The Reading Only Challenge

Not the catchiest challenge title, I know, but I think it gets the point across. This challenge is pretty straightforward: stop watching Netflix, log off social media, and start reading.

I already lost about half of you. To the other half, thanks for sticking around to at least read why anyone would do something so preposterous. But you’ve been warned- you’re about to be challenged to do something that will benefit your writing career more than anything you’ve tried yet, and it’s not going to be easy.

“How will this help me?”…

…you might ask. Good question.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King.

That’s a quote from one of those authors a few of you might know. Chances are, you already knew reading was a good way to become a better writer. But if you’re like me, then you also don’t read as much as you should. You might say something (also like me) like…

“I don’t have time to read.” – Every other writer.

That might be valid, but only at a glance. The truth is, we all have snatches of time here and there, but we spend them on social media and Netflix. Maybe you only have 30 minutes between classes, 15 minutes on the subway home, or 20 minutes between dinner and when you need to get to bed. Those bite-sized amounts of time are consumed by Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and Tumblr to name a few. Why not spend these 15-30 minutes gaps reading a chapter or two of a novel?

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That’s not even including the times when we hunker down and watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead or New Girl. Those 30 min or even 2-hour gaps are absolutely crucial. If you used all the time you spent watching Netflix to read books, you would see an increase in the quality of your writing almost immediately.

“But Caleb, reading takes energy now-a-days. I can’t focus! I just want to relax.” – Possibly You

That’s exactly how I felt when I first started this. My mind kept drifting off and thinking about other things- did I hear my phone go off? Did I remember to respond to the comment on my Instagram? Man, I’m hungry…

The truth is, reading isn’t like it used to be. We aren’t kids anymore. The world got fast and complicated, and now we have to keep up. The rabbit-hole nature of the internet has shortened our attention spans and limited our focus.

So here’s my advice- TRY! I’ve been doing this challenge for about a week, and I have already felt the results! I can focus longer each time, and I look forward to when I can crack open my book and escape for a while to another world. This is drastically different than when reading was a chore on my checklist. How did this happen? Well, when you don’t have the instant gratification (I know, I hate that phrase too) of social media and the binge-y qualities of Netflix, reading becomes the best form of entertainment available!

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“Something amazing happens when you keep reading. The magic returns, and you feel like a kid again.” – Caleb.

Cheesy? Absolutely. True? Absolutely-er.

The truth is, reading lengthens your attention span and improves your ability to focus. This has transferred into many aspects of my life, namely my studies! Calculus 2 problems that take 15 minutes a pop seem manageable, and reading my textbook is actually not that bad. But more important than that…

“Reading improves your ability to write. You develop a keen ear for how your genre should sound.” – Caleb.

I know writers that, when you read their work, it feels like you’re reading writing. Reading should never sound like writing, it should sound like a story. Truthfully, I’m guilty of this too sometimes, especially since I’ve been slacking on reading. But now, just after a week of reading about an hour a day, I already feel like I have a better understanding of how to capture that magical essence of a story.

“So what’s the actual challenge?”- You.

I haven’t made the challenge official, but I’m thinking of doing it in March (comment what you think). But until then, here’s your “free trial” if you will…

  • Log out of Netflix for a week
  • Log off all social media for a week
  • Block YouTube on your computer/delete it from your phone
  • Read 30 mins – 1 hour a day (or however much you can manage)
  • Sit back and enjoy the results

Obviously, there are a few small exceptions (like if you manage accounts for your work). For those, I would say to do only what you must, then log off before you get sucked in.

Well, I hope you all give this challenge a shot! If you already read, awesome! Keep doing it. For the rest of us, I would love to hear how this affects your life!

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HAPPY READING!

 

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Until next time! – Caleb Robinson

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