I read a book in one sitting, today. 7 hours and 361 pages later, I had seen a story through climax and conclusion. This used to be common for me and I'd burn through 30-50 novels a year. Now I'm pleased with myself if I get through 5. I don't think I read less... I just read shorter things: articles, recaps, editorials, etc.. There is also a lot more media vying for my attention. I subscribe to more than 70 YouTube channels and listen to 10 different weekly podcasts on topics ranging from science to dystopian noir. I like to think I'm reasonably cultured and I consume media that makes me an interesting person to talk to.
The thing is that I tend to do two or more of those things at once. I read blog posts while I watch Netflix. I listen to podcasts while I load the dishwasher, and I play web videos while I fall asleep.
But reading a novel requires more of me and my attention span has disintegrated. Sometimes, I hope that simply turning off my computer or leaving my phone in the other room will be enough to allow me to find the rhythm of reading, but my will is weak. The buzz of a new email or text too easily pulls me out of my fictional universe and the pages become cumbersome words rather than vivid scenes with complex characters.
Today, on a rare, rainy day in Colorado, I reunited with the narrative and felt my heart beat race and my muscles tense as I followed my protagonist through peril after peril. I feel a sense of accomplishment, but also fear because the book I finished was the second in a trilogy. I have the next one ready to go, but I worry that lightning can't strike twice, and that I've used my focus and willpower for the next few months. I also recognize that 8 hours of binge-reading is 8 hours that I'm not walking my dog, learning a new skill, exercising, folding laundry, catching up with friends...
When I envisioned my life as an adult, I never expected that I would feel anxiety or regret about a day of reading. Add this to the list of reasons why growing up is stupid.