Oh My Goodness! There Is Such a Thing as Reading Too Much!

 

 

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Sometimes my sister and I have life-changing conversations at the kitchen table whilst our lunch digests. A couple days ago we had one such conversation.

Mariah and I were discussing the benefits of reading. I love stories, in almost any form. I  believe that the stories I read, watched and heard as a child played a huge role in the development of my own personal code of ethics and moral compass.

The stories we ingest become a part of who we are. 

So read, read, read, right? Reading offers seemingly limitless benefits, I mean studies have shown that reading reduces stress, increases brain connectivity and function, improves empathy, and much more.

Yet as my sister and I were talking, I began to grapple with a problem I’ve been stewing over in the back of my head for a while now.

Is it possible to overeat good stories?

There have been periods in my life wherein I feel stuck in a fictional world, vicariously living through the characters I meet in books. My motivation for pursuing life goals falls, as I become content to escape to an alternate reality.

I don’t want stories to provide a life-long cubby to hide in. I want stories to inspire me to do things in real life.

What happens if children or adults become content to give up the real world to live inside the fiction that they read? Is it possible that reading too much could diminish creative output?

“Reading after a certain age diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking, just as the man who spends too much time in the theater is tempted to be content with living vicariously instead of living his own life.”

-Albert Einstein 

The goal of reading is not to escape the real world, it is to gain knowledge which is eventually processed and results in action and a fulfilled life. If you only ever consume, without reflecting and producing, reading loses value:

 

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We must at times take breaks from consuming knowledge to internalise what we’ve learned, sythnesize through reflection, and ultimately produce something completely original.

 

With that in mind, I began to reflect on my own reading habits. I noticed that during low periods of productivity (due to personal tragedy or other circumstances) my time spent reading  rises. However, when I am super busy pursuing life goals (like when I was living abroad) I spend far less time reading.

I used to feel guilty for not reading enough while I was living abroad. Now, however, I believe it is all part of the natural cycle of creative input versus output. If I had spent my days abroad locked up in my room reading books, I would have missed out on chances to develop relationships and pursue projects. However, all the time I spent locked in my room reading during my gap year at home helped to inform and inspire me to pursue studying abroad and helped me to make the most of my experience.

 

 

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Perhaps the ebbs and flows in my time spent reading are the result of a natural cycle of productivity. Reading more in hard times inspires me to push through and informs creativity later on. However, I don’t need to feel guilty for taking breaks from vigorous reading during busier periods of life. 

(Mind you, even in the high-productivity/low-reading times I try not to give up on reading completely. I usually spend a minimum of 15-30 minutes a day reading long-form articles, like The Economist, New Yorker, Washington Post etc… and 20 minutes to an hour of reading a random library book. )

I’m pretty sure that most people experience peaks and valleys in their life. Nobody is 100% productive all the time. When you are feeling low or have a slower period of life, immerse yourself in books. This ingestion of knowledge will fuel your periods of higher activity when you don’t have the time to read quite as much.

So there you have it, some evolving thoughts I’ve had on reading and productivity. What do you think? Do people who read too much experience problems with socialization and/or creativity? Am I totally off-base here? Do your reading habits go through cycles or remain fairly constant?

Author: Susanna

I'm Susanna, a 20-year-old Christian girl incorrigibly addicted spontaneous adventures. My first dream was to become a pioneer. Unfortunately, I was born a couple centuries late, so I've decided to read, cook, run, and travel the world until my time machine is finished. You'll mostly likely find me getting into trouble and/or eating licorice. I am currently blogging the misadventures of a middle-school teacher in training. Come join me on my quest to become the next Ms. Frizzle!

4 thoughts on “Oh My Goodness! There Is Such a Thing as Reading Too Much!”

  1. I love this post!! I’ve started to wonder if I give reading too much of my free time. I want to write, yet there is so much I haven’t read. I keep thinking, once I have read such and such, I’ll have read enough to write. Such thinking may have been constructive at first, but by now I’m wondering if it’s a pleasant distraction I can tell myself is constructive.

    Also, I only now “got” your blog title. Ha ha! I am quick!! :p

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting Jillian! Yes, I have found myself doing that a lot too! Honestly though, I think it is better to just write, write, write… even if it is rubbish. The more we write the better we will become at the craft, right? All of my thoughts here are still pretty raw though. I hope to keep thinking and sharpening them, because I am certain that reading is incredibly valuable and I do not want to undermine that.

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  2. I always joke that you can tell how stressed I am by how often I go to the library. I definitely read more when I’m feeling down because I like it, and at this point it’s comforting. It’s something familiar that I know is good, which helps me if I’m struggling.
    I also have gotten advice (from a professional, bestselling author) to read everything from books to billboards to cereal boxes to see what you like and what works. While practicing is good, I wouldn’t have learned about a genre I want to write or learned what tones of voice or what POV to use for certain projects if I hadn’t read as much as I have. I think it’s important to have a balance.
    Being able to read critically and absorb information from written text quickly has also helped me with learning and retaining information, which I consider a good thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! Thanks for the thoughtful comment. You are so right. Reading the kind of books you want to write is the best way (imho) to develop the appropriate voice. I noticed that when my littler sister read a lot of Karen Cushman books, her writing started to sound a whole lot like Karen Cushman.

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