In writing is bad for you, The Guardian's Rick Gekoski wonders about readers' "need to justify the reading and study of imaginative literature." "I wonder, too," he asks, "if this insistence on the improving qualities of our baptismal dips into the waters of literature does not blind us to the real thrill of reading; the recurrent reason why we come back for more, remember, quote, argue, share our experience of books?"
For me, reading needs to be justified not in terms of some notional moral benefit but - that more dangerous and enticing category - pleasure. I read because I love to read, because, in the company of a book, I am happy, engaged, and inexorable. This may well be bad for me, as selfish pursuits often are: taking me out of contact with my nearest and dearest, making me shirk obligations from washing up to keeping up. "I am reading! Leave me alone!" is the mantra of every true reader.
Writing, he observes, is far more detrimental than reading:
It has become increasingly clear to me over these last 10 years, in which I have written more regularly than before, that the more I write the worse I become. More self-absorbed, less sensitive to the needs of others, less flexible, more determined to say what I have to say, when I want and how I want, if I could only be left alone to figure it out. [...] It is embarrassing, being thus conquered by an inward voice desperate to formulate, reconsider, construct, deconstruct, seek out the right phrase, amend it, think again.
I could post much more frequently if my perfectionist procrastination weren't quite so pronounced.