I fairly recently finished reading the book Ordering Your Private World by Gordon MacDonald. I feel like I’ve talked about various parts of it enough, I might have even posted about it here already. But then again, I’ve been so awful lately about posting, it’s entirely possible and even probable that I haven’t mentioned it.
So, here’s why I’m bringing it up now. In the book (which was excellent and inspiring, by the way), Gordon mentions the necessity, but current lack of, “mind-stretching”. In other words, reading books that will expand and enhance your way of thinking. He argues that it is an essential part of life in order to…well, have a better life. Who will we become if we don’t make the effort to expand ourselves? To learn? To progress? Anyway, he phrased it much better, but it was very compelling and since then, I’ve had a stack of “mind-expansion” books in my writing room that I’ve tried to make an effort to read. By which I mean, on the days that I am being good and keeping to a schedule, I set my forest app to anywhere from half an hour to an hour, sit myself down in my chair, and open one of them. It really has been…freeing. You know all those books that you think you should read, and really kind of want to read, but you never make time to read because it feels like there are always better things to be done, and you’d really rather spend that little bit of precious time in the evening on a fun book? Making it a part of my schedule, setting a timer (sometimes I only do fifteen minutes if I feel I am really short on time), and opening that book is almost a release of pressure. I am finally doing what I felt like I should, plus giving myself permission to take a break from the physical “shoulds” (like laundry) to focus on a mental “should”.
I expanded his definition of mind-stretching to include research books as well. Because I realized, while thinking through all his tips and points, that I have a ton of research and writing craft books, but the only time I touch them is when I specifically need something, and most of the craft books, I just look at and feel guilty. Even the ones with writing exercises, I set aside for later because I don’t feel like taking the time to do the exercises. But, what if I just…read them? Realizing I would need to go back and do exercises or plotting or whatever else when I actually needed to use it, at least if I just read it, the knowledge would be there, however distant in my memory. So, I began spending a specific amount of time on a mentally exerting book, and a specific amount of time on one of my writing-related books. In this way, I finally finished a writing craft book I’ve been trying to get through for a couple years! And, I actually found it far more useful than if I had taken the time to carefully plot one of my books through it. In just sitting and reading it, I was able to grasp the full scope of what it offered and figure out where it would be useful in my writing life, and now I can apply it more properly than just trying to fit a specific framework.
I guess all this is just to catch you up on one of my current efforts at improving myself, and because I am currently in the middle of Jordon Peterson’s 12 Rules For Life, and have found some insight that I am truly excited about and hope to share in future posts.
So, the takeaway is, even if you have only ten minutes before you go to bed, consider cracking open a mind-stretching book, whether its for your writing and research, philosophy, spiritual encouragement, religion, or politics – I have been amazed at how much my mind has begun to hunger for more information and growth just through these short stints of encouraging reading.