The past few weeks I’ve begun to realize one of my personal disciplines had slipped. I wasn’t reading. This happens from time to time, as life and work conspire to distract me from doing real self-care, and this past Fall was one such season. I’d finished some history books in September and failed to pick up something to replace them. This past weekend I’d finally had enough and opened up my Kindle library to read a novel 1. It was glorious, and it reminded me how important reading is to my well-being.
I have many creative outlets — writing and Photography being my favorite creative pass-times. My vocation is also inherently creative. For Central I need to write a sermon each and every week. For both ABCNJ and Central I’m often creating images, working on page layout, or managing technological issues 2. What I’ve noticed, however, is how much energy these activities take from me. I typically gain a great deal of satisfaction from them, particularly with writing, but they each have a significant set of demands on my psyche. Writing, in particular, requires me to shut the world out. I simply cannot write when familiar voices are around me, and tend to become irritated when chatter invades my consciousness 3.
Reading, on the other hand, re-energizes me. I love being swept up into a book and, while I can find it difficult to pull myself out of the story once I’m invested, I don’t need to control my surroundings in order to read. My kids can be playing video games, my wife can be watching a show, and my world might be filled with noise, but when I’m reading it all fades back to near quiet. In that quiet space, my spirit is renewed. I’ve always known reading was essential activity for my well-being, but I’m only now beginning to understand how essential it is. No other form of entertainment fills me with psychological energy like reading. Movies, TV Shows, Sports 4, and video games are fun diversions — but they don’t help to keep me moving forward 5.
Reading, which is really the process of allowing my imagination to wander in someone else’s head, somehow allows me the freedom to recharge, as if stepping outside my own daydreams gives my imagination permission to rest and recoup. This is something I’ll have to ponder further.
- A “freebie” I’d been putting off reading. ↩
- People don’t often think of it this way, but working with computers, and particularly computer problems requires creative thinking. ↩
- Unfamiliar voices, on the other hand, are easily quieted as white noise. I can write in a noisy coffee shop without a problem, but if someone I know is talking on the phone or laughing at a show even several rooms away I cannot focus. ↩
- Being a Philly sports fan, sports really only fills me with despair. ↩
- Minecraft might be a notable exception. There’s something about that game which fascinates me. ↩