Does anyone here have trouble reading?

It occurs to me that a questioning mind requires a lack of mental automation.

In what seems like the majority of people, conversation is reeled off from the tip of tongues - continuously. The forms are established, continually reinforced and it is even considered anti-social to stray from them. These are the people who carry on where predecessors have left off in a seemingly perfect changeover in the relay race of majority customs. Such automation does not prime one for questioning, it serves the different purpose - meaning not everyone has to start from scratch.

Starting from scratch is for the questioning minds with less mental automation going on - we have their backs and they have ours: it’s philosophers who strive to work it all out from the beginning. But it would seem this has its repercussions on our general abilities to perform automatic tasks.

I’ve never had trouble with automated physical co-ordination, though I have seen many creative people have such trouble. The way in which I struggle to automate is in reading - I have no trouble with understanding the letters, the words and the grammar but I cannot skim read. I have to read every word and consciously assimilate their meaning into my own understanding in order to continue. If I am bored by the sense of the text I cannot maintain attention.

I wonder if others here, particularly the more creative, have trouble with certain types of mental automation? And if it is with respect to reading, how do you cope in a highly literary-based academic world? So much academia is based upon homogenous continuation of already-established modes and forms of thought - I find very little of it is reflective of creativity. I suspect that trouble with it is highly correlated with creativity. Do others agree?

Isn’t skim reading just skipping around to reading sentences where you see key words? And what do you mean you have to consciously assimilate word meanings into your understanding?

I’ve always felt like a slow reader, but that’s probably because I have ADD and struggle to finish most of what I read if it’s not highly interesting.

Well, if the material truly is homogenous and repetitive, then it shouldn’t be very difficult to have a sense of it and be able to talk about it without reading it all. If you have a firm grasp of the main idea that can often be sufficient for keeping up with your peers. The details aren’t necessary if they have been previously established in many other works or if you have an issue with a text’s higher concepts.

I’m not sure if that’s skimming, either way I cannot do it nor feel like I’ve understood anything if I try - nor can I read quickly in general. Presumably most people don’t labour on individual words like I have to, instead somehow absorbing the words and their sense with minimal conscious deliberation.

By conscious assimilation of meaning into my understanding I mean I have to think for a fair few more splitseconds than most about how the meanings of sentences would appear to me in an alterate form that I can absorb much more easily - like a process of translation. I think of the word sounds as if they were read to me, or images that they might conjure up. It’s only when I read light books that I can approach something resembling normal reading pace, but even then I am slower no matter how much I practice.

As for ADD, I don’t believe I have that - nor dyslexia. Though perhaps both pathologies are linked to the topic I am writing about in this thread: creativity.
In relation to norms, such “conditions” are “defects”. I approach them as symptoms of alternate ways of thinking that enable alternate abilities, such as creativity.

Oh, I see. No, I don’t have that. Unless I’m reading Heidegger or Derrida. It sounds plausible that your condition puts you in a position to reflect more on the sense and meaning of each word. So I suppose it could have an indirect affect on creativity. As would any state of defamiliarization, where one sees the common or mundane as if it was foreign or new.

I wouldn’t necessarily put the causation in that order. If anything I would put my reading symptoms down as hailing from a kind of thinking that enables another symptom of greater potential creativity. You say you also experience this with certain authors. Do they make you feel more creative? I suppose such de-automation can work both ways and open you up to as much confusion as inspiration. Pretty much anything sends me off into a creative thought pattern - though whether it crystalises into anything new or not is another matter.

Okay. Do you have control over this “kind of thinking”? Or is it the way you’ve always thought and have never been able to think otherwise?

I was trying to make a joke with Derrida and Heidegger. It’s not necessarily that I feel more creative when I read their work, but that I have to consciously focus on word meanings, senses, and associated images because of their unique and defamiliarizing styles/approaches.

I don’t know. If a person’s mental pathways are so convoluted that they can’t express themselves in plain English, is their style “unique and defamiliarizing”? I guess so, in a literal sense. But sometimes I wonder about their sanity.

I have trouble reading many academic papers. But maybe my troubles are in some sense the opposite of the troubles expressed in the OP? Sometimes writers can’t see the paragraph for the words and letters.

On the other hand, I always had problems with multiple choice tests (unless it was something like math with a definite correct answer, or at least three definite wrong answers). Taking such tests is often an exercise in how well you can read a teacher’s mind.

anon! You wonderful person :slight_smile:

I too have problems with multiple choice tests without definite correct answers. Too often I find I cannot rightly fit into any one answer, not that I am trying to be evasive - I would quite happily give my real answer if it was an option. I would rather be honest than concede to the least misleading option. And the only way around this is to try and infer what the answers are going to mean to the test/tester, such that you can mould your answers towards a more accurate overall outcome. Is this what you meant too?

With regard to bad writing in academic papers, do you simply mean you find it hard to understand bad writing? This is not exactly the opposite to what I expressed in my OP - it’s just less of an extreme case. I will find that even simple sentences are harder for me to absorb - easier than complex sentences, but still harder.
I might make a joke about how I don’t think Derrida or Heidegger were ever trying to write in plain English… 8-[
I can’t help but agree with the link to the bad writing awards, that academics too often fail to communicate their points. I’m sure it’s not necessarily that the subject is too complex for simple words, I suspect that much of it has to do with the fact that the author is proud of the complexity of their thoughts and wants to communicate their pride more than the thought itself - requiring recognition for their ability to think deeply, and acceptance into the academic elite more than clarity.

Ah, I was wondering if it was just a joke… In addition to what I just said above, I might consider that defamiliarisation is somewhat consistent with their respective philosophies - perhaps to philosophy in general. It’s all a process of undermining conventions in order to forge a new look at old problems. So perhaps it isn’t simply a case of being a snob or not.

I’ve never had control over it, though obviously I’ve tried to gain it. I get the impression that neither you nor anon has the same difficulty in some way or other that is linked to automated mental processing?

Yes, exactly.

Your OP said things like “I have to read every word and consciously assimilate their meaning into my own understanding in order to continue.” That reminded me of this kind of academic writing. It’s so tortured and I can imagine the writer being hyper-conscious of the subtle meaning of every word, every comma, every everything to such a degree that their own genius can only be apparent to themselves. They fail to communicate, because they try so hard to be profound.

And you’re a wonderful person too, Silly. :wink:

Ok, so my reading is the equivalent of academic writing in its painstaking struggle to consider every aspect of the text. I would say that this is very much my experience of reading. At one point it was very much my experience of writing too, though I (at least hope that I) have since overcome the cumbersome nature of how I used to write when I was trying to be specific. I do still very much consider my words and my presentation in general - sometimes taking hours to write a single post…(!)

I do hope that, as far as I feel I have come, I don’t still write quite so impenetrably (though I understand that this post isn’t a shining example of flowing simple words and word structures, and my grammar in general is very unconventional…). I’ve gone to great lengths to refine how I write (thanks be to the internet and forums such as this etc.) and whilst my reading hasn’t noticeably improved at all, I think my writing has. But that’s for others to say. Many already have - in my favour.

But anyway, this thread isn’t supposed to remain about me - I’m asking if others have any experience of being like me and if they have any objections to my interpretation of me and people like me.

C’mon Sil, I actually appreciate H. and D., and don’t consider them snobs or bad writers. The joke is that I have the same difficulty as you when I read something in their style. I’m not trying to say that they were bad writers or purposely obscure.

Well, not usually when it comes to reading individual words. But your topic strikes a chord with me because people have often poked fun at me for “stating the obvious,” though it’s not a case of mental slowness but one of increased reflection. I feel like I often start from scratch to try and understand things/ideas that other people take for granted in the automated way you describe. I sort of have control over this, but then again it’s difficult to stop when I am curious and want to know for myself.

Sil – I spend a lot of time on some posts too. And my writing can be really convoluted. I always try to simplify, but for lack of time I often just get it to the “good enough” level. And I have some funny tics like using quotes too often, and using too many commas (sometimes my commas are just plain out of place). And I overuse parentheses – and hyphens. I try not to italicize words too often, but I just can’t seem to help myself.