How to read a book (after children)


Do you laugh when someone asks you what your hobbies are? This question was last posed to me in January; the recipient to my raucous laugh seemed surprised at my reaction. It was a good question to ask though because it made me realise the answer: I didn’t have any. I was becoming dull and unfulfilled. And who’s fault was that? Well yes, I could have easily said it’s because I have children and I don’t have time but I’ve since realised that if you really enjoy something, you can make time to enjoy it, somehow.

I had become one of those people who say they love to read but isn’t currently reading a book and come to think of it, when did I last read a book…? It didn’t bother me what other people thought; the real change came about when I got annoyed with myself! Why can’t I just read a book? I used to love reading. I realised I need to teach myself to read again – around my new lifestyle as a busy mum of two smalls.

Here’s how I did it…

  1. Cold Turkey – to get into the habit of your new hobby (I actually hate that word, it’s dull in itself – a quick look in the Thesaurus suggests using avocation…) you need to brutally take some allocated time away from one thing to dedicate it to your new thing. So I deleted the Facebook app. I kind of had the shakes the first evening but after a week it was no problem. When I eventually logged in, everyone was moaning about politics.
  2. Break the Back of the Book – this goes in hand with (1). To get into a book you need to break it in by setting aside a good period of time (say 40 mins to an hour). Don’t laugh. That means just missing one episode of The Real Housewives of Cheshire or going to bed early. Once you’ve broken it, the rest will flow. Now I’ve completed steps (1) and (2) I am allowed the Facebook app back!
  3. Carry it everywhere – it’s actually amazing how much time I have to read now I have broken into my book. Whilst the girls are occupied with an episode of Bing, during their dinnertime, in the car when they have both fallen asleep or if I happen to be early for pre-school pick up. Whilst I’m eating my dinner; in the bath and just before bed. In fact, before bed used to be my only reading time pre-kids, but it is actually the place I am least likely to read now – quite simply because I can’t keep my eyes open past two pages. I was in the doctors the other day annoyed with myself for not having my book with me; fifteen precious minutes checking the clock and flicking through old OK magazines with all the other bored patients. So carry your book everywhere – upstairs and downstairs in the house, in the car, in your handbag. Just like you do with your phone.
  4. Read what you love – don’t pick titles you think you SHOULD have read. Particularly when starting to read again, choose books that you can lose yourself in. Everyone has different tastes so this is completely personal to you! Sometimes when people lend you books, you can feel obliged to read them even if you don’t think it’ll be your cup of tea. When starting out again, this can really throw you off course and back in the direction of your Instafeed. I had been trying with The Miniaturist for ages – months. I wanted to like it. I wanted to finish it. I wanted to discuss it with the person who had read it before me. But a quarter of a way through, I had to face the truth: I just wasn’t into it. I know that stretching yourself is good and so is reading bad writing (not that it was bad writing), but that time will come later.
  5. Don’t be a format snob – Hardback, paperback, kindle or audiobook. I use all four. I prefer a paperback to the Kindle, I absorb it much better but the latter is so good for travel (just remember your charger). I have my favourite book currently on audiobook in the car. It means I can read whilst driving, but being my favourite means I have read it enough times not to worry if I have to concentrate on the roads and miss a few paragraphs. It also means I am absorbing a style I love and admire again and again, which hopefully helps my own writing.

These steps don’t just work for reading. I’ve tried it for music too: playing the piano or just listening to music; and also gardening: break the back of your garden by digging up all the weeds and doing the hard graft; then you can plant the odd bunch of seeds and get watering/pruning when you find yourself with an odd 5 minutes. The one thing I do find tricky is writing; for me I usually need to be at my desk for a few hours at a time with the door shut and absolute silence – it’s not something I can do in short bursts everywhere. Blog post are ok because they’re fairly short – I’m typing this one out with Tinga Tinga Tales on in the background (Tinga Tinga Tingaaaaa). So once I learn the key to How To Write I will let you know!

In the meantime, I hope this helps free up some you-time. Think of what you used to love and take away something that you could do without (most of us coped quite well without Facers 10 years ago). Then keep picking up what you love, a bit at a time.

What I have only just worked out is: if you try to do it all, you’ll end up doing nothing. Little and often is key.

Happy reading!



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