During graduate school, there were many weeks of being so overloaded by assigned reading that I couldn’t do it all and felt constantly behind. I recognized that the goal was to learn to skim and to put my hands on more and more research, even if I couldn’t savor many pieces. The trouble was that the more I couldn’t savor what I was reading, the more I associated reading itself with feelings of being overwhelmed and behind.
When I shared with a mentor how stressful reading had become, she smiled knowingly and related her own experience of knowing that there will always be more to read than time to read it. More than her sympathy, though, I remember what she shared about choosing to read for inspiration:
“Yes, I read for my research (to answer burning questions), but I also read for inspiration (to keep the questions alive). Be sure that you’re reading what inspires you, what fires you up.”
I’ve been thinking about this advice to read for inspiration—for what fires me up—as I work to counter resistance fatigue by keeping fires alight (neither burning up nor simmering out).
For too long (in my faculty position), I read primarily for work: for courses I was teaching, for articles I was submitting, and for committees I was serving. I could feel the excitement when reading an article or book that really spoke to me, and increasingly, I read blog posts and sought out podcasts as sources of inspiration. Still, I wanted to prioritize “reading for fun,” especially books that could light my imagination and help me imagine more just worlds, more equitable relations.
Now that I’m creating new habits and work priorities, I’m reading again. I’m reading for research, for fun, and especially for inspiration. I’m reading books and audiobooks as well as continuing to learn from blogs, podcasts, essays, and articles. Now, instead of stress, I’m experiencing joy that there will always be more to read.
I’m certainly not the quickest reader, nor is that my goal.
I’m certainly not the most focused or studious or careful reader, nor are those my goals.
What I read this past month:
- Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine (2014, Graywolf Press)
- Hunger: A Memoir of My Body by Roxane Gay (2017, Harper)
- Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017, Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books)
- Running Down a Dream: Your Road Map to Winning Creative Battles by Tim Grahl (2018, Black Irish Books)
- A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson (2009, HMH Books for Young Readers)
And a dozen or so picture books, as I pick up a few with each library visit.
What I’m reading now:
- Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (2016, Bloomsbury)
- Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds by adrienne maree brown (2017, AK Press)
- How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee (2018, Mariner Books)
- My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem (2017, Central Recovery Press)
And more picture books, because, truly, I’m all the ages I’ve ever been.
In what’s been some tough days—from feeling beyond messy and upside down to grieving and raging at outright injustice—these books are helping me see beyond this moment and into movement space. They’re keeping me inspired for the long haul, toward building and sustaining momentum. They’re helping me tap into my embodied self and the histories, emotions, and trauma it carries, while imagining ways forward—pathways to healing.
I plan to keep reading, not because I have to but because I want to. I choose reading, and I choose it for the future.
This post is written by Beth Godbee for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For more posts like this one, you might try “Blogs I Love: Reading Suggestions for Women’s History Month,” “Refueling with Feminists and Womanists of Color,” and “Re-Reading Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Please also consider liking this blog on FB and following the blog via email. Thanks!