“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” – Stephen King

“Writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write.” — Annie Proulx

One metric for how stressed I am, generally from work, is what I’m able to read, understand, enjoy. When I’m reading complex novels I’m generally at a very low (for me) level of stress. As the stress grows, after a certain point I’m unable to keep my mind on the words in a novel. Unable to enter and remain in that world. Distracting thoughts and worries drag me out consistently, so I find myself re-reading the same paragraphs and pages over and over without comprehension, until I give up.

I am able to read graphic novels at that level, even complex storylines: something about the media, the conjunction of visual art with prose, has a lower barrier to enter the world.

At peak stress I’m unable to even read graphic novels: the stress is too high, the anxious nagging thoughts too intrusive. The sleep deprivation makes it impossible to focus on anything but the work. Ideally I would rarely enter this level, but I’ve found myself at sustained peak stress for years at a time.

I’ve extracted myself from that cycle for the time being, and as I find my bearings, I’m reading again. Nothing like when I was a teenager and devoured 300 page novels in a single day, and I’m using audio books alongside my e-reader to vary when, where, and how I can follow these stories. But I’m reading and enjoying again.

I’m currently enjoying Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn. A Lilith analog, repopulating a post-apocalyptic Earth with the help (and under the control) of alien beings.