the value of reading without distraction

WHILE WE WERE away recently, I was interested to read an article by Johann Hari in the i newspaper.  He was talking about the value of reading, in particular reading a physical paper book, and how it ‘gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration’.  It wasn’t a tirade against the Internet but rather a plea for balance, and the value of reading without distraction.

Because most of the time, we are distracted.

‘If you read a book with your laptop thrumming at the other side of the room, it can feel like trying to read in the middle of a busy party, where everyone is shouting to each other. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That’s getting harder to find.’

– Johann Hari (article here)

He quoted a fair amount from David Ulin’s book The Lost Art of Reading – Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time.  I’ve not read this book, but I want to, and have wanted to since I read about it previously, in another article.

I thrive on variety and communication in many ways.  But sometimes it can become so much the norm that I forget how to withdraw into a quiet place and feel contented doing so.  It’s so easy, in a free five minutes or a quick coffee break to check emails, Twitter or Facebook. The article was well-timed for me – my deliberate withdrawal during our break from all these things helped me regain the ability for quiet focus, curled up reading a book without buzz – whether actual physical buzz or simply the buzzing in my head.

I’ve tried to continue it on returning home – taking care to use my break periods as times where I don’t switch on the computer but instead sit down with a book or indeed another task or hobby which requires quiet depth of concentration, instead of constant multitasking and busy-ness.  Of course, often in these ‘breaks’ previously I have blogged – which may mean my number of entries may decrease or be less in depth – so be it.  Also I feel more able to write in a focused way and I want to prioritise that as my activity.

(Had an idea for a novel while away – am unusually besotted with it and have already written two chapters.  Usually I cringe at my own fiction writing but I appear, finally, to have found my voice.  It feels extraordinarily releasing.)

So I appreciate the art of reading and the depth of concentration it offers – also other things that require me to be alone with myself. We’re not as good at being alone with ourselves as we used to be, it seems – it’s not just about reading, is it?  But it is a good example.

‘Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.’

– David Ulin

Book and keyboard images from stock.xchng


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