When I was at school, at about the age of nine, I was told that I was “word blind”, “word blindness” (apparently) is a bit like dyslexia (why is dyslexia such a hard word to spell? And whilst I am on the subject, why is abbreviation such a long word and why isn’t phonetically spelled phonetically? Language is an odd thing when you think about it…), but rather than jumbling up letters in words, I found it difficult to process the order of whole words (which is why, sometimes, on this blog I will leave words out and not notice – sorry!). Because of this, I had to concentrate on each individual word when reading, rather than processing chunks of words all together (which is what most people do, whether they are aware of it or not. It is why newspaper columns are a certain width, so that you can scan down it easily and quickly without having to move you eyes from right to left).
This meant I read incredibly slowly (compared to other people). But rather than savouring this fact, I rushed reading, to try and keep up with everyone else. Which meant that I found reading incredibly frustrating and my recall of what I read was rubbish!
The sad thing was I loved the idea of reading, but found it a struggle, so I would buy dozens of books and then try and read them all at once, get frustrated and then not read anything for ages!
So, when I starting getting into the personal development field I spent a small fortune on courses and books and DVD’s and CD’s that were meant to increase my reading speed. None of them worked, they just made me more frustrated and demotivated.
And the internet just made things worse! Not only did I have books, magazines and newspapers, I now had blogs, websites and news feeds!!
Luckily I stumbled across the Slow movement and realised this yearning for speed reading was what was causing the frustration and if I just relaxed and read at my natural speed I would enjoy reading, recall more and (ironically) get more read!
But, of course, we are bombarded by information day in day out, often in written form and if we always read slowly we would never get through the mountain of paperwork.
Well, remember Tempo Guisto. Slow is not about doing everything slowly it is about finding the right speed.
And this relates to reading a lot. Some things we can just scan, others dip in and out of and some deserve our full attention.
One of the reasons I discovered that I found reading so frustrating was I tried to read everything in the same detail. Whether that was a novel, a newspaper article or a text book…
So, because of my word blindness I have been in a position where I have had to develop a reading strategy. This (like everything else) is an ongoing process. But here is what I have developed so far:
1. You cannot read everything you want to. To try just causes frustration
This was the number one and most important realisation that I had. It sounds obvious, but how many of you are drowning under 2 weeks worth of old newspapers and piles of books you will get round to reading “one day…”?
Prioritisation is the key. Decide what you really want and need to read (which can be tough in this time of over saturation of written information, I am quite intuitive in the way I do it and follow my fascination…)
I have even started a “not to read” list – Books I never intend to read. Making this decision has taken a great weight of my mind (I am not saying I will never read them of course, who knows what will happen, but right now I have no intention of reading them…)
2. You don’t need to read everything in detail
There are different speeds and styles of reading that suite different things. Newspapers I flick through and see what jumps out, but novels I will take my time and read every word, slowly.
3. You don’t need to start at the start and end at the end
I read a lot of none-fiction, academic style books. The mistake I made was that I treated them the same as fiction, I would try and start at page one and work my through to the end, this laborious approach would mean I would often give up after the first chapter…
4. Skimming is good!
Following on from the point above. When I pick up a new “text book” (for want of a better word), I will flick through it, read the contents, index and the headings and bullet points in the book, marking anything that I found interest (I scribble in the margin of all my books and mark them with post its and turned down pages!), so that you can go back and read that section in more detail if you want or need to.
5. Is there another way of doing it?
Do you really need to read it? Is there an audio book version? A film adaptation?! Be creative. I am currently listening to Richard Burton reading John Donne poems. Superb and much better than me reading them myself!
6. Sometimes it is good just to read trash!
I read all sorts, but sometimes I like nothing more than some pulp fiction, it isn’t big, it isn’t clever, but it is great fun and if I have be frustrated trying to get through a “heavy” book I will often read trash to get back into the flow and rekindle my passion for books!
7. Finally, when you find a good book, savour it!
Don’t rush to get it finished to get onto the next one, it isn’t a race. Currently I am working my through the James Bond novels (OK, OK, maybe these should fall into the trash section above!), and the complete works of Sherlock Holmes…
But, most importantly, ENJOY it! Don’t read because you think you should, read it because you want to!