"Every reader finds themself; The writer's work is merely a kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this blog, they would perhaps never have seen in themself."
As an avid reader, this [mis]quote hits home. Reading is my coping mechanism. Presented with a problem, my instinctive reaction is to buy a book (or five).
It started as a child at the library, where you could take out six books at a time. One day I discovered the self-help section. From then on I'd regularly leave with an armful of self-help books. I rarely read them all, but their mere presence in my house was a comfort. I discovered that same comfort at university, when buying all my course books and stacking them up made me suddenly feel smarter.
Today, I treat Amazon like my library. I buy vast swathes of books. Some sit, like a comfort blanket, on my bookshelves. Others are read – occasionally all the way to the end. I supplement these books with an inbox flooded with blog posts and TED Talks and 'Thought of the day' emails.
With the rise of the internet, the number of writers has grown exponentially. The volume of content available is mushrooming by the day. We have access to a vast sea of thoughts within which to see ourselves. Yet all of these words are nothing more than a distraction if the reader doesn't use them effectively.
Taking in all of this information is clearly impossible.
I attempted to implement a strategy with the books and blogs that I read. I read very quickly, marking things to revisit and reflect on as I go. Yet I rarely return to reflect on these thoughts. Instead, I move onto the next question and the next question. I search in more and more places for answers, but never take the space to think about the clues.
Today, I have realised that the most important part of reading is the thoughts triggered afterwards. The words on the page are just an optical instrument, and we must take time to look through it. Without time to process our thoughts, all we see is glass.
Books are comforting because they suggest the solution to our problems lies externally. This is comforting, but flawed. Whatever our mode of searching – books, meditation, travel - the answer will always lie back inside of us. Our task is to create an environment where we can hear the answer from inside.
So, how do we create space to process all of this information? Well, I've decided to take the first step of reducing the stream of incoming information. This year I'm giving myself just four books to fully explore this year, two of which I have already read. And I'm unsubscribing from all but one blog – Moodscope.
I hope that you have time to think and reflect on these blogs, so that they can serve as an optical instrument for you too.
A Moodscope member.