It’s easy to fall out of reading. Almost too easy.
Perhaps life got in the way. Perhaps you put your reading on pause to accommodate a major event. Perhaps your schedule shifted and you don’t know how to get back into reading.
I’ve been there. I’ve also been able to jump back in.
It’s that time of year again! The sun is out, school is out and books come out from their hiding places in your closet or library shelves.
That’s right—summer reading clubs make reading cool again.
Summer means watching the waves roll in at the beach, licking ice cream from your fingertips and sipping sun-kissed iced tea.
Last summer, I boasted about my commitment to summer reading clubs and how it didn’t take time away from my writing.
This summer, I’m telling you that I’m not signing up.
Don’t worry. I didn’t become a hater of reading in the last 365 days. And I didn’t change my opinion about summer reading clubs going hand-in-hand with writing projects.
What changed was my location.
Why I Love Summer Reading Clubs
Last summer, I lived in a summer reading club wonderland. All my friends signed up. Actually, it seemed like the whole town was in the race.
We talked about how many books we’ve read over potluck dinners and dived into discussions about what we have read over card games.
After every five books read, I’d be entered into a raffle with high-stake prizes. And I got to take home a free book home just for signing up.
Since last summer, I was uprooted from that town and I moved 2,000 miles away.
Between moving old boxes, starting new jobs, learning new streets, shoveling new sidewalks and watching new plants grow—I was always reading.
And I was always visiting my local library. I dropped by weekly for new books and DVDs. Weekend excursions included exploring the other branches. All my friends were avid library readers and lunch breaks meant stopping by the downtown location.
Why I’m Not Signing Up For Summer Reading Club
As summertime rolled into my life, I took a peak at my library’s summer reading club. And I was severely disappointed.
For reading five books, you win $1 off at the library used bookstore. That’s right: I had the chance to win a coupon.
Comparing the two summer reading clubs side by side, this new club was like going to a rusted town fair after a weekend at Cedar Point.
As for my reading friends, they have all moved away from this city to grow their lives elsewhere. New adventures means new summer reading clubs that I can’t join.
So if the prize isn’t enticing and there isn’t any friendly competition within my social circles, then why even join?
My Summer Reading Club Substitution
Of course I love to read. I won’t stop reading because I don’t sign up for my local summer reading club.
I’ll just have to make my own competition.
If your local summer reading club doesn’t excite you—or doesn’t even exist—it doesn’t mean that the competition is over. It just means that you have to invent one worth joining.
Starting a summer reading club within your social group or your community isn’t too hard to do. All it takes is commitment, vision and a few phone calls to set it up.
As for me, I’m a pretty self-competitive person. For every five books, I’ll treat myself to a special dinner out.
And I’ll always update my Goodreads reading list.
Why (or why not) are you joining a summer reading club this year? Share your story below.
Since the ninth grade, school instructs us to read the classics, books knighted as literary genius for generations. Professors build careers around talking about one writer or a handful of paperbacks. And we’re taught not to criticize the novels or essays, but instead to search for symbolic evidence as to why these books are perfect.
In other words, we learn how to kiss the butts of writers, many already long dead.
It’s not that these writers don’t deserve a lot of cred. Some of the greatest books I’ve read are cliché classics. Just look at my Goodreads.
So how are my reading habits different than an English class syllabus? Because I don’t read the books to worship the writers.
In school, we’re assigned to write papers as to why the symbolism spoke to the greater good or why the writer reinvented the use of X, Y, Z since the Cave Ages.
You know, the obvious stuff.
But classic books aren’t holy texts. And these writers aren’t gods.
I’m going to say it: We need to stop all this writer worship.
Wouldn’t it be great to instead have a classroom discussion challenging the common opinion about the text? To say that the protagonist is really evil, that the (pages and pages of) scenery description doesn’t contribute much to the plot, or that the book really just sucks.
We’ve all wanted to say that in a Lit course.
It’s not a constructive use of time to list why the writer is great. That centralizes our focus on the writer, not the story. That elevates the writer’s status in our mind and, consequently, lowers our own evaluation of our own writing skills.
Instead, we should focus our time on looking at the writing as a story. Does the story have a well-developed plot? Are the characters fully formed? Does the dialogue support the story? Do the descriptions, from the setting to the actions, contribute to the plot and the characters?
This is what I do when I read the classics. In fact, it’s why I read. I study the structure of the story. I take the writer (briefly) out of the equation while I evaluate what’s working and not working in the story. That is the only way I will learn how to refine my own work as a writer.
A writer great at their craft should be respected, not worshipped. And a great writer that you respect should be by your own choice, not because your teacher said so.
What do you think? Do you think writer worship is a waste of time? Share your opinions below.
I set aside an hour before I fall asleep at night to read at least one chapter from a novel or non-fiction book. Sometimes I’ll even switch it up with a story from a magazine.
But the standard still stands: I must read every day.
My family teases me constantly about my reading habits. They think it’s funny (and often annoying) that I get antsy when holidays or last-minute plans throw off my nightly ritual.
It (usually) isn’t my eagerness to get back to the story. It’s because I know how easy it is to fall out of pattern with reading.
It’s not that I hate reading. Quite the opposite. I love to read. I mark library used book sales on my calendar. I visit bookstores for fun—and for hours.
And does eau de aged paper exist? (Answer: Yes)
Yet it’s still easy for me to fall out of touch with reading, someone who has dedicated an entire career to writing words.
And I’m not the only one that feels this way. In fact, 27 percent of adults haven’t read a single book in the last year.
That’s right. 1 in 4 people didn’t pick up a book for the entire year.
So why is it so hard for us to read?
Is It Because We’re Busy?
If that’s what you want to believe. You don’t have time to pick up a book and read a few pages because you have to work, do errands and fulfill family or community commitments.
But let me ask you this: How much TV have you watched this week? How much time have you spent online?
That’s what I thought. You do have time. You’re just spending that extra time on something else.
Are We Choosing the Wrong Books to Read?
I’ve fallen in that trap. I’ve started a book that I can’t stand and reading starts to feel like a homework assignment. Yet I find myself finishing it with no problem.
And I’ve found myself in love with a book—but never finding myself reading it.
If you’re not reading because you don’t like your current read, then pick up something else. The real problem is that you’re not picking up any book at all.
Why We’re Really Not Reading
We don’t read anymore because we don’t make it a priority. We don’t value reading enough to make it part of our daily lives.
I have a hard time fitting in exercise into my schedule, yet I don’t quit running because it’s hard to make time for. I wake up an hour earlier so that I can make it happen.
If you love reading as much as you say you do—yet you’re not reading regularly—then you don’t love reading. It’s just that simple.
If you love reading, then make room for it in your day. Look at your schedule and plan where you can dedicate 30 minutes or an hour to reading a good book.
Because how often do you look back at yesterday and regret reading?
Why are you not reading? Share your story below.
I know what your first guess is—and it’s wrong.
Let me explain.
We all like to think that writers are the same. That all writers fit into one stereotype of typing furiously on a laptop with brief intervals of tugging at one’s hair by the roots. And we shuffle to our local cafes and libraries as if it were the zoo so that we can watch them suffer unnaturally in their natural writing habitat.
But this doesn’t describe all writers. In fact, the definition of writer changes as how we digest content changes. There are writers for ads, magazines, websites, blogs, ebooks, white papers, newsletters—the list is close to endless.
Put simply, what writers write, how writers write, when writers write and why writers write can’t be the same for all writers.
Although the meaning of writer has evolved, the perception of passionate writer never alters. And there’s a difference between the two, despite all the changing mediums and audiences for the written word.
No, it’s not the obvious.
A passionate writer doesn’t love one’s work more than a writer. Just because a writer is reserved about one’s passion towards the written art doesn’t mean writers don’t have a heart.
Not your first guess? Of course not.
But your initial hunch is off too. Yes, many passionate writers love to read. Some only read classics. Some only read one’s select genre. Some only tap into literary fiction in magazines. And some enjoy a mix of an entire library.
And yes, many passionate writers simply don’t read.
But writers also love to read. There are technical writers that read the classics, copywriters that enjoy children’s chapter books and content marketers that get a kick out of sci-fi.
So, What Do All Passionate Writers Have in Common?
This might come as a shock to many of my readers—and many more passionate writers. That’s because some passionate writers don’t even know their real motivation behind their drive to get a story on the page.
What fuels a passionate writer is pain.
Before you react, think about it. A passionate writer claims the craft as one’s identity. Not a fancy title. Not a means to a paycheck. Not a weekend hobby.
A passionate writer views writing as the way of communication. This writer’s written expression is more accurate than a painted or photographed portrait. What a passionate writer writes for you is a gift because it exposes something deeper and potentially more mortifying than simply walking into a room naked.
That’s why passionate writers are wounded when their words are criticized and ridiculed. You’re not just mocking their talent. You’re laughing at their pain.
So many stories that we love and cherish were born from pain. And we love these stories because we know that pain. Sometimes it’s a haunting memory. Sometimes we see it in the mirror.
Writing is that medicine to heal the pain. Passionate writers—whether or not they realize the pain exists—use writing as a way to explore the pain, make sense of it and heal from it.
When you think of writing that way, some bizarre stories start to make sense. It wasn’t reality they were portraying. It was the reality of the emotions behind the pain.
What Does That Make Me?
For me, I write to put the pain into words. I sing to get out the sound. I run to burn off the rage.
Many of my friends and family are probably scratching their heads. How can someone so happy be in pain?
Mom, you can stop researching local “hospitals” and self-help books.
Not all passionate writers walk around morosely. In fact, many of us lead happy lives. We like to save feeling that pain for when we write.
And we also like feeling happiness. We embrace the fullness of joy as well as we express sadness and anger.
I get to live my life as both writer and passionate writer. By day, my writing is fueled by entrepreneurial energy that’s exciting and inspiring. By night, my writing explores depths that I fear yet I desire.
What’s always constant in my writing is the truth. Isn’t that all passionate writers really want to find?
Are you a writer or a passionate writer? Share your story below.