Reading our way out of prison

I came across a great quote on the importance of reading, through James Clear’s weekly newsletter.

It is from inventor and writer Lin Yutang:

“Compare the difference between the life of a man who does no reading and that of a man who does. The man who has not the habit of reading is imprisoned in his immediate world, in respect to time and space. His life falls into a set routine; he is limited to contact and conversation with a few friends and acquaintances, and he sees only what happens in his immediate neighborhood. From this prison there is no escape. 

But the moment he takes up a book, he immediately enters a different world, and if it is a good book, he is immediately put in touch with one of the best talkers of the world. This talker leads him on and carries him into a different country or a different age, or unburdens to him some of his personal regrets, or discusses with him some special line or aspect of life that the reader knows nothing about. An ancient author puts him in communion with a dead spirit of long ago, and as he reads along, he begins to imagine what that ancient author looked like and what type of person he was… 

Now to be able to live two hours out of twelve in a different world and take one’s thoughts off the claims of the immediate present is, of course, a privilege to be envied by people shut up in their bodily prison.”

I certain can relate to this! It’s seemed counterintuitive, spending about 1-2 hours every day on reading, and in fact, putting it on a priority higher than daily writing. I schedule reading time for immediately. It is my “first done” activity, and I do absolutely nothing else in a day until reading time is done.

At first it was an experiment. But as I’ve invested in this daily, now for about a year and a half, I only grow more and more convinced it’s the bread and butter of what gives me the strength and spontaneity I need at the keyboard later on in the day.

I especially relate to this quote because it emphasizes the importance of reading in how it breaks us out of a prison of ignorance. I’ve found that reading is not about quantity. For example, one National Geographic History article forever changed my world and forced me to confront ignorance I’d held onto since childhood and never had a medium with which to confront it and know it was wrong. I find, again and again, every time I read, I am casting off these prison bars and becoming aware of how much I know nothing, and because of this, becoming more curious, humbler, and then, realizing the extent of ignorance, I get excited because I realize just how much there is to learn, and I have a lifetime of that ahead. One day at a time.

What are you thoughts on this? Have you found if you don’t read, your writing suffers? What is your strategy to keep up on reading?

About John Robin

John Robin is an epic fantasy writer, professional editor, and lover of imaginary worlds. He write stories about magic and myth, human suffering and the power to rise above it. He loves world building, coffee shops, mathematics, chess, and is an avid author community builder.
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