Photo by Luis de Bethencourt
I thought there was something wrong with me until I read about other bloggers having this same problem.
After an hour or two of scan-reading of events on the Internet, including surveying the latest news sources, browsing through Wikipedia for information (and some useless trivia as well!), and catching up with my favorite bloggers, I find that it is difficult to shift gears to hardcopy print.
I found that I could do OK with newspapers and magazines, which are often just hard copy versions of what I find on line, only with more color and pictures. It was a different story with books–real books with no pictures, no diverting links, just lines and lines of type sprawling across the page. Those were giving me major headaches.
A case in point: I picked up Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek for a reread yesterday. But I experienced some problem. All those words started to blur together and the concepts went zipping past my ears without soaking in. I thought I was losing my mind.
Then I realized what was happening. I just needed to make a brain shift. There was a physical shift I needed to do, as well as a mental one. Here is what helped me.
Take a five minute break. Before starting any ‘serious’ reading, I need a physical break, preferrably with eyes closed.
Insert eye drops. I forget to blink when I’m ‘net scanning’ and my eyes get dry. I need to rehydrate for serious reading.
Have good lighting. Computer screens are backlit, books are not. Plus computer screens are at a lower resolution, typically 72 dpi versus 300 or more for hard copy. I want good reading specs and good lighting.
Consciously slow down mental process for a different focus. Instead of going for quantity, I want to remind myself that quality is equally important. Rather than an objective of ‘bottom line’ word-bite speed reading, when doing this kind of reading, I shift to word-by-word, sentence-by-sentence comprehension.
There are layers to this slower type of reading. For example, what is the content? What is the wordsmithing involved? What themes are present? How does it relate to my present life and life goals?
Both types of reading have value. They just have different processes and end results. I know how to do both, but I had just forgotten.
When I remember to shift, my brain cells thank me. The words acquire a deeper dimension with richer meanings. And most important, I discover that I really do like to read again.