Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Being Inefficient

Status Update: Unusually fine beans this time around. After last week's Magyar horde, these are as refined as Victorian gentlemen, albeit somewhat less inclined to casual racism. Or maybe they are? I just grind 'em up and stream boiling water through them, damn any sensibilities they may or may not have.

Holy hannah, this week turned stressful. I thought summer was supposed to be fun and easy? And next week, I'm getting multiple teeth pulled, which should be an adventure, followed by a punk rock concert and a beer festival. I see flash fiction in my immediate future and a ton of it.

For some reason, I've been seeing a lot of articles about time management techniques lately. If you've ever wandered by a web site like Lifehacker, you've probably seen your fair share.

Sometimes, they're on the money. I don't think anybody should spend a whole lot of time writing checks to pay bills these days--automatic transfers are faster and less error-prone. If you hate folding t-shirts and there's a short video clip showing you how to do it faster and better, that's great, too. If you could show me how to wash my llama in half the time, I'd be your friend forever. And Sparky would be extremely grateful, to boot.

Tip #4 in these articles always seem to be about speed reading. I think of this as the dark side of efficiency, the willingness to deliberately not stop and smell the roses in order to plow through MORE STUFF in a given span of time.

I've noticed there's always a certain sort of person who takes pride in how fast they can get through a book. I've never quite been sure why this is something to brag about. When I read fiction, I generate a play in my head. It almost happens in real time (unless it's something very wordy and slow, which I'll skim through until cool things begin to happen again). If it's very well written, I like to repeat sentences to myself, doing the things speed readers tell you not to do--I vocalize the sounds, visualizing the flow of words and phrases as a wave in the ocean. I imagine what it would be like if the words were tiny dinosaurs and the punctuation marks fleeing villagers, or I repeat everything to myself until it doesn't have meaning anymore and becomes pure music and rhythm.

When I read nonfiction, I read paragraph by paragraph. If there's an interesting chunk of information, I set the book down and let it bounce around in my head for a while. Sometimes I take notes (usually I don't, because seriously, homework? I'm not in school!). I imagine what other writers would say about what I just read. An efficiency expert would shoot themselves in the face if they watched me read non-fiction because the more interesting it is, often-times the slower I will read it.

Basically, I read in the most inefficient ways possible, on purpose. I could, in theory, speed read everything I open, but it would be missing the point. If a book were empty enough that I'd be tempted to do that, I'd probably just set it down after fifty pages and then read the Wikipedia entry instead.

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