The Importance of Reading

Since beginning a voyage of self-improvement in March, I’ve read 200 articles and at least 10 books just for the sake of reading more.

I spend at least one hour every day dedicated solely to reading, and I spend a fair amount of time reading stuff written by people who are wrong disagree with the beliefs that I hold.

And I’ve noticed a few positive trends in my life.

I’ve learned things I never imagined.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’m more in touch with the world around me. Reading with more discipline has not only encouraged me to engage with things I don’t normally pay a whole lot of attention to, but it’s given me more perspectives on life.

Even the things that I used to believe have shifted: not necessarily because I’ve abandoned them, but because I’ve become more aware of my own cognitive crutches. I’ve come to appreciate what makes me, as an individual, who I am, and while I was at times afraid of engaging with stuff that I knew would be written based on highly biased conjecture I can say that with a few exceptions I’ve found that everything I’ve read has benefited me.

There’s also something to be said for process, and I think it’s possible to get lazy as a reader. If we read things we already know, it may help us build a stronger memory of that one thing, but it doesn’t expand our schema of understanding.

Reading things outside my discipline and my interests has really made me better at focusing on what I do care to focus on. It jars me out of my comfortable habits and really pushes me to read with a more critical eye, much the same way that using RSVP increased my reading speed by training me to quickly digest words.

It gives me stuff to write about.

I highly value my writing ability. I try not to be proud–in the deadly sins sense–about it, but it is still something that I really love.

And I’ve gone through huge ruts where I just can’t write.

Those ruts terrify me on an existential level. I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I’m sort of the last part on my family branch.

If something happened to me right now, all that I’d have for a legacy would be my acts, and my writing. I’ve talked about the importance of living with virtue before (“Life is short, leave virtue in your wake”), but there’s something to be said for leaving a more concrete legacy.

I don’t know that my writing would necessarily carry on forever. There’s a decent chance that much of it wouldn’t be seen by anyone. But writing is one of the few forms of creative acts that I feel particularly comfortable with, and when I’m in a rut it bothers me.

Having more topics to write on keeps me from hitting that rut.

It makes me a better writer.

One of my flaws is that I’m a judgmental person. I don’t necessarily condemn people (that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it), but my inner critic is very willing to jump in on stuff.

Fairly often, I see people do things that are incredibly obvious grammar mistakes, and not just people with a good excuse (I give anyone who’s learning English as a second language a whole lot of slack; they deserve it for their perseverance).

Then I realize, naturally, that I do it too. My command of the language is pretty good (and it should be, given the fact that I teach it), but even I am prone to being obtuse and lacking editing.

I’ve always had a problem with being concise.

I also tend to avoid looking too closely at my stuff, because my critic is too harsh for that.

Balancing the various factors, and simply looking at examples of how others write well, is crucial to developing into a better writer.

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