Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Two Lazy Passions

Did you ever have a problem (or tendency) and wonder whether it is a significant weirdness on your part or if it is, in the end, quite common?

I never read much as a little kid. In fact, I barely read at all. My parents once requested a conference with my third grade teacher because of this. I mean, I could read -- even scored well on comprehension and interpretation tests -- but I just wouldn't. The teacher said, quite prophetically, "I think this boy is going to be a reader -- don't push him -- you might kill his enthusiasm. He'll read when he is ready." Well, a hundreds of books and a bachelor's and master's in literature later, I'd have to say she got it right.

I do remember two "pre-reader" experiences with books inspire my opening question, here. Once, when I was sick in bed, my mom bought me a book called The Black Stallion. (Kid meets horse; kid becomes a jockey; horse wins all kinds of races; kid and horse solve mystery -- that kind of thing.) I read the whole thing in a few days. I loved it, beginning to end. When I was well, I bought the second book: The Black Stallion and Satan. (Satan was a horse, not the Lord of Eternal Darkness.)

I put off reading that book for months. I wanted to read it. I was well-aware that I loved to read. But -- it just seemed like so much work to read a book... Eventually, I read it and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

I didn't read another book for several years. Same reason: books were long and required work. It was much easier to hang out at the arcade.

Eventually, I looked around on my full bedroom bookshelves (my parents and uncles bought me all kinds of books) and found The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne. The weather was bad that day. Pouring rain. I read the book in one sitting. You guessed right: I loved it. Still, I put it down and put off reading another.

Where does this come from? At some point or other (after reading The Hobbit in eleventh grade) I became a constant reader. But, I'll tell you, I am still very aware of the work. Every time I close a book I'm reading, I look at the top and check where the book mark is and I reflect on my progress (with some childlike pride, usually). Every time. Weird.

When I am working on music, I have similar experiences. When it came time to mix the tracks on my Hats and Rabbits CD, I put it off, over and over again. It seemed so daunting; it's quite difficult to do, really; in my opinion, one of the hardest artistic processes. But I enjoy composing, recording and mixing music more than anything on this planet -- more than reading and writing, by far. (In fact, a recording studio is my favorite environment to be in.)

So, why can't I get past this feeling -- this childish distaste for hard work, even when that hard work is my favorite activity?  Am I the only one who goes through this? Shouldn't the love of a pursuit negate the aversion to its difficulties?

I push though, obviously -- I do churn out the work, as you can probably tell. In the end, it doesn't affect me much, really. It's just the mystery that gets me. The ghost of the young, lazy reader is always floating around my skull...

I'm very interested to hear from readers as to whether they have experienced this paradox.


  1. Never thought of reading as work except for the time they made me read Thomas Hardy in school. And it wasn't work so much work as torture because I hated his style of writing. I can understand the feeling of putting off creative endeavors because it's work even though it's enjoyable. But I figure with me it's because I'm tired from working the day job and sometimes I just want to not do anything at all. The other thing is, because it's work, I have to be in the right mindset to be successful. I may work on a painting every day, but only do the "easy" parts on a day I'm tired and save more critical parts for a better day.

    1. There is always a moment when I say: "Wait -- I LIKE this hard work -- what the hell am I waiting for?" Then I dig in, happy as a lark. Odd.

  2. If anyone understands what you mean, it's me.

    What do they say: that's why it's called "art-work."

    And, as Tom Hanks says in "A Leaugue of Their Own" at least as far as creating -- "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard... is what makes it great."

    And there's another one: a great artist being interviewed (but I can't remember who) "why do you still draw?"
    The response: "Why did you stop?"

    And, as you have said: adults are just teenagers covered in scar tissue.

    I figure there are 2 components. As children we don't realize the freedom we have. Time is too expansive and we don't make the best use of it. And then we grow up and there aren't enough hours in the day for the things you have to do, no less the things you want to do.

    Once you realize that being an adult isn't always all it's cracked up to be, you can't let life, and the responsibilites of being an adult, overcome your child-like passion and wonder.

    1. I like the Tom Hanks line in relation to this, a lot. What I always temporarily forget about it that it is fun and hard at the same time.

  3. Oh, without a doubt yes. I have gone through multiple year stretches of not picking up my guitar -- even though nothing makes me happier than singing -- because picking it up means grappling with insecurity, perfectionism, competetiveness, frustration... My crafting is another area that always progresses with stops and starts, although usually for more mundane reasons like overcoming the hurdles of distasteful aspects of the project (you know, like cleaning off a workspace from under all the mess!). Reading, while a little different as I can't really make a case for it being a "creative" endeavor, is certainly also an enjoyable activity that I tend to put off. For me, though, it's because I find reading to be an all-consuming activity. In the throes of a good book, I will stay up all night, ignore my husband, let the laundry pile up... I simply can't read regularly and function :) Which leads me to be being a compulsive blog/internet reader, because--while I love your thought-provoking posts--I don't have to stay up all night to read them!

    1. Hmm...I'll have to write a 60,000 word post one of these days... It is odd, though, HC, that, even in long stretches of reading, I tend to take breaks. Not surprisingly, it is only music that I can do in marathons sessions, after I get started. Once or twice, I have actually forgotten to sleep.

  4. I suffer from it. I think it used to be called laziness but, as that's too judgemental for the times, it's changed its name to 'resistance' (an elemental force like gravity, apparently). The only thing to do with resistance is resist it, I guess.

    1. But, Z-- does it happen even with the things you enjoy most; like reading?

      Sometimes I like to resist resisting resistance and just relax, guilt free. That never seems challenging.