Saturday, 1 September 2018

The Hobby of Choice

Words have always been my thing. I learnt to talk at a relatively early stage and, since then, have barely stopped for breath. I am like a magpie for books, hoarding as many as I can and lapping up every page. I love writing and, over time, have developed new ways to engage with it in my own, private way. Language, as a means of communication, really is extraordinary and I can't help but marvel at just how wonderful it is. 

Throughout school, English was most certainly my strongest subject. I am naturally drawn to over-analysing everything, a burden that generally lends itself well to the analyse of literature and the discovery of strange, unusual ideas. I loved the creative writing lessons and was generally very confident in my ability to write to a brief or just compose freely. English was one of few lessons I continued to enjoy through A-levels and, as such, I left full-time education feeling that, when it comes to words, I know my stuff.

Recent times have challenged this notion in unexpected ways. The first two years of my degree were grounded in child psychology and sociology. For my third and final year, I have chosen to study a children's literature module, making it the first time I have dealt with reading in an academic context since leaving college and I am bricking it. 

I have read fourteen books over the past five weeks. Historically, I have been capable of reading more than this in just one week: take me camping and I'll do three a day. It's not that I rush - I am able to give a full and accurate account of what happened in the book, including attention paid to subtle details - I just love reading and am particularly fast at working my way through a novel. This summer, however, those books have felt like a mammoth task. I've found myself taking unbearably long to finish just one book, then groaning at the sight of the other thirteen lurking beneath my bed. I have scoured the internet for literature essays about each text, only to find myself completely bored and disengaged with each one. My flair for seeing the hidden meaning in texts has been reduced to nothing.

Gutting though this is, I find myself completely unsurprised. One of the biggest reasons I hated school was because it sucked the fun out of just about everything I enjoyed in life. I did not want to compose in the style of dead men so much as I wanted to listen to or play their music. In the same way, I did not want to read because I was told to but because it was what I chose.

It is amazing just how far the removal of choice can affect us, turning a hobby into a chore. The famous saying, "do what you love", is right, to a point but it omits the crucial limit of doing things how we love to do them. Although I love reading, the relaxing, other-worldly aspect of it is soon stolen by any degree of pressure of time-sensitivity, such that I just do not enjoy it as much when I am made to do it. 

Words are still, very much my thing but in the right context. What was once a love has become a temporary chore. I guess it falls to me to find my own way over that. 

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