Lazy Reader

by Megan M. on January 25, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

I have a confession to make.

I’m a (super) lazy reader.

I have always read very quickly and easily—reading is fun. Reading is a relaxing, soothing activity. It’s like trying to absorb information while sleeping; it’s effortless. This made especial sense when all I read was fiction growing up (sci-fi, fantasy, dragons, witches, magic horses, you got it) but it continued to be the case when I started to educate myself about people, sex, business and the universe. Reading was “work”, but it was still just as easy.

At a certain point my desire for information began to outstrip my reading speed. I tried not to crave information, but it’s so hard! Listen to me whine. I spent more of my time reading, but the books tended to pile up anyway. I stopped buying everything on my list. I started choosing material more carefully, researching reviews, picking up the ones I knew would be really perfect and letting the rest go. This was a great approach, but it has one flaw: What do I do when the really perfect books breed and multiply?

That’s exactly what happened. I couldn’t choose anymore. There were just too many! How much time was I really going to spend reading?

I decided to learn to read faster. I took a photoreading course (after coming across Steve Pavlina’s posts) and was very pleased! I’d never done any sort of speed reading and I loved how fast I could get through nonfiction, even long before having mastered any of the unconscious processing techniques. But there was one problem, and it’s the problem I’m working to solve now: I’m a lazy reader!

For all its awesomeness, photoreading takes effort. Maybe more accomplished photoreaders than I don’t notice the effort, but many of the photoreaders I’ve met came from hating to read. I came from loving to read, and the idea of taking a relaxing activity and turning it into homework is something I can’t help but balk at. Of course, I still read all my fiction the “usual” way—fiction is less suited to photoreading anyhow—but I’m finding it difficult to adjust and use photoreading as my automatic solution, every time. Part of my brain is a little offended that I’m taking this awesome, relaxing work and making it… work.

What the hell? my brain says, indignant. Who do you think you are?

I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks, and I’ve thought of a few probable solutions. I still photoread quite well (if not perfectly), so all I need to iron out is my motivation.

I speculated recently about starting a super-fast readers club, so that anticipating conversation about many different books in short spans of time would give me a “reason” to read them fast and be ready to discuss. (I’m letting that percolate. Something might come of it. Right now, I’m taking advantage of the Alternative Alternative MBA, and that’s a great “reason”—though maybe we should have another discussion, sometime, about why I feel I need more of a “reason” than just wanting to read the damn book!)

I’m thinking about coming at new books from a direction Seth suggested a few months ago: Use information to do something, not just learn something. This is great because photoreading involves setting a purpose for yourself, information you’re looking for, questions you want to have answered and identifying the most useful parts of the book—and the next step, after finding what you want, is to use it to make something happen. Well, of course! If I start to associate reading with an active approach (instead of with relaxing and getting all the information I want without expending any effort), I may find that my motivation as regards reading changes a lot.

This is all just speculation so far, but you’ll know what it means when I start making posts about books and actions together in the same space, instead of just gushing about my recent reading crush. It’s time for this to happen. I have a hell of a lot of books to get through, but feel free to translate: I have a hell of a lot of change to make.

  • Matt
    I arrived at your website while googling photoreading to see if students of photoreading thought it lived up to its promise.

    It's hard to tell how you feel about it from this post - are you able to read at the (ridiculous?) speeds that Mr Scheele claims are possible (25000 words per minute?). Your post seems to say that this is possible, but not fun? Is that about right?

    I am interested, for many of the same reasons you outline - I am craving information. Is it too much effort to make it worthwhile?


  • Megan M.
    I'm pretty convinced it does if you work hard and keep pushing at it. By all accounts, it takes some time to get it right. I was flying along pretty well and ended up getting lazy again, but I still pick up a book and go through it remarkably quickly when I'm motivated and don't want to spend a lot of time on it. I had to adjust the techniques I'd learned at the Photoreading seminar to ones that were very similar but worked better for me, though. It's probably a personal thing. If you're too skeptical, I doubt it works well. But at this point I don't care if it's a psychological fake-out, because I learned stuff that works for me. So I'm happy. Ha!

    I don't know what speed it is, honestly. But I know that I read very fast before, and when I apply myself, I can get through the same material much faster now. Non-fiction, not fiction (I haven't tried fiction this way, and I'm not really all that interested in doing so).

    For what it's worth, I'm glad I did it and don't consider the money ill-spent. It was a really fascinating experience / set of skills to learn.
  • James | Dancing Geek
    What you made me think of with this is my tendency to use reading and research as a way to put off doing stuff. The reading is an activity, but it's really busywork. The fact that it's easy makes it fun, not work. But yes, there are a number of books I've picked because I want to get something out of them, so the whole putting stuff off side is actually harmful.

    Answer? Don't know, but suspect a call to action is needed somewhere.
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