I’ll be the first to admit it: I consume a lot of entertainment. It’s more than just a way to wile away the hours for me; experiencing the magic of story through books, television and movies is my oldest and most passionate hobby. I love delving into narratives and immersing myself in their waters, surfacing afterward to ponder and discuss and marvel. It’s the primary reason I was an English major in college, and I’m never happier than when I’m extolling the virtues of a story I’ve just experienced to a dear friend. (If you’re interested, you can check out my running list of what I’ve consumed so far in 2013 here, and see for yourself just how many things I read and watch.)
I bring this up mainly because I’ve found myself battling a question lately, one that has done more mental damage than I’m willing to admit: with so many other things I could (and arguably should) be doing, why do I spend such so much time “lost” in other worlds? Shouldn’t I be out experiencing this life to the fullest right here and now instead of coming home from work, making dinner and reading a book or watching a movie?
Obviously, that string of questioning has no solid, easily discernible answer, but, inspired by Warrior Erin’s delightful post on Introvert Fridays and Warrior Dustin’s musings on finding significance in the insignificant, I’m going to do my best to explain why, with as little off-topic rambling as possible, I choose to experience fiction the way I do.
First, here are a few important character traits I offer up as background.
Trait 1: I’m an introvert. A big one. I’m not going to waste space here defending introverts, mainly because other people have done it more eloquently and succinctly than I can, and secondly, why do we need defending in the first place? All I’ll say about my introversion is that I don’t find social situations unenjoyable in any way; rather, I merely expend mental and emotional energy when I’m in them, unlike extroverts, who gain energy from being around other people. It’s just the way I’m wired. As such, I recharge by spending time in my home, and I’m not going to sit there and stare at a wall, so I dive into fiction.
Relatedly, I’m also an only child, and I learned to read at the age of two (a lot of things happened when I was two…), meaning that I was content to sit quietly and read from an early age. More than content, really; it was what I knew and what I always wanted to come back to. Some kids grow out of that; I never did.
Trait 2: I’m overly imaginative. I mean, almost to a fault. My favorite recent imaginative tale took place a few weeks ago, when I heard a noise in the living room just as I was falling asleep. Instead of quickly rationalizing that it was just the cat playing in the blinds (which it was), I jerked awake and my mind jumped to the most rational thing I could summon: a banshee. She sprang into my head fully formed, her raggedy white dress blowing around her pale ankles, face contorted into a mask of despair. Only after marked effort was I able to pull myself back to reality, figure out what actually happened and drift off to sleep. (I was also listening to Florence + The Machine at the time, if that’s of any consequence.)
How boring would life be if I just heard a noise and didn’t have a little, albeit unintentional, fun with it? I wear my imagination like a badge of honor; I’ll never be ashamed to be an adult who still thinks gleefully like a child.
Trait 3: I love words. I won’t belabor this point: as a “blogger” (I use that term loosely) who holds Bachelor’s degrees in English and communication sciences, in addition to a Master’s in library science, it’s pretty obvious that words and language are deeply important to me. They’re the very foundation of our everyday lives, and I’m not sure what’s cooler than that. Dovetailing from my love of words is my unabashed love of analysis; again, see my past blog posts and my degree choices for evidence. I find that stories are enhanced by my analyses, not belittled or trivialized, which is why I’m constantly evaluating everything.
All right: necessary background info obtained, word count steadily climbing…it’s time to get to the heart of the matter.
Here’s the thing: why wouldn’t my favorite activities be ones that combine the three character traits above? You mean, I get to do something with language that lets me be introverted while exercising my imagination, all while broadening my horizons on diverse topics and challenging my personal thoughts and ideas?
COUNT ME IN.
Could I be doing other things with my time? Absolutely. But if I’m at my happiest with a book or a movie, why wouldn’t that make up the largest chunk of my free time? I’m not hedonistically arguing that we all should just do whatever makes us feel good all of the time, of course; I’m just pointing out that I know what I like and I like doing what I like. I know that I can’t spend all of my time reading horror novels and watching Doctor Who—and I don’t, however much this post may make you think otherwise—and I may do more of it than I should, but I’m not going to feel guilty about my fiction hobby. Because it is so important to me, both from an enjoyment perspective and the standpoint of mental self-betterment, I make it a priority in my life.
It also should go without saying that I don’t think these activities are better alone. Of course I want to watch a movie with other people and foist my favorite books on my friends: who else would I have discussions with afterward? (Introversion does not make one antisocial.) Some of the best discussions and debates I’ve ever had have been about works of film and literature, and I also use entertainment tastes as a kind of barometer for my relationships: anyone who likes Twin Peaks as much as I do is sure to be a good friend of mine, but someone whose favorite book is Mockingjay? We might have some issues.
I’m also not arguing that all of my entertainment selections, including my late-night viewings of crappy horror movies on Netflix, are high art in any way (though that is not to say they don’t merit analysis and discussion—another blog post for another time, tangentially related to Dut’s post I linked to above), but I am arguing that I keep my mind fresh by consuming fiction, analyzing it, and subsequently sharing my conclusions and insights with others. Analyzing what didn’t work in a story or why a film didn’t succeed is riveting stuff.
So, I understand that my views on fiction consumption probably put me in the minority, but as an introverted English major who attended an engineering school, I’m used to that. I’m content with my hobby choices, lame as you may think they are, and I’m not going to apologize for reading and watching as much fiction as I do, so hear me roar, doubters and naysayers—quietly, peeking out from over a book while in the comfort of my own home.