I have always had a tendency to speed read. The main reason for this is that saying that I had completed a book always seemed more important to me than actually enjoying it. The same can be said of a lot of things I’ve done. I like pieces of opera, but not the whole thing and not all at once. I’m impatient and as Edith Wharton once wrote, “Americans like to get away from amusement almost as quickly as they like to get to it.” I have been trying to change this thinking of late.
Part of change is to acknowledge what you’re changing from, to what you’re changing to and why. I released lately that I don’t always take in what I read, I’m not always present in meetings and I don’t always listen and pay attention to music, singing or theatre performances. I catch myself being somewhere else. My thoughts drift and I although I might occupy a physical space, I’m not really “in the room”.
So, here’s the plan…I intend to actually pay attention to where I am and what I’m doing. I’ll learn to savour the written word that someone took the trouble to put down on paper. I’ll listen to the singer that spent their lives training to perfect their voice in the pursuit of art and the entertainment of others. I’ll listen when my colleagues speak, since their thoughts and ideas are no less important than mine, and the effort to speak to others is no doubt as potentially risky for them as it is for me. It takes effort to stick one’s neck out and when I don’t give something my full attention, I diminish their efforts, I devalue their time and struggle.
For this exercise, try this: Pick a book. Read a chapter quickly. Now go back and read it carefully, really taking the time to absorb what is on the page and what the author it trying to communicate. How do you perceive what you have read differently compared to the first, quick time? Did you get more out of it? Take the time to consider the author and what they were thinking or going through when they wrote it. Take note of the difference. Finally, make a list of times when you were not giving something your full attention. What were you thinking about instead and how might giving that thing or person your full attention have changed the outcome?
I’m going to go read “The Discover or Witches” for 30 minutes, quickly at first, then slowly, slowly. I might catch something new and different in the re-reading.
Have fun. Go slow.