When I was a boy, I learned that sometimes reading is a competition. This was in an era when the words “speed reading” were bandied about as if the sheer volume of words we might consume in one sitting was important. We were graded in school on how many reading assignments we were able to complete. Being a boy with an incredible imagination, I found myself caught up in the manufactured fervor. I was an apt reader, but found, over time, that I loved reading. I snuck a flashlight into bed each night so I could read until the wee morning hours.
I loved the smell of a book, new and old. The texture of each page beneath my clumsy fingers. The ink on the page and, as my reading tastes matured, I began to notice the specific fonts. I learned why a writer told a story in a certain way. I savored every. single. word. I wanted so badly to emulate my favorites, make millions of nameless readers feel the way I felt as I journeyed through each new story. And I wanted to feel exhilirated with each turn of the page. I wasn’t the sort of reader who read merely to be able to claim that I’d read that book, or that other book. They weren’t a fast food snack. They were sumptuous feasts that demanded my devotion, my careful attention. After reading each last page, I’d lay the closed book on my chest and gaze, full of wonder and awe, at the ceiling above me, lost in the afterglow of the story.
This early love of books told me that speed reading was a ludicrous endeavor. Writers didn’t labor over their work just so I could skim across the deep, vast oceans of their lovely words.
Today, some forty years later, science has decreed that speed reading doesn’t work like a solid, careful reading works. We lose the beauty, the stunning poetry of the words. This validation, so far along in my life, reminded me why I adore great writing.
My yearning to emulate favorite writers has never left me, but has gained a certain gravitas, a deep maturity that makes the writing process a true joy to perform. I get so completely absorbed in the story that I feel blessed to be able to visit it again and again.