I know this is about as late as it can be considering how fast time moves in internet-land but I want to talk about my New Year's Resolution for 2017. I'm usually not a fan of them. I find they're frequently abused as a crutch. By placing such an emphasis on transforming ourselves at the beginning of a brand new year we allow ourselves to put off making good changes for later. It's a sort of mass-procrastination. "Why start going to the gym now? I can make it my New Year's resolution and attack 2017 with a fresh mind. I'll get it all out of my system during the holidays."
It's easy to do. I fall into the trap myself sometimes. But New Year's resolutions can be effective if you set a small and reasonable goal. I rather like the symmetry and congruence of starting off fresh in a nascent year full of nothing but opportunity and optimism. Many people do and that's why we celebrate the end of the year anyway.
With that in mind I set a humble goal for myself in 2017: READ MORE BOOKS.
I was a voracious reader when I was younger. I tore through novel after novel, mostly high fantasy like Tolkien or any science fiction resembling Star Wars. I fell off the wagon a bit, like some kids do, after being forced to read "the classics" in high school and college. Fun fact: having to read Hamlet for the third time in my sophomore year English class was the final straw that made me transfer to film school.
As I got older, I found more distractions. Video games. Facebook. Twitter. Reddit. I stopped reading. A couple months ago, I realized the internet itself was destroying my attention span and probably some important parts of my brain. With so much content to choose from, I could skim through articles, comments, and posts without retaining anything. As soon as I approached being bored, I could look at something new within seconds. That's not even getting specific with how awful it is to spend time online in 2017. Given the controversial election and even more controversial man in the White House, reading the news is a daily exercise in dread. Being the masochist that I am I also dive into the comments and come away feeling utterly defeated.
I decided to save my brain and read more books in 2017. You should consider it too.
I don't want to see a 4,000 word short story online and balk. I want to re-condition my brain into the word munching machine it used to be before social media structured the neurons into a nested comment section with spare room for likes and and followers exclusively. If you feel like me, then I have good news. Read a damn book. It made me feel better. It'll probably make you feel better.
The first book I read in 2017 was Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. It challenged me. The language is gorgeous and actually forced me to pay attention and parse complex sentences. This isn't skimming the front page of Reddit. This is literature. Prickly, full of layered meaning, and deeply satisfying in the end. I felt enriched in a way I hadn't in so long. I read a damn book and it felt damn good. Now, I'm reading Richard Russo's Pulitzer-winning Empire Falls. It's a dense book with plenty of elbow room for side characters, subplots, and flashbacks. It's still entertaining as hell and doesn't involve looking at a screen, reading comments by Neo-Nazis, or being consumed by an existential crisis regarding the future of the human race. Works for me!
I never thought I'd have time to read. That was always my first and most staunch excuse: "When am I going to have time to just sit on my ass and read?" I'd ask as I sat on my ass scrolling through Facebook and watching cat videos. I got a lot of mileage out of that flawed reasoning. Like most activities that take at least a modicum of effort, I had to make the time.
And I'm so glad I did. I feel like I'm actually learning something through my reading again. So save your brain. Read some books in 2017.