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Thoughts on Reading Concentration

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Comment from: Daddy [Visitor]  

Welcome to the family!

10/18/07 @ 19:41
Comment from: Hinermad [Visitor]


I can’t tell you what’s happened, but I hope someone else can because it’s happened to me, too. I was a voracious reader through school, for much the same reason you were - I wanted to know stuff. (I used to grab a volume from our set of encyclopedias on the way to the “reading room.")

After I got married and had a wife and children to care for I no longer had blocks of more than about five minutes in which to read. Task switching for me is difficult; if I try to read something for five minutes, handle an interruption, and go back to my book I end up reading the same paragraph about five times.

Now that two of three kids are grown and my wife doesn’t ask me to take the trash out any more, I do have more time in which I could read. But I don’t. It seems like I can still find interruptions to my reading: household chores, checking email, looking up tomorrow’s weather forecast. Sometimes I justify my self-inflicted interruptions by telling myself that if I don’t do it while I’m thinking about it, I’ll forget to do it later.

But I suspect there’s something more insidious at work. I wonder if I’ve actually cultivated a short attention span, and now lack the will to change it. I think you’ll admit that most forms of media cater to the need for a quick information fix: sound bites that pass for news, coloring-book graphics that pose as stock market reports, video games that pretend to be novels. (Yes, I own all three episodes of Halo.) The only thing that’s gotten longer is TV commercials. When I was a kid they were 60 seconds tops; now infomercials are 30 minutes. And then there’s the Web, where one can engage in free association to a soundtrack. (Click…click…click…)

I hope this isn’t what’s happened to you. It’s not where I wanted to end up, and it’s proving to be a really hard habit to kick.


10/18/07 @ 20:40
Comment from: [Member]

Is it a genetic defect, Daddy? :) (What happened to Noel, then? Is he a mutant?)

More theories: I wonder if this isn’t a side effect of a carefully cultivated ability to multi-task in order to survive (and excel) professionally. Or impatience spawned from a couple of decades of having more to do than I had time for (with few breaks).

“Self-inflicted interruptions.” I like that, Dave. Most accurate.

Have you noticed yourselves unable, frequently, to live in the moment in many things, though? Perhaps “living in the now” is a childhood ability that our culture overrides, with time. If that’s true, how does one regain it? I find myself mildly jealous of infants playing with building blocks, completely absorbed, patient, learning, and (slightly off subject, but) not discouraged by repeated failures.


10/19/07 @ 07:17
Comment from: Linda [Visitor]

Diana and all,

I hate to admit it, but I am one of those people who has been able to continue reading voraciously since childhood. With the exception of a very short time years ago.
That was after Pete died. I spent lots of hours not really concentrating on any one thing, but hey, I figured it was part of what I was going through at the time.

I have a good vibe, Diana, that you will get it back. That much, I am sure of. Instead, maybe this is just a “time out".

I do know that I am one of those people who can’t handle more than a couple of things at once. I don’t need an awful lot of stimulation otherwise, I do feel stressed out and then resentful of nothing or anyone in particular. Maybe that is why reading has been something that gets me back to being a great stabilizer in my life, without all the other things that really provide little peace and quiet.

I don’t think you should feel any failure in this at all! When the time is right, you will get that feeling back that only a great story can provide.

Then again, you’re doing a great job of writing your own stories! I know I enjoy reading your thoughts right here.

Have a good day!


10/19/07 @ 09:15
Comment from: [Member]

Thanks, Linda. No need to apologize! I admire lifetime voracious readers. :) I regret to have lost so much precious time, myself.

I’m wondering now if I’ve just lost my conditioning. Let’s see if I can explain this….

I’ve run a decent distance (~5 miles, but sometimes as much as 10 a day) for many years. Any time I have to take a break due to injury, I lose the ability to just run. I will think about how far I’ve gone, how far I have to go, how out of breath I am, how much my body is resisting the run, etc. However, within two weeks (at most), I’ll recover the ability to simply run without thinking of what I’m doing at all. My brain will initially resist the focus it needs (well…in the case of running, it’s actually a non-focus zen state I need), then will give in to the conditioning with a little practice, and I have no further problems.

Perhaps reading is the same way. With practice, your brain learns to fall into a certain state, for lack of a better term, each time you open a book. My brain is out of practice.

But I’ve been in college for years and now read regularly to teach classes and grade papers! How could I be out of practice? Reading for college courses, research, or lesson prep is quite different from reading for pleasure, at least for me. Those are all reading for a specific purpose–not just for interest. The purpose drives the reading. I don’t know how to apply that with random pleasure reading, though.

*sigh* Maybe Dave is right. Perhaps I’ve simply acquired a short attention span. I’m sure my internet “addiction” hasn’t helped that much. :)


10/19/07 @ 14:29
Comment from: harry [Visitor]  

Diana -
I think it all comes from the training you gave yourself when you learned to read. Readers such as Noel and myself I suspect trained ourselves to read at a faster pace for several reasons. Mine were, in no order, the knowledge that books were being written faster than I could read all I wanted to, impatience in finishing one book and getting to the next(if you remember I usually had 3 paperbacks every day at school unless one was really thick), and and trying to get a book finished before chores were due. Maybe you simply didnt allow the same motivations to push you to attain higher speeds, or maybe some people just naturally can achieve this. I do know I read slower when reading for comprehension than for pleasure, as pleasure reading is better attained by surface reading and keeping the flow of consciousness in motion. I find myself reading mainly for information now, so I suspect my reading has slowed a bit overall. I hope now that I am retired to eventually slow enough to start pleasure reading again, although the learning I am doing now can almost be considered pleasure reading as it is learning for the sake of learning.
Hmmmmm - this seems to have run on a bit without saying much - I guess what I wanted to say is it doesn’t matter how fast you read as long as you read.

10/20/07 @ 01:25
Comment from: Daddy [Visitor]  

Let me try this again. I wrote for about 10 minutes yesterday, and it wouldn’t take it for some reason, and then I slap dab lost it.(the thing I wrote, I mean) :). Well, maybe I lost it too. I didn’t rewrite, and I aint now. (Go ahead Dave. I know that ‘aint’ galls you):D.

Anywho, PD, I find that the more I read for info, the slower I get, and when I read strictly for pleasure, I find myself being careful not to miss anything, thus slowing myself more. I find that reading for pleasure is more pleasureable if I get all the info as I go. That is one reason I find it difficult, but enjoyable non the less, to ‘read’ audio books. I don’t rent them or own them. I have a friend who loans them to me when she thinks she has one I would like. But I think, to put it succinctly, that content is both the enemy and friend of reading, and eventually slows us all down searching for the one little chit of info that makes everything make sense.

10/20/07 @ 10:53
Comment from: Hinermad [Visitor]

Mr B:

I may have over-stated my dismay at the state of English use. What annoys me is things like they’re/there/their errors and to a lesser extent it’s/its. But my favorite rant is the greengrocer’s problem. “Ain’t” is a perfectly serviceable word; it fills in the gap in the contracted forms of the negative “to be.” (I can say “you aren’t” and “he isn’t,” but I have to say “I am not"? That’s not fair.) Besides, I grew up in the Appalachian foothills where it’s common usage. I ain’t about to change now.


I think you may be onto something with the differences between reading for business and reading for pleasure. We talked a little bit about that before. You said that your cadets tend to read to find specific answers while you want them to also read for the joy of discovery. (I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but I think that’s what you said.) They’re very different attitudes to have while reading. I think there may be a tendency for us working stiffs to develop the goal-seeking attitude at the expense of the discovery attitude.

I wonder, too, if we unconsciously evaluate the risk involved in reading. When we’re reading for a purpose we have a set goal, and if we don’t meet that goal we’ve failed the task. Reading for enjoyment doesn’t have a well-defined goal; perhaps we’ve conditioned ourselves to view it as an automatic failure.


10/21/07 @ 11:06
Comment from: [Member]

“I am not” may be easily and properly contracted to “I’m not,” Dave. &#59;)


10/21/07 @ 11:13
Comment from: Hinermad [Visitor]


But then the contraction is “I am,” not “am not.” It isn’t the same thing. Or it’s not the same thing. Or something.


10/21/07 @ 14:35
Comment from: [Member]

:) Speaking of preferred contractions, I prefer “it isn’t,” even though it requires more effort to enunciate, over “it’s not.” “It’s not” and “It’s snot” are homophonous.


10/21/07 @ 16:03
Comment from: Aunt B'Ann [Visitor]  
Aunt B'Ann

I’ve read all you wrote, and all the comments, with pleasure. And I can relate, in many ways! When I was teaching, I, too, had trouble just reading for pleasure. Partly because of the time limits, and partly because everything I read got in the way of enjoyment of reading!

As for finding time to read for pleasure, the secret is to find a book (or story, etc.) that you really WANT to read, and then carry it everywhere you go! When you find yourself with a couple of minutes or more, whip it out and read. (I’ve rarely had to go back to figure out where I left off, even when I had three books going at the same time–in three different parts of the house!) You can train yourself to read in snippets, just as you trained yourself to run a little at a time, or to write without having to finish a certain section at any one time. The enjoyment is still there, whichever way you go about it.

Love reading your writings, Diana! Keep up the good work!

Love you muchly, and wish you lived closer!

Aunt B’Ann

10/21/07 @ 23:07
Comment from: Roger [Visitor]  

I do everything I enjoy slowly. Heck, it takes me 2 hours to watch ‘60 minutes’. I get mad when I read for pleasure too quickly. It’s too expensive. Slow down and smell the pages.


10/24/07 @ 07:31

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