When I Have Trouble Reading…
  Up Late    September 23, 2016     Eric Larkin


An unheralded virtue of reading is its uncluttering effect.


When I have trouble reading, several things might be going on:

– I could be bored with the book.

– Some dunderhead could be trying to talk to me, as if I wasn’t clearly occupied.

– There could be construction happening right outside a nearby window, with its accompanying noise. (That, in fact, is what is happening right now.)

… and so on.

But often, what is happening is this: unfinished biz.

I may have something I need to deal with that I have been trying to avoid.


When I have read the same paragraph at least 3 times and have failed to tune in, it is a good idea to put the book down, and do a bit of mental/emotional cleanup. I’ll maybe set a timer for 15 minutes, so I’m consciously focusing (and don’t just end up in the kitchen making nachos 5 minutes later). I won’t do anything but watch the thoughts go by, as I look for the thing that sticks out. The thing that sticks out, the little bump that’s moving around under the blanket of my awareness, that nudge on my brain I have to make an effort to ignore – it’s that. It could be something mundane, like getting that oil change, or it could be something deeper, like reconciling a difficult relationship.


Reading requires a lot of interior space; you’re building an entire mental & emotional world out of the words on the page. Any undealt-with issues are like tree stumps or giant boulders in the middle of a field: you can’t do any serious building until you remove them. It’s irritating as hell – and really puts the lie to folks who think of reading as “merely” an escape – but what an amazing safety check for your life. Before that thing festers or you miss that deadline or that opportunity, there’s Miss Havisham or Jon Snow wagging their finger at you, “Yo – don’t you have a phone call you need to make? Go do that. We’ll be here when you’re done.”

So go do the thing.


Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t read as a method of avoidance. It uses too much of me to not have to do a bit of cleanup first.

TV, on the other hand….




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