One thing about being a writer and one thing about being a reader is that over the course of writing about reading, patterns emerge. I’ve found a really distinct pattern in my reading life in revising old blog posts and revisiting notes and lists I’ve kept myself about what and when I’ve been reading things.
Reading, for me, is seasonal.
This idea of seasonality has been on my mind for a while now, and it was something that really took hold during and following The Lady Project Summit in March. Everything comes in seasons, and if I take a page from the book of the world around me, I’d have see that much sooner. There are seasons when I need more rest than I do activity. Seasons where I can accomplish loads of things but my relationships take a back seat. Then there are seasons where all I want to do is talk with people I love and let my responsibilities become secondary.
This is also one of the big ah ha moments I’ve had as I’ve grown my work in photography — the more time I spend outside, the more I begin to notice how the world around me moves and functions.
Rather than trying to control these changes in seasonal needs, I’ve become to embrace them as necessary. Just as winter paves the way for spring and summer, seasons of life pave the way for new experiences and discoveries. And reading, while something that always finds its way into each of my seasons, is not always the primary goal or purpose or drive behind a particular season. It may be the case, too, that reading books isn’t a priority at all.
This period of time in particular, the one that blooms and blossoms immediately after a long winter, is one where I find my mind unable to connect with books the way it can at other times.
I picked up a book in early March to take with me while I traveled. The book, The Circus by Olivia Levez, is one I’d been looking forward to for months. I loved Levez’s The Island and knew this story of a girl who runs away from home because her father marries a woman she severely dislikes (step parent relationships are a never-ending source of fascination for me and a terribly underexplored theme in YA) would resonate.
But each time I opened the book, I couldn’t fall in.
I could fall asleep.
I could write an essay.
I could go out with friends.
I could let myself devour The Great British Baking Show.
I could let myself rewatch the entire series again. Then a third time.
Something about the act of putting the book in my hands activated a switch in my mind that begged me to do anything but read. In many ways, this last month has been one of my most productive and active and social and fulfilling. Yet reading, one of the basic needs in my life’s hierarchy, had fallen nearly completely off my agenda. I didn’t make time for it, and when I found time to settle in, I could find a million things to keep me from the book.
None of this was the book’s fault. It was the wrong time. The wrong place.
The wrong season.
My recent flight to San Antonio gave me a solid three hours to get some work done, as well as plenty of time to get in some leisure reading. But before traveling, I had real talk with myself: I knew I wouldn’t read the way I’d hope to while in Texas for a few days, so I shouldn’t weigh down my luggage with books that I’d carry and never consume.
It was that flight, with those restrictions, with that time, which allowed me to finish Levez’s sophomore read.
I flopped on the hotel bed after traveling and thought about the book. Little stuck with me, except for that last chunk of reading I’d just consumed. It was good, though nothing was completely outstanding for me. A good voice, but not as powerful as the one I’d read in The Island. An ending that was more wrapped up than the first book (and that untidy ending was a feature I admired, rather than a flaw that bothered me).
The book, marked read on social media now, became one I wouldn’t say or do much about. Not because I didn’t enjoy it. But because it didn’t come into my life during the right season. There won’t be permanence or resonance, and none of that is the fault of myself nor the book.
It’s the fault of simply wrong place, wrong time, wrong season.
When my trip ended, my life fell into a more familiar pattern at home. I’d been slowly carving more space into my daily routine for creative pursuits outside of writing and reading, and in a lot of ways, carving out that time meant winnowing a bit of the time I had for leisure reading in my afternoons.
But something magical happened, too — I found myself reading much better, and in the latter half of April, I blew through a good number of books. More than that, those books not only stuck with me, but they begged me to engage with them. I wrote reviews or incorporated some of what they’d given me into my own writing. I spent one afternoon after reading a professional development book and journaled about it privately. It was a kind of engagement I hadn’t felt in my reading life in quite a while, and it’s one where I’m allowing myself to stoke the fire and see where it leads me.
The seasonal shifts don’t always happen along the same lines that nature’s seasons do. Sometimes they run for a month. Sometimes for six months. Sometimes a year. Or a week or two. But I’ve come to listen to those shifts, to — if you will — lean into them, rather than attempt to hit reverse as quickly as possible. Because the more I let myself do the things that my heart and my mind are hungry for, when I come back to reading, I find myself more quenched, fulfilled, and engaged.
Will I return to The Circus to see if it works better now or in a couple of months? Probably not. The book came to me in that particular season for a purpose. It was a book meant to tell me to slow down, to be real with my expectations and desires, and enjoy it for what it was in the moment, rather than what I’d hoped for it to be.