Wednesday, January 26, 2011


I went to the first meeting of a procrastination/perfectionism group tonight, because I would like to be more capable at working through my internal censor when it inevitably starts grinding at me.

Of the other group members I shall only say that they made me feel welcome and seem like smart and courageous people. Not seem like. Are.

At one point, we were talking about feeling as though we don't read fast enough (I have yet to feel like I read fast enough. I either read too slowly, or too fast. Enough is elusive.) And it occurred to me that it's helpful to me to think of reading academic book chapters as not unlike proceeding through a level of Super Mario Bros. In a level of SMB (whichever version you prefer), you learn the shape of the level. And you get some coins, and some points, and maybe a mushroom, or a fire flower, or a star -- or maybe you don't! -- but you get that familiarity with the level, and you get through to the end so that you can go on to the next one. Maybe it's a really sweet level where you know where the warp tube is, or maybe it's more like 5-3, where you get pushed along and there are trees and sinking platforms. But you get through it. That's the point.

And a lot of academic reading is like that. The point is to establish familiarity.

Mind you, there's also close reading, where you focus intently, and go slowly, and pay attention to every word and how the sentences fit together.

Those two types of reading are no more the same thing than sanctioning (censoring/punishing) and sanctioning (approving). Much of the time, the two types of reading are used for very different purposes. They're not the same.

There are more complicated and intricate ways that I could keep exploring this and taking it further, but it isn't really necessary to do that in order to get to the observation that's most useful to me (and might be to you, if you're someone faced with an enormous reading load).

What's helpful is that I remember that reading a difficult chapter is in many ways like SMB 5-3. The point is to get familiar enough with it to get through it intact, fire flower, 1up mushroom, or not.

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