Why I'm Happy To Be Failing My Goodreads Challenge
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions anymore.
I haven’t for years now, especially since eschewing diet culture. Too often the resolutions make it seem like you’re not enough, and some magical promise you make on January 1 will finally turn you into the worthy person you were meant to be, when you were already awesome to begin with.
But as I grew deeper and deeper into the bookstagram community I found myself wanting to develop a way to indicate my dedication to the bookish lifestyle. I wanted to celebrate something I was good at- reading! And setting a bonkers Goodreads challenge seemed like a great way to do that.
But reading sometimes (often) turns into speedreading.
At the time I’m writing this I’ve read 130 books, and I didn’t accomplish that by reading every single word typed on the page, for every single book, and for some the story was repetitive enough that I didn't need to (I’m looking at your Origin) Many books I’ve made a point of slowing myself down, forcing myself to take in the beautiful writing, and another reason I like audiobooks- I can’t skim!
Reading books had become such a large part of my identity and lifestyle that it was easy to forget that I was consuming far more than I was creating. It was easy to feel that since reading is an important part of being a writer, that it was my job to read as much as possible, but after months of neglecting many of my projects I finally came to understand that I had become a Reader and no longer much of a Writer.
When I was prepping for National Novel Writing Month I knew that my reading was going to take a nosedive. It had to. One, because when I read fiction during a big writing project, my work tends to take on the tone of the writer I’m reading. It’s a weird mental-mimicry that’s sometimes hard to avoid. Sure, even my favorite authors admit to their style and work being informed by the other authors they read, but it’s also hard because my free time gets cut in half during the month-long writing challenge as well.
I did read 4 books in November: one non-fiction memoir, and three mysteries, because if I’m addicted to anything, it’s mysteries, and I listened to one audiobook novella. And it felt manageable, enjoyable, something to appreciate when I took a break from my writing. Nothing about it felt forced or manic.
If I were to read 4 books every month that would put me at 48 books a year.
48 books is a far cry from the 145 goal I set for myself this year, but one that is probably not only better for my writing career, but also better for removing some of my concern about reading for an outside perception.
There is a part of me that worries that if I’m not reading stacks and stacks of books that I’ll become less relevant on Instagram, or that the publishers I enjoy working with will be less interested in sharing their upcoming books with me.
Because, in a small corner of my strange heart, I want to be the best at reading.
It’s the Monica Geller part of me, the occasional oddball need to receive a gold star for anything!
But that’s why I’m declaring that I’m proud to fail in reaching my reading challenge this year. Because it’s better for me if I do, because I’d rather get a kind of gold star for writing some day, even if it means losing one somewhere else.
There also appears to be a certain saturation point for my brain’s ability to recall details about a book, and this year, after reading 130, I’ve discovered there’s an awful lots of books I don’t remember much about. It feels sad and vaguely shameful given how many stories I've thoroughly enjoyed.
For the rest of the year, and on into next year, I’d rather take my time with books, not cram so many together that I can’t recall the best part of stories I legitimately loved. I want to try to tackle more classics, even if it means taking a week or two to read them. I want to feel free to re-read as many books as I want without feeling guilty about my extensive collection of unread books.
Which also brings me to the challenge I will be trying for the next few months.
Other than books I receive from subscription boxes and through publisher partnerships, I’m trying not to buy any new books. There are a few gems coming out in the first half of 2018 that will require a purchase, but I want to focus on finding time to read more of the books that were so interesting to me I had to buy them- and then put them on a shelf for months or years.
I want to stop being so interested in a pretty cover that will photograph well, that I forget to enjoy the experience of reading the book itself.
I hope that whatever reading-related goals you set for yourself that they’re born out of a place of joy, and not one of meeting outside expectations. I hope you’ve read wonderful books this year, regardless of whether it was one that really blew your socks off, or fifty that introduced you to new worlds and great stories. And if you’ve experienced some reading goals fatigue, I’d love to hear about it!