The Little Dictator Wants More Pages

I came, I saw, I read

I love TV. I do. I know it’s not cool to say, but I really do love TV. Also, what I love about it is all the wrong things to say when you want to sound smart. I love that TV doesn’t make me work for entertainment.

And worse than the cardinal sin of loving TV, I especially love watching TV I have already seen. Gasp. It’s like having an old friend over, but a friend I don’t have to interact with and whose job is to entertain me whenever I look up from my crossword puzzle or reddit or taco. Rewatching TV I have already watched doesn’t demand anything from me. He doesn’t sigh and groan when I converse with someone else and he doesn’t ask me questions. It’s a perfect relationship.  

And to boot, when I watch TV I have already watched, the little dictator in my brain is silent. Mostly. Oh, he pipes up here and there about why I should all-of-a-sudden be too scared to check my email or, paradoxically, to not check my email. But mostly, he’s quiet.

I also love to read books. But with the combined efforts of my phone, my TV, and the little brain dictator, books took a hit. But with the pandemic and the fact that we don’t go outside anymore, there was no way of avoiding my books because, unlike TV and my phone, they hang out on my walls and look at me while I walk around in my pajamas and sing in Johnny Cash’s voice.

Alas, I was at some point forced to recognize that reading had to become part of my life again. How to do this?

Fortunately, this is one area where the little brain dictator is helpful. While he makes me do annoying things like count each tooth as I brush them or relive conversations word for word, he also helps me do productive things.

This means that if I set rules for myself, I almost always follow them, because if I don’t then I can’t do other things like sleep or have normal relationships with people. It has worked with writing and working out, both of which are numerically regulated by the Office of Obsessive Affairs & Actions (the – perfectly balanced – OOAA).  

So, in November I made up a set of rules for reading. The rules are as follows.

Each morning I must read 10 pages of nonfiction, each day I have to read 30 pages of fiction and one article, and each night I have to read one short story or one essay before bed. I record it all in a logbook. But while my logbook is a nice and tidy list of books, author names, and numbers of pages, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes my brain only wants to sit in front of the TV and stare at Terry Jeffords once again knock around Jake Peralta or it wants to drink in the beautiful idiocy of Michael Scott for the 300th time, but instead, the little dictator drags me off to the kitchen with my reading light and a book and we read and countdown pages.

The good news? It’s been successful. After three months, the daily goals have been mostly met and my reading has skyrocketed. I have read 8 books, about 120 short stories (or essays), and as many articles. There are of course days I fail because of one reason or another and, despite some fallout with the dictator upstairs, I get over it soon enough. And after the pages, I am rewarded by an hour in front of already-watched TV and its partner in euphoria – peace of mind.  

The success is the reason I have added an additional parameter. On top of the pages, I have to read at least 2 pages of Czech each day in magazine or newspaper articles or fiction. The only way to ensure that it will happen is to log it with the little dictator upstairs. And he pretty much takes things from there.

Does anyone else have a little dictator? Does he make you productive or is he just a dick?

Comments are closed.