So, as a follow up to my previous post, I thought I’d address one of the questions that’s been coming in quite a bit – the question of how I incorporate reading into my day to day life. Actually, this question has been coming in a lot, ever since my 2016 year-end wrap post (The Year of Learning) where I detailed each book I read in 2016, almost all along the lines of: I want to read more, but I have no time..
Well, newsflash guys. No one has more time than another person. We all make time.
Anyway, I thought I’d once and for all detail the ways that I incorporate reading into my life. This post is for those of you who already want to read more and just dont know how, so please don’t leave comments saying like “oh but i could be watching tv” or “but what if I want to sleep more” because that’s not the point ok, the point is that you WANT TO READ MORE. Okay? Okay.
1. Read during your transitionary hours.
I count transitory hours as hours you spend not actually doing your work or social life or whatever, but time spent transiting from one stage to the other. So Home to Work. Work to Dinner. Dinner to Home. Etcetera. I have said this several times on different platforms, but I might as well say it here too. One major pet peeve of mine is realising how much time I’ve wasted on trains, buses, so on and so forth, just mindlessly flipping through Facebook or instagram, looking at dumb articles I don’t care about or that will never affect my life in any way. We spend an insane amount of time on social media as a generation, and while I love my platforms and the way they help me stay updated on my friends’ lives and so on, there is such a thing as spending too much time on it. I honestly don’t care about half the videos I watch on my social feeds, about this fish that did this amazing thing or that turkey that couldnt stop walking in a circle. And then you look up and you’ve reached your train stop and an hour has gone by. A whole hour!
Instead, start carrying books around with you. Read on trains, buses, taxis, whatever. Assuming your commute to work is a healthy forty minutes, that’s forty minutes of solid reading per day. Don’t look at your phone for those forty minutes, the world will go on fine without you, it wont fall apart, especially not at freaking 8am in the morning.
This is also one of the major reasons why I very much like taking the train back at night, especially on nights I’m so tired I’m tempted to cab home (I mean, cmon, with all the Uber and Grab price wars, it’s getting seriously tempting…). I really like my transitory reading times, and the fact that I can read in a well lit train all the way home is really a huge plus for me, especially when I’m in the middle of a super good book and want all the time I can get to read it!
2. Keep books at your workplace.
I always have three or four books at my office space because I might want something to read when I’m having lunch. To be fair, this is because I usually have lunch at my desk, it’s a freelancer thing. When youre paying rent for your desk you dont really want to go out and take nice lunch breaks because ITS HUSTLE TIME BABY. And it’s usually a quick lunch – so usually I either eat at my desk or go to the roof with my takeout, and get in one or two chapters there.
Another thing that I find happens, is that sometimes I get really mentally tired at my desk when I’ve been working on a project for too long. So sometimes I give myself twenty minute breaks in between to refresh my mind by reading a chapter of a book, and after that when I go back to my work I find that taking my mind completely away from the project and coming back to it later renders me fresher and able to see it more objectively!
3. Be flexible with your reading habits.
By this I mean, be open to reading not just paper bound books, but books in different forms. I know it’s not always feasible to carry a book around with you when youre carrying too many things that day or if you just dont have space in your bag, so then just read it off your phone!
I have a kindle fire tablet that I bought from Amazon during a black friday sale for like fifty bucks two years ago, and I use that cos it’s insanely tiny and essentially a portable library at my fingertips. But even then, sometimes I ditch the tablet for my phone’s kindle app, because it syncs my books across in the cloud, and I can pick up from the exact page I left off in my phone! This, of course, requires that you either procure free copies of books online, or purchase them from the Amazon e-bookstore, but I find that e-books tend to be cheaper and go on sale frequently, so why not?
Another app that I find very useful is the Overdrive app that I discovered last year. As you can tell, I am all about the app life. But seriously, though, Overdrive is awesome. It’s a library app in your phone where you can “borrow” titles from your neighbourhood library and read them for free on your phone or desktop app. So because I am a member of the National Library (i think every Singaporean is, automatically?) and also NTU’s library, I can just search for titles that I want to read from their electronic book repository, and loan them out into my phone. Then, just like normal library books, after a certain number of days they just expire and you have to return them or renew the loan. It’s insane! We are living in the future!
The best part? THESE APPS ARE FREE. FREE, I SAY!
And when I said be flexible with your reading habits, I didn’t just mean learning to transition between paper and e-books. Audio books are also a great option. I have friends who listen to audio books when they drive, or when they go to the gym. I mean, it’s a great way of consuming content when you don’t necessarily have your hands or eyes free to hold and read a book. You can borrow audiobooks from Overdrive, mentioned above, or purchase them from Audible (first book free). For shorter reads, you can even listen to them on youtube. I super love listening to Neil Gaiman’s short stories on youtube, because he frequently reads his own stories so you dont just get some random voice. And I also really enjoyed listening to the War of the Worlds radio drama – it’s so realistic that when it was played in the UK back in 1938, people rioted and panicked because they honestly thought aliens had invaded. Haha!
I mean, of course you’ll personally prefer one form over the other. I personally love reading hard copy books, nothing quite beats the experience of the turned page for me. But I’m not violently opposed to the other two forms – at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me how I’ve read it, just that I have.
4. Get short stories delivered directly to your email inbox
So maybe you want to read more, but dont have the stamina for full novels, or maybe don’t want to commit to purchasing entire books (though you really should). That’s fine too. Many of my favourite pieces of literature come in the form of short stories or poems, which I read online for free. These are easily digestible, low commitment, and you can also read them anywhere as long as you have an internet connection – on your phone, at your workplace, while waiting for your friends to show up for dinner, while queueing for lunch, etcetera.
One of my favourite tips for easily reading more is signing up for the Library of America’s free Story of the Week email service. It’s not super widely publicised, but you can sign up at this link, and they will email you a free short story every single week! And they’re good stories too, all of which have been published in reputable places, and most of which I’ve enjoyed. And as workaholic singaporeans, we are already so used to checking and reading our emails all the time, that this is really the perfect fit for us.
Other ways of getting stories delivered to you is to sign up for the newsletters of really great fiction magazine sites. My favourites are Catapult Magazine, which has a fantastic fiction repertoire, The New Yorker’s Fiction Magazine, The New York Times Modern Love Column, the Two Serious Ladies tumblr blog, and for very short fiction (under a thousand words) – I like Wigleaf.
5. Commit to a bedtime routine with books
This is as simple as it sounds – it’s just carving out time to read. You know how some people schedule in time for exercise and treat it like any other appointment? Do the same for books. If you know you want to read more, then make an effort and commitment to doing it!
Personally, for me this takes the form of an hour’s ‘no electronics’ reading time before bed each night. This started because I read somewhere that looking at any sort of electronic screen an hour before you go to bed affects your quality of sleep + how easily you fall asleep, and I seriously love my sleep. So I started making an effort to take an hour before bed each night to read. I keep a line of books by my bed head, and change those books every month or so, so there’s always new stuff on hand to read. How do I have so many books to change around, you ask? Well, I buy them – either at bookstores, online at bookdepository.com (free worldwide shipping!), or at those pop up fairs. More than half the books I’ve bought were like five bucks and below; I am not opposed to buying somebody’s cast offs, to me that just means that someone else had the chance to love them too. And I get a lot of books as gifts, people have just taken to buying me books on my birthday and on other occasions because everyone knows I read and I’d like to think people get excited about sharing their favorite reads with another person too 🙂
Now, of course, realistically, I am not able to do this every night. Some nights I am too damned tired. Some nights I get home late after going out with friends and all I want to do is crawl into bed and sleep. Some nights my brain will no longer function to absorb words (please remember, after all, that my day to day work when I’m not filming involves nonstop reading and writing, essentially), and so I’d rather watch a bedtime movie instead. And some nights I can only manage half an hour, not one full one.
But I think the point is that I have mentally committed to my hourly bedtime routine, and so more often than not, I do. And the hour of reading I get before bed adds up so fast, before I know it, I’ve gotten through two, three books a week, and am ever the better for it.
So yes. Hope some of these are useful to you – I mean, I think they are super solid tips, so boo to you if you dont think so! Hahahahaha. But yeah like I said at the start of this post, i expect that I’m preaching to the converted lah. This post is really for people who love to read and want to read more, or who want to start reading more even though they are not habitual readers, and so I think if you adopt even one or two out of the five tips above you’ll find that your reading capacity will expand exponentially. 🙂
Ta, guys. That’s it, for now. All the best with your reading resolutions – I’m off, now, to keep up with mine. x