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The sad truth behind why I don't read books any more.

All bookish, writerish types will attest, there’s nothing more we love to do than cram down your throat the fact that we LOVE TO READ. Love it. Reading is like oxygen to us. I mean, whilst I’m not entirely convinced that a writer’s love of reading isn’t some kind of self-flagellation/ competitive comparison to our peers; the fact remains.

We. Love. To. Read.

And yet, in a schedule that still allows for a bath every Sunday and at least an hour wandering aimlessly around a Westfield wondering how they make Lush soap look so edible, I do not actively carve out any time to read.

I mean, I read Facebook. I read Instagram captions. I read emails, I read the news pieces for work, and I read fixer listicles like How To Reduce Your Blackheads Using Coconut Oil, but I don’t read books. And, as someone who is a life-long reader and literary lover, this really sucks.

My childhood was spent in the world of books.

Yes, I mean that my mind was skipping gleefully around the fictional worlds of Judy Blume and Enid Blyton; but I also mean quite literally in that I would sit among piles of books. I was a hungry and voracious reader who thundered through book after book, my wild imagination always craving more. As I grew older and begun writing myself, the craftsmanship of writers like Nick Cave and Murakami would have me grinning wryly as I marvelled at their talent.

And then, at a point I cannot quite remember, but know without question must exist, I stopped.

Why?

Well for starters, I have forgotten how to relax.

At the end of a facial last weekend, my beautician winced at me as she pressed the 20th different type of essential oil into my face – “You find it hard to relax, don’t ya honey?”

“Huh? What? Why?” I blinked at her, feeling like she had just discovered my penchant for stealing our neighbours socks off the clothesline.

“Your body is so tense, and your eyes were moving around like you were distracted.”

Well, she was right. I wasn’t relaxed. I mean, my left arm had gone to sleep under the weight of the terry towelling layers, but my mind was alert and awake, listening out for the cry of my iPhone, and mentally jotting down my grocery list for the week.

The modern mind is a flittering bird, zipping from thought to thought, device to device, distraction to distraction; before being slammed to the ground when we pass out from exhaustion at night. Dead birdie.

I’m too busy to read. Wait, no. I’m too tired to read. No, I’m too STRESSED to read.

I suffer from Red Cordial Syndrome.

Like every discerning mid-twenties female, I work hard to incorporate some soothing and holistic practices in my working week to bring my mind down off work, and give my nerves a chance to nap. I have baths, I listen to tibetan singing bowl music (for at least 5 minutes), I light fancy candles, I practice yoga, I even stop sometimes on my walk home to sit on the beach and perve on the surfers contemplate the beautiful ocean.

And yet, as soon as I open a book, my mind turns into a bouncy ball in a padded room. WHAT’S FOR DINNER? It yells. DID YOU WRITE BACK TO THAT WORK EMAIL? It shouts. HAVE YOU EVER THOUGHT ABOUT HOW WEIRD IT IS THAT YOU GROW FINGERNAILS IN YOUR STOMACH WHEN YOU HAVE A BABY? It rants. Like a kid at a party, my mind is bobbing around in red cordial and it’s not…wanting to, uh – what was I saying?

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There’s too much to do.

According to Dawson’s Creek, once upon a time young people used to lead simple lives, swimming in lakes and drinking a mere handful of beers on someone’s veranda whilst wearing non-ironic plaid shirts.

Well, life’s changed.

My evenings and weekends, formally known as “down time” are consumed with endless loads of washing, searing tequila hangovers, work, tequila-induced gym guilt, gym, work, and tequila. Finding the time to kick back with a book, and relax enough to actually read said book is fairly unlikely.

The book culture is dead.

Oh, I know. It’s a pretty morose statement.

But to be honest, the book-sharing, book-loving, book-wormy culture is on the decline. And what a shame that is. My partner’s gorgeous mother Jill and her friends all met in a book club, almost 20 years ago now. They were from various parts of the world, having freshly landed in Sydney and looking to connect with like-minded women. It was a friendship forged over chapters and wines and favourite characters, with their love of books connecting them as intellects, mothers, wives, and friends.

Maybe it’s time we bring this back? Do I know anyone who can read? Apply within.

And yet, the real excuse is the worst of all: there is no excuse. I have just allowed my mind to become lazy.

Sure, we can sit back and blame our iPhones, or iPads, or TVs, or Netflix, or Facebook, or Instagram, or Tequila for not reading, but at the end of the day – it’s just because our minds lack the discipline they once did. I know that I speak for many when I say I can barely type 500 words before my mind begins to stray and I pick up my phone for a quick scroll. The thing about a book is that it will never demand your attention.

It won’t beep at you, or flash up messages, or read ‘urgent’ – it will just sit there until you’re good and ready to give it the time it deserves. To read a book is to consciously sit down and switch on, ignoring all other distractions and letting the rusty cogs of your imagination (largely unused these days) churn along and create something wonderful in your head.

So there you go.

I reckon tonight I’m going to jump on my email and create a new ‘Out Of Office’ notice that reads:

“Thanks for your email. I’m going to be unavailable this Saturday from 3pm to 5pm because I’m sitting on my arse and reading a book. Thanks!”

Are you an avid reader? How do you make time to relax and read?

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