1000 Days of Reading is a project I am really excited about and have sustained for over a week already. Since I usually choose easy, I don’t always keep up with my resolutions, but this one (so far) is both easy and extremely enjoyable, which is why I decided to share it in some detail.
How It All Started
Two weeks ago, one of my favorite poets/singers passed away His death has hit me really hard. I may write about that in another post, but I am mentioning it here because it has been nearly impossible to explain to anyone who isn’t from the former Yugoslavia (or who doesn’t speak our language (or languages!)) what this poet meant to so many of us. And why his poems/songs had touched us to the core of our being.
After I had cried out my tears for this man I haven’t met in person (but have attended many of his wonderful concerts), I decided to go back to my original love of poetry (which got neglected over the years of so much busy reading) and read one poem a day.
Ray Bradbury’s 1000 Days of Reading Program
And as it usually happens, when you open yourself up for something inspirational, you inevitably open yourself up for more.
Which is how I believe I came across this article on Ray Bradbury’s writing advice and this quote in particular:
“What you’ve got to do from this night forward is stuff your head with more different things from various fields . . . I’ll give you a program to follow every night, very simple program. For the next thousand nights, before you go to bed every night, read one short story. That’ll take you ten minutes, 15 minutes. Okay, then read one poem a night from the vast history of poetry. Stay away from most modern poems. It’s crap. It’s not poetry! It’s not poetry. Now if you want to kid yourself and write lines that look like poems, go ahead and do it, but you’ll go nowhere. Read the great poets, go back and read Shakespeare, read Alexander Pope, read Robert Frost. But one poem a night, one short story a night, one essay a night, for the next 1,000 nights. From various fields: archaeology, zoology, biology, all the great philosophers of time, comparing them. Read the essays of Aldous Huxley, read Lauren Eisley, great anthropologist. . . I want you to read essays in every field. On politics, analyzing literature, pick your own. But that means that every night then, before you go to bed, you’re stuffing your head with one poem, one short story, one essay—at the end of a thousand nights … you’ll be full of stuff, won’t you?”
from Telling the Truth the keynote address of The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, sponsored by Point Loma Nazarene University, 2001
So much great advice in this short paragraph!
Now, this line: “If you want to kid yourself and write lines that look like poems, go ahead and do it, but you’ll go nowhere” may be why I neglected poetry for so long. It seems to have become, so often, reading between the lines, something that I neither enjoy nor am I good at.
I have read many great poets (as a child, young adult, and literature student). I have copied down entire poems and even memorized them. I still have some committed to memory, and I often repeat them to my kids. They marvel at how I can remember so much – but hey, our brains were much freer back in the day.
I love poems that tell a clear story where I don’t have to read entirely between the lines. So I think I will make choices like that, whichever language I decide to read them in.
Anyway, having read the advice, I decided to make it into a real, steady personal challenge program and log it along the way.
It was exciting because I always save online magazine links in my Evernote hoping to read those short stories, but I often don’t. They get lost in the sea of other To Reads. Moreover, I usually have an ongoing novel and several non-fiction books I read simultaneously, which means that those short stories mostly end up just sitting there waiting for the right moment.
The essays are easy; I read an array of those anyway. I enjoy reading personal essays, opinions, analyses, and criticism on different topics.
In the next 1000 days (as if I have ever sustained anything for that long, but one can (and should!) try), I will also force myself to read on topics I otherwise wouldn’t, such as politics, sports, or anything that has a prefix motor in it.
I decided to keep a log of my reading. That got me thinking that maybe there is a group of people doing this already (as there usually are), and I found this inspiring article.
Following the advice in the article, I divided my notebook into 52 pages (back and front) to write down my daily reading log. Below is the picture of my actual notebook. Yes, I couldn’t help but embellish it.
After a week of logging in the notebook, I decided to start sharing the links here since I have this little platform of my own and since most of my reading is online (for now). It will be nice to have a record of it in one place and maybe it inspires someone to join or read some of it along the way.
If I do this weekly, I figured, it will still be fresh enough in my memory to also write a few comments about some or all of the stories on the list.
So far, the easiest way to both read and collect these stories (when online) was in my Pocket. I love it that this little gem of an app is free.
It also tells you an approximate reading duration of each read, which is quite useful when deciding what to read next.
The Article view in Pocket is easy (even pleasant!) to read on my phone.
How I Choose What to Read
So far, I have been choosing my stories randomly from the following sources:
- Stories and essays from online magazines already saved in my Pocket (when I see something interesting, I just add it for later);
- Links to online magazines that I collected in my Evernote over the years; (it is interesting now to click and see that some no longer exist!)
- Some Modern Love essays I saved a while back;
- My ongoing subscription to The New Yorker;
- Collections of stories and essays on my Kindle.
- And of course, paper books on my shelves waiting to be read.
But as I keep going, I may discover a systematic way of choosing my next read. And hit the library. At the moment, there is so much to catch up on, I don’t think I need an order to it.
I only know that I (eventually) want to challenge myself to read more of what I usually don’t.
How Much Time Does This Take?
Well… depends. I will try to replace my Social Media scrolling time with this, although, it’s not the same. You usually don’t have to concentrate much to look at Instagram pictures or even read the captions. But this requires some down time and some concentration.
But time is where Pocket comes in handy, with its reading time prediction. My Kindle has it too. It is usually a pretty accurate assessment. I am a fast reader, but really, I will try to savor this program, not rush it.
I think that some longish short stories may stretch across two or three days. And that is ok.
But there are plenty of flash fiction stories to choose from, and most essays seem to be around 1500 words. So, with some prior preparation, this is easily doable.
The more we read the more we will read, it is inevitable. I do want to be “full of stuff.” (see the quote above)
I Am Inviting You
If you are keen to join this little program, let me know in the comments or private message me; perhaps we can exchange links and blog posts or even create a reding group. It’s always more fun when there are more of us!
So here we go. Read my Week 1 here.