A few months ago, I read a book about a man’s first 90 days of sobriety from alcohol. In it, he suggests that maybe we’re all addicted to something, and invites readers to consider what it might be in their lives.
His words challenged me, and as I’ve committed to my OneWord, present, this year, I’ve realized that fiction is often an escape for me. A chance to tune out from my real life. A distraction.
Before I say anything else, let me be clear: I love stories. I think fiction is an effective method for communicating truth. I like to be entertained by a well-written book. But just because something is good does not mean it can’t become an excess. And that’s what fiction has become for me. Or was on the verge of becoming: my go-to distraction when life becomes too difficult.
And because I need boundaries and deadlines and structure, I decided that Lent would be a good time to give up reading fiction. Forty whole days without fiction.
Now, maybe that doesn’t sound like a major sacrifice, but by giving up fiction for 40 days, I’m giving up at least six books I could have been reading. Fiction is my fast read. Non-fiction makes me slow down and take my time. I have to digest it.
So, it’s been a week, and I’m working through a non-fiction book about overcoming life’s challenges. It’s a one-chapter-at-a-time kind of book, and it’s not something I pick up for a few minutes to read between activities. It’s a slow process.
And I’ve noticed that I’m filling my time with other things, for good or bad, some surprising.
Since giving up fiction, I’ve read three online articles about Peyton Manning. In case you missed that, I’ve read three sports articles. I don’t read sports articles. I’ve read friends’ blog posts. I picked up a magazine at the chiropractor’s office this morning, and I chatted with a fellow patient. I finished the Gilmore Girls series so I’ve read numerous online articles about the revival and lists of “things you don’t know about Gilmore Girls,” and I’m watching an interview with the cast on YouTube.
I’ve turned to Facebook and social media more often than I would like, but I also watched the Grammys, which is something I rarely do. And part of a presidential debate. It’s not that I want to replace my fiction reading with television, but I’m generally out of touch with culture and current events, so I’m more open to engaging with these kinds of things.
We are reading out loud, as a family, The BFG, and I don’t count the books I read to the kids or they read to me because that’s more like work. And I may have to bend my rule once to help launch a book by a friend. But I knew that going into this journey.
Am I making it sound easy? Because it’s not easy. I sit in the kitchen while my husband is washing dishes, and instead of zoning out in a book, I’m cleaning off the countertops from the months of school papers that have piled up. What is this madness?
I don’t know if I’m experiencing anything like fiction detox yet, or if that’s even really a thing, but I do find myself wanting to slip into a book to escape, so the struggle really is real.
I’ll keep you posted, although I’ll try not to bore you with the number of online articles I’m reading or anything like that. Oh, and I did plan out which non-fiction books would help get through the 40 days.
I’ll let you know how it goes!