through by the end of the year: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan, both books I picked up and started reading and then put down to take a break and didn’t pick up again for whatever reason. Not because they’re bad books by any means–in fact I’m reading The Bell Jar for the second time because it’s an old favorite–but because executive dysfunction means not having the energy or willpower to do even things I usually would be eager for.

Now here I am trying to power through books at the end of the year to salvage some dignity as a self-proclaimed bookworm, and I’m realizing just how important reading actually is to me.

I have a sense of identity when I read. Who I am, how I act, how I write, how I talk, how I present myself, how adventurous I am, what philosophies influence me, what I think, how I think about it, how I interact with people, and how I process the world around me all change as a direct result of whether and what I’m reading. When I’m not reading? I feel like I’m not as much a person, and it kills.

When I am reading, I get my sense of identity back. My sense of identity is so closely tied to literature–and as a result of literature, and as a result of how influenced by literature I am, my personality tends to be very fluid. That fluidity is part of what I love about myself. It makes me more spontaneous, more unpredictable, more contradictory–all features I used to pride myself on back when I had a different book in my hands every week or so.

And for all that, the other thing I define myself by–my writing–is influenced in all the same ways by what I read. Which is to say that when I’m not reading, I’m not writing.

I gave a pretty solid crack at NaNoWriMo, but it burnt me out. I never came back to blog about it, because I didn’t feel like writing. And I didn’t feel like writing because I didn’t feel like reading.

I guess my point is that reading is important to writing. But it’s also important to just being a person. I learn when I read. I stay active when I read. I stay alert and curious and excited and unpredictable when I read. I like the version of me that reads books. And I like the version of me that writes, which is only possible when I read.

2017 will be an improvement in this department. My number one goal for the new year? Romanticize words like I did when I first discovered what they could do. Because they can do a whole hell of a lot, and it’s time I remembered that.

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