Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Reading, Computers, and the Demands of Work Life

What a heavenly vacation I just had: I spent most of it reading a pile of books. I got up early in the morning and read (while feeling slightly guilty that I didn't have any desire to go out to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic). My mom and I went to AquaAerobics every morning, and then I took my book to the pool, where I read most of the day.

I always feel a bit of relief when I return to reading books. I read a lot during the course of a week, but much of it isn't anything I would choose to read. Reading a week's worth of e-mails upon my return to the office reminds me of that fact. I read a lot of online things, and much of it I treasure: the ability to read The Washington Post online, a variety of blogs, intriguing articles from magazines that most libraries wouldn't carry. But I also spend a lot of time reading absolute drivel.

And then I worry that my ability to concentrate has been shot. Going on vacation reminds me that the problem isn't with my concentration skills.

I used to think that television was the problem. But now, when I watch T.V., I fall asleep almost instantly. Likewise, I used to watch a lot of movies. Now I tend to watch in binge sessions while quilting.

So, is it my computer or the demands of work that sap my ability to read whole books? Some of both, I suspect. I sit down to read The Washington Post and The New York Times, and then I bop around from blog to blog, and before I know it, my morning is over. Then I go to work, and my reading options dim and die for the day.

Being on vacation meant that I didn't have to work for 40 hours last week--and I filled that time with reading. Heaven!

I didn't want to be that person that I saw who brought his laptop down to the kiddie pool so that he could do whatever computer things needed doing, while his kids played in the pool. I declared a computer moratorium last week. It was quite refreshing. I wanted to be more present than I usually am to the humans in my life. One day when I slipped and checked my work e-mail (just for a few minutes!), I woke up at 2 in the morning thinking about work issues. Grrr. I don't even have a job that makes too many demands, so I can't imagine how I'd be if I had one of those jobs that requires a constant online presence in addition to the office presence.

People always ask me why I don't read in the office, but I've found that if I'm reading on the computer screen, people assume I'm working, whereas if I'm reading a real book (even if it's a book that addresses educational issues or a book that keeps me current in my field), people seem to assume that I'm shirking my work duties. So, if I have a bit of free time at work, I'm likely to read online things.

If I was a smarter time manager, I'd work on poetry at work. Poetry publication can be seen as professional development for me, and working on a poetry document looks like working to people who walk by my office. I did go through my old poetry notebooks to flag the poems I want to use in a manuscript that I want to assemble in the fall. Other than that, I didn't focus on writing. I just immersed myself in delicious reading. It's good to know that I can still do that.

Tomorrow I'll write a bit about what I read. It wasn't just beach-trashy reading. I feel fortified and refreshed. I wish I had a job that paid me real money and benefits to read by the pool--don't resorts need to hire people who will pose as tourists and report back to the parent company about how their resorts are run? I would be willing to be that person!


Shefali Shah Choksi said...

sounds really heavenly. i'd love to get a vacation like that, again, especially with the book i am immersed in now, the grahame-smith that is so wonderful. and i agree: why can't we get paid for reading? and reading next to water! now THAT is a consummation devoutly to be wished for!

Kristin said...

The only thing that would make the scenario better is homemade candies and frosty beverages!