Flame and Crimson. Writing a book is a lot of work. The hour or so I spent writing in the evenings after work was time that I would have ordinarily spent reading. Writing this book made me chase a lot of S&S titles that I hadn’t read for research purposes, but a lot of my “reading” was hunting and picking for references, excerpting, and the like. This made sustained reading efforts a lot more challenging.
My smart phone and general accessibility of the internet. I was a late smart phone adopter—late 2013—which is right around the time I noticed a drop in my reading output. This is no coincidence. Back in the day I had to sit down at my desktop computer to get online, and when I was not at my desk I had no internet access. Smart phones have made it way too easy to hop on Facebook, or Youtube, or check football scores on ESPN. I’m a digital slave and I hate it.
Family obligations. As my daughters have grown older in some respects my demands have increased. This is no fault of theirs and I would not have it any other way: They are the best things that ever happened to me. But attending weekend soccer games, and driving my older daughter Hannah to and from work (which has finally ended this year after she got her license) has cut into reading time.
Laziness. An excuse I don’t like to admit but will cop to. Reading has gotten harder than it used to be. I’m not sure if it’s the fast-paced nature of modern existence and the re-wiring of my brain, or the fact that work and obligations and my advance into middle age has robbed me of some of my old vitality, but I find harder to concentrate on books. It takes a little more practice and if I go a few weeks without reading it’s as though I’m suffering from the effects of too much time away from the gym. Or maybe I’m just too fat and lazy.
Now that the excuses are out of the way…
My goal for 2020 is to carve out more time in the evening for reading. I want to read widely and deeply. I’ve read a lot of sword-and-sorcery in the last six-eight years in research and in preparation for writing Flame and Crimson, and while it’s still my favorite subgenre and I will undoubtedly read more of it this year—including catching up on back issues of The Sorcerer’s Skull—I am looking forward to branching out. I’m eyeing some books that have been too long on my to-be-read pile: Iron John, Lonesome Dove and True Grit, Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider. I also think it might be time for a Lord of the Rings re-read. My last reading was in 2012-13, and I’m feeling the call of The Road.
For the interested, at the moment I’m reading a collection of George Orwell essays, Inside the Whale and Other Essays. Orwell’s clarity of thought and incisive writing style are remarkable. So much he was writing at the time (the essays were written in the early-mid 1940s) are very applicable to today. I now wish I had read “Politics and the English Language” prior to Flame and Crimson; I’m certain it would be more sharply written. “England Your England” has helped me understand the character of that country better than any news piece or dry history I’ve read. “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool” is an incredible review of a review, in which Orwell takes apart Leo Tolstoy’s harsh criticism of Shakespeare by turning his review upon the reviewer. I’m looking forward to reading the last few entries.