Once upon a time there was a girl who loved reading…
Let’s call her Gwyneth.
Gwyneth adored books and was frequently to be found with her nose stuck in one. She loved her life, but she was limited to the world she knew. Through books she could get magical glimpses of other worlds: strange, exciting lands where weird and wonderful people had adventures she could only dream of.
Her love of reading carried her to university, where she immersed herself in the study of literature and language. But it wasn’t long before real life started to weigh down ever more heavily. Final exams came and went, graduation appeared on the horizon, and then, before she knew it, she was out in the big wide world of work.
Many people were very excited at this turn of events.
‘Finally!’ they would exclaim. ‘I can go out and do my own thing! No more limitations! No more study! I can earn my own money, get married, buy a house, have children, go on fancy holidays… Hoorah!‘
And so they all departed eagerly for their new lives. But in the rush and flurry, they failed to spot Gwyneth, sitting alone in a corner, biting her lip unhappily.
‘But… I don’t WANT to go into an office every day,‘ she whispered.
Sadly, she didn’t do any more than whisper it, for this was a world where such feelings were frowned upon. Everybody had to go to work. No arguments. Time to get real and grow up!
So Gwyneth held her tongue, let her beloved books gather dust, and tried as hard as she could to go out and get a proper career, like she was supposed to.
Reader, would you be very surprised to discover that this plan didn’t work out?
It was many years later, after ‘careering’ from one workplace to another, that Gwyneth decided she had had enough. No more commuting! No more politics! No more offices! She would take the skills she had collected on her journey, and work from home as a freelance researcher and editor.
Freedom at last! Her new life would begin here.
It started out well. But sadly, after a year or two of working in this way, she realised that there was still something lacking. Things were better than they had been in a long time – she had peace and quiet, good clients and job satisfaction – but she still felt limited, as if she were merely existing rather than actually living.
What was wrong? What was the missing piece of the puzzle?
And then, in a flash, it struck her. She needed to start reading again! Not in fits and starts as she had been doing, but in earnest, with the same dedication she gave to her work. She needed to be inspired, informed, entertained, educated, reassured… she needed the insights only books could give her.
And so she began to formulate a plan. After each book she read, she would actively do something different in her life, inspired by the story she had just absorbed. It could be as small a thing as watching a new TV programme – or as large a thing as shaking up her whole social circle. The point was to find a practical value in each book, to convince herself that reading was a necessity, not a luxury: that it could indeed create real change.
Reader… I hope you will be happy to hear that this plan worked out.
It wasn’t long before Gwyneth experienced transformation on a huge scale as her reading enabled her to look at life from different angles. Not only this: the habit of making changes on such a regular basis led to a momentum that took on a life of its own; and, after only a few months, she realised that she now had the confidence, impetus and freedom to pursue her wildest dreams.
She would write. She would create. She would explore fresh artistic avenues. She would share her thoughts, perspectives and creations with the world. She would embark on the next stage of her quest.
And this is where you come in.
It occurred to her that there might be others out there who felt similarly stumped; who had either stopped reading completely, or lost sight of the difference books could make to their lives. She felt a strong desire to reach out to them, to share her vision and to spread the word about the wonderful power of reading.
This is what she decided to say to them…
- Do you feel stuck in a life that isn’t working for you?
- Do you know something needs to change – but are not quite sure what?
- Do you know what needs to change – but have no idea how to make it happen?
Perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.
When we’re unhappy and frustrated, we have lots of questions – but the questions can often be quite vague (for example, ‘what do I want to do with my life?‘). Despite this, we spend a lot of time and energy consciously looking for a clear answer to cut through the confusion.
‘There must be a magic solution out there!‘ we think. ‘It’s just a matter of thinking long and hard enough!‘
But wait. Is it possible that this ‘consciousness’ is getting in the way of finding the answer?
When we read books for pleasure, we’re not looking for answers. And yet… we find that ideas spark in our heads, we have unexpected moments of clarity and we can get sudden insights into a problem. This is precisely because we are ‘looking the other way’, not going round in circles agonising about it.
The danger is that, when we finish the book, we put it aside, say ‘oh, that was nice, bit of escapism, what can I read next‘ – and move on.
But this is the point at which you have REAL power; this is the moment at which it becomes genuinely possible to make real, practical changes to your life.
Every story you read will alter you in some way; it will stimulate a thought process, kindle a creative flame or nudge a latent emotion into the light of day. The trick is to identify exactly what the story has kickstarted in you, and then build on that to create momentum and take action.
I am a living example of how this process can really help. I have transformed from someone who let others determine her path to someone who is now boldly taking ownership of her dreams – and all because I gave myself permission to lose myself in books.
Because sometimes we need to lose ourselves in order to find ourselves again.