What’s Your Reading Diet?

Henry Rollins.

“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

When Henry Rollins listens to music he hasn’t heard before he calls that protein listening. When he listens to familiar bands he calls that carbohydrate listening. We eat carbs for energy and protein for muscle mass but how, in the context of reading, can this analogy apply to us as writers?

The first thing I do each morning after I get out of bed is check my Google feed (notice how we use the word feed). It’s more compulsive than nourishing and I’m not going to be well fed by a half-baked article on Keanu Reeves’ new haircut but it’s information nevertheless. That said, I don’t think information alone makes one thing a carb and another protein.

I think what really distinguishes carbs from protein in the context of reading is the quality of the writing and the quality of my attention. Clickbait like tabloid gossip is garbage though I still click on them the same way I might treat myself to a Toblerone or Terry’s Chocolate Orange on occasion. Who doesn’t want to see how Keanu is doing these days? If I read for information it’s carbs but if I read for learning it’s protein. Sometimes the two are indistinguishable and I just read something because I like it.

As for my attention its quality differs from day to day as with anyone’s, but I’ve found it easier to sustain it with books (the physical kind) because a book can’t multi-task. A book can only be a book unlike the Kindle app on my phone where the temptation to switch over to YouTube or Google is always there. Still, I enjoy them both.

So, what are you eating?

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