Blogging Insights — Reading is Fundamental

Blogging insightsFor this edition of Blogging Insights, Dr. Tanya wants to know if reading is fundamental to being a blogger. She asks:

Do you think that reading is an important prerequisite for writing well? If so, what kind of reading material inspires or affects your writing?

Yes, I do. I can’t imagine being able to write well if you’re not also well read. Back in the day I used to be a voracious reader. I’d typically go through fifty to sixty books a year. I’d read books on the commuter trains I used to take to get to and from work. I’d read books on the many long airplane flights I had to take for my job. And I’d read for in bed about 30 to 60 minutes each night before going to sleep at night

But that was before the internet, before connected computers, before smartphones, before newsfeeds, before 24-hour cable news networks, before streaming services. Now I don’t read more than a half a dozen books a year, if that. Most of my reading these days is done on my iPhone. Specifically my newsfeed and the WordPress reader.

What kind of reading inspires my writing these days? Well, it’s mostly the articles that pop up on my newsfeed, those posts I come across in the WordPress reader, and things I see in my newspaper or in magazines.

So, bottom line, one way or another,DB368155-D086-431C-AE74-E8EC1FEE142A

Fandango’s Friday Flashback — January 3

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of you earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember?

Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year.

How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year? You can repost your Friday Flashback post on your blog and pingback to this post. Or you can just write a comment below with a link to the post you selected.

If you’ve been blogging for less than a year, go ahead and choose a post that you previously published on this day (the 3rd) of any month within the past year and link to that post in a comment.

This was originally posted on January 3, 2013 on my old blog.

Reading is Fundamental

6D858B2A-593D-49FF-A0C9-FBE09D6B6E32Here’s something few people know about me. I once was a voracious reader. Yeah, I know. Looking at how I spend my discretionary time these days, that’s hard to believe. I bet my own kids have never seen me pick up a book and read it unless it had something to do with my job.

Seriously, though, back in the day, when I was an avid reader, I immersed myself in suspense and conspiracy as I devoured books by authors such as Robert Ludlam and Ken Follett. James Clavell transported me to the intrigues of feudal Japan and the early days of Hong Kong, while James Michner guided me on exotic adventures across the globe spanning eons.

Robin Cook thrilled me with medical mysteries and John Gresham and Scott Turow got me all tangled up in legal shenanigans and courtroom chicanery. Stephen King and Dean Koontz sent chills of horror up and down my spine.

Philip Roth, JD Salinger, and John Irving helped me put into perspective the angst of growing up and the struggles and challenges of being a flawed human being. Issac Asimov, Ray Bradury, and Frank Herbert launched me through the time and space continuum to worlds beyond my imagination. And JRR Tolkein introduced me to Bilbo and Frodo Baggins and the Middle Earth.

During my reading days I would leverage the 30 to 60 minutes on the commuter trains each way between home and work to travel to far away places. On flights for business I would spend my time not only getting to my reality destination, but also being carried away to other times, other worlds, and even other identities. And rather than automatically turning on the TV each night, I would pick up a book and read myself to sleep. I typically got through maybe two to three novels a week back then.

Who Has Time to Read Fiction These Days?

But that was before myriad cable channels beckoned and DVRs turned us all into time-shifters. That was before the proliferation of laptops, netbooks, and tablets that you carry with you instead of leaving behind at the office or at home. That was before BlackBerrys, iPhones, and Android devices transformed us into always-connected workaholics or gossip-mongers needing to know what every one of our hundreds of “friends” is doing in real-time via our addictions to Facebook and Twitter.

Oh no! I forgot to “check in” at the place we ate dinner last night.

Now, as a telecommuter, I work from home, so I no longer have time to kill (and read) on commuter trains. When my job requires me to spend hours on an airplane, most of it is spent on my laptop, preparing for the meeting I’m about to attend, or documenting my notes from the one I just attended. Rather than picking up a book in my “down time” at home, I catch up on all of those TV shows we recorded on our DVR.

Reading for pleasure seems like a distant memory to me. And yet, in the far reaches of my mind, I have this vague recollection of delightful escapism when I sat down with a novel that transported me to times, places, and events far and wide; that introduced me to all kinds of wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful, but certainly colorful) characters.

New Year’s Readolutions

As it’s that time of the year to make resolutions, I have decided to resolve to read no less than 24 books this year. A wide variety of books, but mostly novels of all kinds — historical, science fiction, fantasy, mystery, thrillers, humorous, whatever.

To that end, I downloaded the free Kindle app on my iPad and, being the cheap son-of-a-bitch that I am, immediately went to the “free books” section.

I “bought” two books, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables and a murder mystery by an author I’d never previously heard of, L.L. Bartlett, called Murder on the Mind.

I admit that I could barely make it through the first few pages of Hugo’s sweeping novel that served as the inspiration for my favorite stage musical. I decided to shift gears and try something a little less formidable for my initial reentry into reading for fun, and the Bartlett novel was perfect…a quick, engaging read.

So let’s see if I can manage to read at least two books a month this new year. I’m feeling pretty confident. And maybe I’ll even be able to get through Les Mis before the year is over.

Leigha Wants To Know

DD53D39B-1DF9-4920-9B55-4F162E05C4B4Leigha Robbins, a lovely, poetic blogger, just received a well-deserved Real Neat Blog Award from Sadje, over at Keep It Alive.

Leigha posed seven questions, as per the rules for the Real Neat Blog Award. But as a self-confessed rule breaker, Leigha said that “I don’t want anyone left out. So, you are ALL nominated. Please join in and have some fun! Now for my questions for all of you.”

Thanks, Leigha. I’m going to take you up on that.

What is your favorite type of writing (poetry, flash fiction, stream of consciousness)?

You didn’t specify whether your talking about writing or reading, so I’ll answer from both perspectives. I enjoy writing flash fiction and I’m a regular participant on Linda G. Hill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. So I like writing both. Now, when it comes to writing poetry, I suck at it, so I rarely even try.

As to what kind of writing I like reading, I enjoy all three types.

If you use prompts, what kind do you like (picture, word, phrase, set number of words, etc)?

Yes! 😉

What is your favorite pet you have had or want to get?

We have a 14 year-old dog and an 11 year-old cat and I love them both equally (except when our cat bites and scratches me, which is a daily occurrence).

Since this is close to Halloween, do you like scary movies?

I used to in my younger days, but not so much these days. I do like psychological thrillers and suspenseful movies. Just not the gory, blood and guts kind.

Have you ever seen a movie based on a book that was better than the book?

The only one I can think of was the movie version of Ira Levin’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” the one with Mia Farrow. I enjoyed the book, but I thought the movie did an excellent job of capturing the dark, sinister mood of the book.

Do you prefer coffee or tea?

Without question, coffee. My mother used to make me drink hot tea with a spoonful of honey in it whenever I got sick as a kid. So even now, I still associate hot tea with being sick.

If you listen to it, when do you start to play Christmas music?

If I never hear another Christmas song for the rest of my life, it will be too soon.

Anyone else care to answer Leigha’s questions?

Guilty Reader Extra Credit

Set of different books on a white backgroundIn this post from Marilyn Armstrong, she wrote that “Fandango plucked these from the blog of Melanie who picked them up from Teresa. Interesting book questions for those of us who read.”

Well, the truth is that Marilyn gave me credit for something I didn’t actually do. I know that Melanie got the questions from Teresa, but no one got them from me because I never “plucked” these questions from anyone nor answered them.

However, since Marilyn was kind enough to credit me for having plucked them, and since I am a reader, I have decided to pluck them from her and answer them now.

1-Have you ever re-gifted a book that you’ve been gifted?

I once received a coffee table book as a gift, but I never really liked it. So I gave it to someone from work at an office Secret Santa thingie. I don’t remember what book it was.

2-Have you ever claimed to have read a book when you haven’t?

At the risk of sounding like the now former Attorney General, I can’t recall making such a claim.

3-Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?

Once again, I don’t recall having done so. And these days, virtually all of my books are ebooks contained within the Kindle app on my iPhone, so it’s kind of a moot question.

4-Have you ever read a series out-of-order?

Not intentionally, but I remember starting a book and I didn’t realize when I started reading it that it was the second book of a trilogy. Once I figured that out about a quarter of the way through the book, I stopped reading it and then started reading the first book in the series.

5-Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?

No, I don’t think so. At least not intentionally.

6-Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?

Yes. I’ve read most of James Michener’s books and if you’re familiar with his novels, you know he spends a lot of time and many pages at the beginning of some of his books going into great detail about the history relevant to the locale, like the ancient geological formations of islands or the evolution of horses in a particular part of the world. I admit to having skimmed (or skipped) some of those early chapters in several of Michener’s books.

7-Have you ever bad-mouthed a book you actually liked?

No! Why would anyone badmouth a book they liked?

How I Spend My Time

Some of you are aware that I use my iPhone for blogging. I have the iOS WordPress app, which I use for reading and responding to comments on my posts and for reading what other bloggers I follow have posted and for commenting on their posts .

But for writing my posts I use my iPhone’s Safari browser to log onto WordPress because it’s easier to use for composing posts than the WordPress app for iOS editor. And it gives me a real-time word counter, which comes in handy for prompts with word limits.

Why my iPhone and not my laptop? I do it because I can read, comment, and post from anywhere. My bed, my living room, the dining room, my backyard, on a bus, at the park. And, if I do say so myself, I have become quite adept at using my iPhone’s virtual keypad.

Anyway, a few days ago I downloaded iOS 12, the latest iPhone operating system, to my iPhone. I have found a few quirky things (i.e., bugs), which I’m sure (hope) will be addressed in iOS 12.1. But one of the new features on iOS 12 is something called “Screen Time.” It keeps track of how much time you spend on your iPhone and how you’re spending that time.

Out of curiosity, last night before I went to bed, I checked Screen Time. And I’ll be honest with you, what I saw shocked me.D06C4129-5193-4F1D-8ED1-01A160F5EFBE.jpegOf the 17 hours I was awake yesterday (from 6 am to 11 pm), I spent 10½ using my iPhone. And of those 10½ hours, I spent 6¾ hours blogging — either reading, commenting, responding to comments, or posting.

In other words, I spent 61% of my waking hours on my iPhone, which is just nuts. But of those 10½ hours, I spent on my iPhone, nearly two-thirds of it was spent related to blogging.

I’ve been awake so far today for 2½ hours. That time includes taking a shower, getting dressed, fixing and eating breakfast and reading the newspaper. And yet, of that 2½ hours, I spent 1½ hours on my iPhone, one hour and 20 minutes of which were spent on WordPress.

I think I need to rethink how I’m spending my time.