Reading Habits: The Perils and Benefits of Forcing Ourselves to Read.

Photo by Gijs Coolen on

A friend recommends a television show to you. One that they guarantee you will enjoy if you just get past the first 5 season, a total of 96 40-minute-long episodes. You can’t skip it because it plays an integral part in the plot going forward and you won’t appreciate the pay-off at the series finale if you do. Would you watch the show?

Depending on your priorities and the amount of time you have on your hands, chances are that a good portion of you will say no. As much as you may appreciate your friend and enjoy television, you don’t want to dedicate 64 hours of your life to something you know you will probably not enjoy a great deal from the beginning . So why do so many of us tend to not apply the same reason to what we choose to read?

There could be important reasons that require you (whether you like it or not) to finish a book you may not have any affection towards. As discussed in one of my past articles on reading habits, It could be because you are in an industry like publishing or book blogging where you are required to read a great amount and have a well-rounded opinion about what you just read. Another reason could be because it is a requirement for a class you are taking to read certain books so that you can write an essay or pass a quiz.

More superficially, some of us may read to appear more intelligent to our colleges, family, or friends. We may also wish to simply keep up with the ongoing trends of popular bestsellers or hot topics in fiction or non-fiction. We may build up FOMO(fear of missing out) if we don’t read, regardless of whether we enjoy the book or not. If we read for these reasons, if we don’t willingly immerse ourselves in the text we are reading, the benefits may be lost to us, and the lesson may quickly fade away.

Yet the peril of reading is not simply forgetting, or wasting one’s own time, but also hurting ourselves in the process. If we choose to read a book with content discussing assault or suicide, depending on our own individual experiences, we may be triggered by the content we are reading. Old memories pop up or emotions begin to surface and we no longer feel safe in the book we are reading. It is far better to DNF a book then to put oneself through personal torment to finish it.

With that said I do wish to make a distinction between books that trigger/hurt us and books that challenge/teach us. There are plenty of books, particularly historical non-fiction, that tell uncomfortable and unsettling stories and we may wish to remain ignorant to these tales but to do so is to learn nothing from the events. Furthermore if we close ourselves off to everything outside our bubbles of comfort and interest, such as only reading romance, then we leave buried, emotions and lessons that could prove beneficial to our everyday living which lie in some other book in some other genre, from some other time, and by some other author.

Our emotions, the very ability to empathize, to look at important issues from new perspectives, to reflect on and learn from tragedies such as slavery or the Holocaust, these tools become stagnant and blunt. As important as it is to be immersed in a story we “enjoy”, it is equally important to challenge our tastes and perspectives every once in a while.

In the end, do not force yourself to read what will ale you, for fear that all of your joy for reading should disappear, unless what you read will help you understand what has ailed another, then please proceed with haste.

“Beware of the person of one book.”

Thomas Aquinas

As always, thank you so much for stopping by to read my blog. Please let me know your thoughts on this articles in the comments. Did I get something wrong, right, or did I miss something altogether? Let me know.

A Writer’s Journal Pt.1: My first flash fiction competition

Photo by Pixabay on

Hello reader. If this is your first time visiting this blog, thank you. Like so many others, it is a sincere desire of mine to be an author. As such, I felt that entering writing competitions would be a good way of both getting noticed as a writer but also force myself to stick to a project with a deadline and create something I can be proud of. My first foray into a competition since starting this blog, came a couple weeks back when I heard of an inaugural flash fiction competition run by Toronto Fan Expo and the Toronto International Festival of Authors. A competition I just participated in this past weekend.

The requirements of the competition were simple. Write, edit, revise, and submit a story of 750 words or less in 72 hours of the competition start time, and include at least one of three items listed. This year’s competition asked us to use a silver sword, a ruby book, or a ghost in our stories. This provided a much needed guidance to motivate me in creating my first short story in a while. It did not take me too long to come up with a central conflict in the story and a general idea of which item would be a centre of that conflict. That being said, as I began to write, making a point to focus on engaging the five senses of the reader, I found that the more time I invested in describing the setting and building suspense, the less time I had to give to the characters, the motivation behind the conflict, and the ultimate pay-off at the end of the tale. This competition was a reminder that while there are 1000s of good ideas for a flash fiction that could have any one of the above items mentioned, it takes great effort to turn that idea into a coherent and complete story with a beginning, middle, and end that doesn’t have the reader feeling like their time has been wasted. Even more difficult that one only has 750 words to work with.

A day went by drafting a story before I ended up starting from scratch. I could tell that at the narrative pace I was going, very little was going to happen before I ran out of words. So I started fresh with the same conflict in mind but the cause, journey, and resolution to the central conflict had evolved and changed, calling on me to both expand on the background information of the characters and their circumstances before the conflict arose. I wrote this like a memory so I needed to be careful that my passive voice as a narrator wouldn’t lull my reader to a listless sleep before they had a chance to care about the story. Once I got the details of the story down, I was able to seek the opinion of some readers to get first impressions. There were two things during this phase of the writing that I found to be incredibly helpful.

  1. Stepping away from the work to let it breathe a bit helped me collect my thoughts.
  2. Finding unanswered questions in the story and answering them.

Both of these things helped me to become more objective in evaluating the quality of my own story(as objective as one can be to one’s own work) and to fill the unanswered holes in the story that leave it confusing and incomplete.

The revision process ended up taking far longer than the time it took to come up with an idea and a first full draft. I was very lucky to still have a day and a half left to carry on with revisions before I submitted the work. Whether my story wins or loses the competition, it became a story I could be proud of because I managed to take the time for revision, to think about the unanswered questions and fill the holes. I will be sure to update you, win or lose. Overall the experience of participating in a competition of this nature was riveting, no matter what the result is, and you can bet I will be writing for more in the near future. I look forward to where this all goes.

All that is left to say is that if you find yourself entering a time-limited contest, always ensure time for revisions and time to breathe. There is no worse feeling then sending off a version of your story that you know could have been significantly improved through a few simple changes.

On Reading: A short essay on why we read and how books shape us

If you were to keep a record of the books you have read over the course of five years, would the books all tend to be in the same genre, the same type of story, with the same problems or same conflicts? Probably not. Our personal interests and challenges in life evolve, they change shape, and we tend to reflect that change in our reading. I want to spend some time talking about why we select the books we do and how they influence us. I will be discussing reasons beyond our need to simply know more or study a particular subject.

One of the first reasons we may read books is for the escape. I would ask you to consider if there has ever been a moment in your life, a day, a week, or month where the reality of a situation was either so painful or mundane that you wish you were somewhere else. When we are laying in our beds trying to sleep or in transit and we don’t wish to look at the strange faces of the people around us, we need something to distract us from our world. We need to journey to someplace else for awhile. Enter books. Whether it is fantasy, sci-fi, romance, adventure, or some other genre altogether, books allow us to drift off and imagine ourselves in a world all our own, where we can become wizards or great heroes. Yet sometimes the experience of escape is not what we are looking for at all. Instead we are searching for something lacking.

In my last article on reading habits, I talked about the idea of a book for every mood or day. To continue from that point, sometimes we want to read to feel or experience something that is repressed or hidden. This is more commonly known as catharsis and does not apply just to books but to all forms of artistic creation and expression.



noun: catharsis; plural noun: catharses

1. the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions.

The concept is typically associated with Aristotle’s Poetics, where Aristotle discusses the Ancient Greek Tragedies and the need for an audience to purge themselves of pity and fear. In this sense, we use books to get in touch with certain emotions we may not be able to fully express. Emotions such as love, anger, joy, or sadness. Beyond this release, many of us (myself included) also turn to books with the intent on deeper reflection of who we are as people or to better grasp critical events or stages in our life.

If catharsis is a massive release, like pouring water into lake, then our using books for deeper reflection is like staring at our rippled image in those same waters to try and make sense of ourselves (picture that one scene in Disney’s Mulan). For me, one such book I turned to was Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I really connected with the protagonist Charlie even though he had many challenges that I never experienced. The book allowed me to reflect more deeply on who I was as a person including the good, the bad, and the socially awkward. Reflection is a moment when we are at our most vulnerable, where we may turn our gaze towards ourselves, begin to evaluate our decisions and who we are as people. Rather than speaking to another person, you may feel more comforted in reading the story of another human being(be it real or fake) and pick from the lessons the story has to teach you to help you in your own life.

Whatever reason you pick up a book, regardless if it is for escape, catharsis, or reflection, I hope that you find what you are looking for. If you don’t, keeping searching, keep reading. There are countless books out there and similar to horcruxes, you may find pieces of yourself scattered among 100’s if not thousands.

I hope you enjoyed the first small essay on the blog. I would love to hear from you on your reasons for reading or what reading has done for you. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Reading Habits: One Book vs. Multiple Books at a time.

I am surrounded by friends who like reading a great deal(this is perhaps the greatest understatement I shall ever make). Despite the fact you and I have only just become acquainted, the above fact probably comes as little surprise to you. Don’t worry I am not going to spend an article talking about why I or my friends like reading, I want to focus on a different question. How do we read? Specifically I want to discuss some of the benefits of reading one book or multiple at a time.

In favour of reading one book at a time:

I will be upfront and say I fall into the one book club, some of the benefits I have found for reading one book at a time include the following:

  1. No need for you to lug around more than one book at a time. This point is for those who prefer to handle the physical book in their hands as supposed to an audiobook or e-book. This is particularly important for those who enjoy reading fantasy, hardcover biographies, or other books that are bound to be more than 400 pages and are thick as a brick. Carry one of these books is not so bad but having to lug around a bunch in your bag can become a real pain, both figuratively and literally. If you focus on one book, it can save both your back and your bag from trouble.
  2. You’re more immersed in the story the book is telling. For me personally, having a single story to read also means my focus is not as divided. My attention isn’t weaving between different stories, narratives, and key information. If you are only focusing on one book, chances are you spend more time in-between reading, meditating on what you just read, perhaps even discussing it in a book club.
  3. A habit that doesn’t cost as much $$$. Reading one book at a time probably means you are less likely to buy a bunch of books more frequently, putting less stress on any budget you might have. This will of course change from person to person and this issue could very well be avoided if you solely take out books from your local library, but if you don’t and you frequent your local bookstore where a single YA paperback could sell for around $13-16, reading one book at a time could save you some money, naturally spreading out your book spending.

In favour of reading multiple books at a time:

  1. It is a requirement of your job to read a lot of books. Whether you are a book reviewer, blogger, booktuber, writer, editor, bookseller, or have some role in the publishing industry, your schedule most likely does not permit you to leisurely spend your time on a single book so splitting your time between multiple is a must.
  2. A book for every mood or day. If we were to look at books the same way we look at music, then it stands to reason that as there are times when we feel more inclined to listen to one genre of music over another, the same applies to our preferences in what we read. There may simply be a day where you are not feeling like reading a horror/thriller novel and would rather read a romance instead. As a result, you have a list of books you read when the moment calls for it.
  3. The more books you read, the more books you can make room for. Some of the popular videos, booktubers like to make are the “haul” or “unhaul” videos. These are videos that exhibit the news books someone has recently received or the books they are purging from their collection. Hauling and “Unhauling” can both bring their own level of satisfaction for a reader who simply loves reading multiple books. If you have a great deal of books that you no longer have a love for, you can go all Marie Kondo on your collection,(find that spark of joy) and donate or sell some of your books, making room for new additions.

One thing that I would like to note is that whether you read one book or many at a time, it isn’t always feasible to simply buy all your books brand new from a store. As such, I want to encourage you to check out your local library services, book bank, or used book store. Chances are you will be able to find a great selection of books to borrow or purchase for a fraction of the original price and will make good use out of services or stores that may get overlooked. Either way, keep reading.

Thank you so much for reading my first official post on the new blog! Did you enjoy it or was there something you disagree with? I am sure there are a ton of positives that I did not address so if you can think of any or if you enjoyed this type of article and would like to see more in the future, let me know in the comments!

What to expect.

If you dare nothing,

then when the day is over,

nothing is all you will have gained.

— Neil Gaiman.

This quote by Neil Gaiman pretty much sums up my feelings of starting this blog. I want to become a better writer. I want to spend more time reading and talking about things I enjoy. I also want to feel and be productive. So why not a blog? This is a challenge, it is not at all grand in scope, but it is big enough that I have to take a few steps back or get on my tippy toes to see the point of it all, to see where it can go. So here I am typing a away, a train of thought, talking to you about what I want this blog to be.

Since this is a personal project and one I want to continue to have an interest in, I will set some rules for the blog:

  1. I will only write about topics involving books and related news that interests me(ie; publishing industry, literary themes, comic books, book reviews etc.).
  2. When I do write a post, I will make a point to add something new to the conversation so you, the reader, are gaining something new.
  3. I will write at least one new post a week.

If you notice that I am not keeping with the rules, feel free to send me an angry email or letter to hold me accountable. Just don’t be too mean. Mean enough so I get the point but not so mean that it breaks my spirit. I am a fragile individual. Thanks for joining me on this little journey. Let’s see where this goes.