I’m not one of those people who put on a false face in the pursuit of sales. Instead, I am one who will try to be upfront and honest. I don’t think that my honesty will drive my sales, but similarly, I don’t think there’s any value or merit in trying to be someone I’m not. That said, as someone who likes to write and tell stories, others assume I’m an avid reader. While that might seem like a logical assumption, truth be told, I am not. I rarely read anything that’s not something I’m working on.
The fact that I don’t read isn’t due to any dislike or difficulties reading. As a kid, I read several books, would read encyclopedias, held a library card (although it was rarely used due to our proximity to the local library), and never had any issues with reading either silently or aloud throughout my educational experience. My lack of reading is due to something else completely, my excitable nature and variety of interests.
What was discovered as a youngster is that reading required me to sit still. It is very hard to read on the move when you’re a busy kid. And when sitting still, regardless of what I was doing, I had, and still have, a tendency to fall asleep. Point in case, on Saturday nights in the ‘80s my family would gather around the television and watch wrestling. My mom would always say that she could tell when I was falling asleep by watching my feet. I would lie down in the floor on my stomach as I watched the matches. Meanwhile, my feet were constantly moving but the longer I sat there to watch the more my feet would slow down. Once they stopped moving, my mother knew that I had fallen a sleep. It was like my feet were like my body’s power indicator and when they stopped it meant I powered down to recharge in the form of sleep.
And reading was no different than watching wrestling. I would lie down, usually on my bed to read, and things would start off fine. I would make it through the first few pages with no issues but after that I would find myself starting to yawn or my vision getting blurry from my sagging eyelids. Eventually, I would fall asleep with the book still in my hands and usually before I had even finished a single chapter. It would take me days, sometimes weeks, to finish a single book because I had such a hard time sitting still without falling asleep to accomplish much else.
And as I grew older, the problem did not go away or get better.
When I started traveling more for work in the early 2000s, I tried taking books with me on the plane. At first, I tried physical books. The thought being that if I had to constantly flip the pages or at least have something in my fingers to fidget with that I would be able to stay awake and read while sitting up. I did find some moderate success with this approach and has able to read a few books on my travels. At some point though, the books I wanted to read were those not found in the airport bookstores where I usually grabbed that trip’s material. I was forced to switch to digital books (or eBooks for some). I had an old-school Kindle reader that was replaced with an early version iPad.
This is where things started to flounder for me. I found digital books to have less “umph” in terms of the physical interaction I needed to keep me awake. Sure, I still had to swipe pages but that wasn’t enough to keep my body from growing drowsy. Even when I tried to read them at home I continued to struggle. I would lie in bed at night to read instead of watching TV and would fall asleep while reading.
On top of that, I damaged my left elbow as a teenager with a nasty break playing football. It would seem that there is nerve damage or something because when I hold a book in the position to read, after a little while that arm begins to go numb and tingle. It distracts me, bothers me, and worries me all at the same time. So even when I can manage to read without falling asleep, my old sports injuries get in the way.
Some may wonder why I read in bed so much and wonder if that has anything to do with the associated sleepiness. And those theories may have some merit. I mainly read in bed because that’s the one place and time that I know I can/will be still enough to read. If I’m sitting at my desk then I’m working on work stuff, book stuff, podcast stuff, programming stuff, and all of the other various things that I use my computers for. And if I’m not at my desk then I’m either playing games or spending time with my wife. Being absorbed in a book isn’t spending time with my wife so I try not to do activities that prevent communication, quality time, or physical contact when we spend those precious minutes we get together. Between our jobs, our kids, our grandson, the rest of our families, and our different interests, time together is a premium for us and we try to take advantage of it as much as we can.
And yes, I have tried audiobooks. They are a different animal altogether that suffer from a different issue of mine. With audiobooks, I can move around and stay awake but my mind stays busy too and I tune out the audio. I’m not having a conversation with the book so it’s just a voice talking in the background to me. I hear it but I don’t listen. I get involved with games, coding, or anything else that doesn’t require me to just sit and listen to someone talk for hours. The audiobook gets lost in the background for me and I have no idea what was read to me.
It is said to be a good author that you have to read too. I try to read. I haven’t given up on reading but I know that reading is one of my weaknesses. Maybe one day I’ll find the method of reading that works for me. I want to find ways to improve as a writer and reading what others have written is key to that. While I enjoy the stories I’ve written, my goal is to always find ways to tell better stories than the last one.