It's no secret that I love reading. If I could, I’d spend all my days curled up on the sofa with a cat at my feet, filling my eyes and head with new words, worlds and ideas. Whenever I feel stuck, whether creatively or in terms of failing to take action, picking up a book can pretty much guarantee something gets unstuck and I’m off again.
My reading habits cover a pretty wide variety of genres from fiction to self-help to business books and nutritional guides. I do tens to read different genres differently, though. Fiction I mostly read on my iPad, whereas the more conceptual or thought-provoking tomes I still like to read in actual old-fashioned book form. My books tend to be full of earmarked pages and highlighted passages, and if I feel really fired up I will also write down notes as I go. These are not necessarily about the subject of the actual book I’m reading, often the ideas and thoughts that come are entirely unrelated, but just sparked to life by something I read in another context.
I think feeding your head is one of the most precious things you can do for your creativity. When I say I don’t understand people who say they don’t read books, I don’t mean I don’t understand why they’re not like me. I just don’t understand how anyone could deny themselves the countless opportunities for reigniting inspiration, for sparking new ideas and expanding the way they see the world. I guess I just feel a little bit sad for anyone missing out on one of the most powerful ways of expanding your mind.
Learning to analyse all the content you read is the key to turning reading into one of your real-life superpowers. As with anything in life, being more intentional about how you read or consume information is crucial. It will take your problem-solving and idea-generating powers to a whole new level, and help you connect the dots on a larger scale.
When you first pick up a new book, read the table of contents and see whether it sparks anything in you. Will reading this book be a good exercise for your mind? If you're unsure, allow yourself to flick through the book at first, perhaps reading a chapter that grabs you here and there, before fully committing.
There’s a funny thing about revisiting books you’ve read before – they never feel quite the same, or provoke quite the same thoughts and ideas as they did the time before. That’s because the content of your own head is so different during the different times you might revisit a book. Your circumstances might be different, and the things you notice and focus on will have shifted. That’s why it’s crucial to take notes if something is sparked at the time of reading. Even if you think you can come back to it later, you most likely won’t have the same idea as you did the time before. So scribble on the margins, or keep notes on books in a dedicated notebook or on your Evernote.
Read up on less obvious things
Reading a guide on a subject matter that’s not familiar to you can be a great exercise for coming up with news ways of doing things you wouldn’t have thought of before. So, once in a while read a book on how to fly fish, or how to create a dream garden, and see if they spark any unique ideas for your own craft, creative process or industry.
Think as you read
Sometimes reading can be just an escape, and that's perfectly fine. But try to also learn to read ‘actively', especially when it comes to consuming other people's advice (much like this post right here). While reading, try to think about how what you’re reading could be applied to your own life or business. Try solving any problems presented before you get to the passage that gives the answers. Get into a habit of exercising your mind rather than just mindlessly consuming information, hoping that something will stick.
Analyse all the content around you
We are surrounded by information at all times, and sometimes it is definitely healthy to not take all of that in. But you can also turn that information overload on its head and harness all the clues around you for your own use, rather than feel bombarded by too much noise. This could be in the form of going through all your junk mail from the past month, trying to see if you can spot any prevailing trends. Or reading the local newspapers when you travel, and seeing if you can find anything different and transferable to your own location or culture. Rather than consuming information or advertising at face value, see how you could pull ideas from it in a way that helps you or your business.
Mix up your sources of information
We are creatures of habit. We love nothing more than to always read books from our favourite author, or watch the same TV shows weekly, it's a comforting routine. Unfortunately getting stuck on just consuming the information you always have is the quickest way to narrowing your thinking. Listen to different radio stations and read different newspapers or online news outlets. Analyse who the channel is aimed at, and notice the difference in the way things are reported. Understanding how the same events can be framed differently depending on the worldview and target audience of the outlet helps you be more aware of the way you consume information.
Once you start analysing all the content you read and consume, your mind will get into the habit of finding connections where you wouldn’t think to look for them. When you fill your head with ideas and concepts from a wide variety of sources, you’ll start finding opportunities and seeing possibilities instead of just passively consuming the easiest information.
As always, if you have any thoughts to add, do pop them in the comments below!