Reading Hesitation and The Bathroom Test

Do you ever find yourself staring at a book (or even a stack of books) fresh from the library, books that you picked out because they appealed to you in the moment, or that you read about and found intriguing, and then having real trouble reading one?

I don’t mean that the reading itself is hard. Or that you don’t have time and never get to it. I mean the book is there, the words “A Novel” on the cover a tantalizing invitation, and yet it takes a bit of strength to pick it up and start it. I struggle with that right now.

I have an informal metric for books that I call “The Bathroom Test.” I leave a book I’m reading in the bathroom, where it can have my attention at least a few minutes a day. When nature calls, if I remember the book is there, but pick something else to read instead, the book has failed the test. It’s clear I’m just not invested in it, not interested in what comes next. If, however, I remember where the book is and make sure to visit that particular bathroom, then the book has doesn’t fail.

It’s a silly test, but my stack of new books are all failing. I can’t be bored with something I haven’t read, so what is it? I’ve pondered this, and I think the answer is: the learning curve. This is something that’s kept me from starting video games about which I’m otherwise excited. I know I will make mistakes (ask my about shooting the bucket and punching rats to death in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion) and I just don’t wanna go through the hassle.

Every book has a learning curve. It takes a while to orient yourself, learn the characters and the setting. I know if I suck it up and start the book, I’ll get over that curve and probably enjoy the read, but it’s been real hard for me to get up the energy. The answer may be discipline, like with writing or exercise or learning Hungarian (84 days!). I need to put more time aside for dedicated reading, or I’m never going to get through this stack. So yes, that’s what I’ll do.

Starting next week.

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