This week, we’re chatting about reading – everything from why we all stopped reading to making it easier to pick up again. Reading is a big part of this journey I’m taking to learning about myself as a writer, and it’s a big part of anybody’s development. So let’s jump in!

No man is an island.

Neither are women, for the record.

As much as we enjoy portraying ourselves as lone wolves who don’t “need” anybody’s approval or opinions – truth is, we like to be validated. We like to be around people whose ideas corroborate with our own. Or, we like to be around people who we can argue with.

Either way, man was built to be a social animal. Put us in a room by ourselves with no external communication and we break down. We get crazy.

So when we are working through such an important exercise as teaching ourselves to read again, we really ought to be sharing the experience with someone else. Reading sparks some really fascinating conversation, even if all you are talking about is sparkly vampires.

Sharing the experience makes it easier and pushes you further

After spending 9 years of my younger life running cross country, I quit. But last year, after almost 10 years off, I decided to pick it up and give it another go. I trained and ran a couple 5Ks. Then I wanted to go a little farther.

I signed up for a half marathon.

For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s 13.1 miles. Read that again – 13.1 miles. In my prime high school running days (when I ran 5-6 days a week and went to camps where you did that twice a day), the most I ran in one shot was somewhere between 8-9 miles. Oh, and I wanted to curl up and die of exhaustion afterwards.

I trained and trained, and things became really difficult for me. I developed migraines (not related to the running) that kept me out of action for over a month. As time grew closer to the big race, my feet and knees gave out because I had to push myself harder than my body was ready to develop.

I was in bad shape. Five days before the race (remember: THIRTEEN-POINT-ONE miles), my legs gave out around 6 miles into my run. I had to call my wife to come pick me up because I couldn’t walk. I was done training – I just had to go for broke on Saturday.

Saturday came, and I wasn’t entirely sure how I was going to finish this thing.

Then the race started. One mile. Two miles. Three miles. Four miles.

As I ran in a pack of serious runners for the first time in a decade, I looked around. I felt the vibe. I fed off of other people’s energy. My legs felt fine. My feet felt fine.

And I was running faster than I had ever trained.

I went into that race shooting to finish in 2:30:00. In fact, I was just trying to finish.

I crossed the finish line at 2:02:43. I was tired, but it was one of the best races of my life.

The power of the people pulls you

(Man, I love alliteration.)

If I had set out to run 13.1 miles that day on my own, I would have probably made it halfway. But sharing that experience with other people gave me renewed energy and confidence. It pushed me further.

The same thing happens when you do anything else. The shared experience motivates you further than you would on your own.

So you should find a place where you can share your reading experiences with others. Here are a few ideas.

Social Media

Yeah, it’s the easiest and most potentially annoying method, but it’s one most of us are already set up to use. If the whole idea of getting together with people to talk about books doesn’t appeal to you, then you can share on Twitter or Facebook.

Share a quote from something you’re reading. Add a little comment with your own little thoughts. This isn’t going to be a place where you share long-winded stuff (because people will hate you for it), but it’s a good start.

Plus, you’ll get the added benefit of some social validation (“My Hunter S. Thompson quote got 4 likes!!”). That can help.

Conversation

Like, face-to-face stuff. Even if you don’t have time for a full-fledged group, you can still talk about your reading with somebody else.

If you’re reading something interesting, bring up a tidbit from it in conversation. Use it to spur the topic along. Something. Anything.

I’ve seen women of all ages sit and discuss Twilight and 50 Shades of Grey. As ashamed as I am that those are the books they chose, it’s still cool that they are talking about books with each other.

Heck, I know people who read some of the more mainstream titles just so that they know what everybody’s talking about! That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Reading Groups

Just go for it and start a straight-up book club.

Get together once a month for tea and strumpets and talk about a book. It’s the old cliche method of reading, but it works. It still lasts to this day.

Don’t want to make it too touchy-feely? Have everybody bring beer. You can grill out while you do it. Who cares? Make it your own – “Stories, Steaks, and Suds” or something (rights to that group name go to the highest bidder).

Have fun with it. Book clubs don’t have to be stuffy. They can be whatever you want them to be.

Start a blog

Write your reviews and experiences. Just completely rip off my totally original idea.

Online communities

Places like Goodreads are great places to get started on this. They have forums dedicated to different writing groups. Or start a Facebook group.

I’m thinking about doing the same thing here. I think it would be cool. Interested? Let me know by contacting me through the sidebar on the right.

Journal it

Okay, so you’re not keen on the whole “sharing your reading” stuff. That’s cool too. Start a journal. You don’t have to be a writer to do it. You can write your reflections on what you’ve just read. Putting pen to paper puts the words in your head. You’d be surprised at how effective this is.

The important thing is to get yourself doing something with your reading other than just reading more. Discussing it with people (or with yourself) helps you internalize the information. That’s when you move beyond just being entertained and into a place of learnedness (yeah, it’s a word).

What do you think? Do you have an outlet for your reading? Share it!