Tuesday, March 2, 2010


When was the last time that you were impressed with the number of movies your friend has watched?

"I can't believe it! You've actually seen every single one of these movies? That's incredible! You are incredible."

Anyone can watch a movie. It takes two hours (four if it's directed by Peter Jackson) and all you have to do is turn off you brain and keep your eyes open.

My three-year-old is a pro. When he gets to watch a movie, you can literally see his brain go into hibernate mode. Glazed eyes. Rigor mortis. He's in the zone.

"Josiah. Josiah. Hello?"

When was the last time you were impressed with the number of books your friend has read?

"You went on vacation for a week and read twelve books? What'd you do, sit in the hotel the whole time?"

Reading is entertainment. It is enjoyable, engaging, suspenseful, transportational ( if it's not a word, it should be), and good for your brain.

That last one is the clincher.

I'm not bashing TV or movies. I'm really not. But tell me, how much brain power does it require to watch the old Tube? Seriously?

When reading, we have to recognize words, sentences, punctuation, paragraphs, and then process it all in our brain before we can conjure up a visual image of what is happening. Sure, this takes milliseconds, but our brain is still spinning and working to create those scenes.

Reading is hard work. We feel a sense of accomplishment when we finish a book because we had to think to keep track of all the characters, the plot twists, the setting. And it took us almost ten hours to finish the thing. We put it back on the shelf and smile a little.

"I read this whole book."

It feels good.

Reading is also a solitary act. You don't usually invite your friends over to read a book together. Yeah, it happens, but reading out loud is even more tiring than reading to yourself.

So finishing a book means that you have worked to process the words, you have used your brain to create visual scenes, and you have shunned the rest of the world in order to commit the necessary time to get through the pages.

Is it worth it? Why not just watch movies? I mean, when I get to the end of the day, I want to relax. I don't want to bother my synapses. They need some good R and R, know what I'm saying?

This all comes down to the question: Is it a good book?

Who wants to go to all the work and family-shunning required to get through a tome when said tome is BORING? Readers today just don't have time for it. I don't blame them. I have two kids and a lovely wife who I'd much rather spend time with than ten pages of description without even a hiccup of dialogue.

Some would cry foul. You just aren't patient enough, James. Give it a try.

Yeah. You're right. Okay, Moby Dick, let's tell the kids to go play without Daddy so I can read about the details of whale blubber.

I just mocked Moby Dick. Now I'm going to get it.

Writers today must write for today's readers. I'm writing for people like me. People in their twenties and thirties who probably have kids, or at least are attending college, or holding a job, or they are lazy bums still living with their mom, but whatever the case, they just don't have the time or energy to read a boring book.

I'm competing with Spider-Man 4, Batman 3, Avatar 2, Saw 66. If I expect to have a chance, then my books have to be engaging to the point that you forget that you are exercising your brain and ignoring your family.

You know, I could have picked an easier career to pursue. Something like a spinal surgeon, perhaps.