Resolution: read less

Happy new year, everyone!

New Year's Day 2020

Over here in BC, it is an amazingly beautiful day. Clear skies, 12° temperature and it’s almost impossible to believe that it’s the first day of January and not the first day of Spring.

It’s sure been a while since I’ve inhabited this space, sitting on the publisher’s side of my blog, in front of the keyboard with the ideas swirling around in my head. The words and phrases are always there, continually being calculated, cut and rearranged, as is the intention to share, but after more than an year of daily posting, I needed to put some distance between me and this format. I needed a break from being on. And sharing. And the publicity of it all. There is a strongly reclusive pull inside me that sometimes takes the wheel. Enter: four month sabbatical.

Now that we have entered a new year, a new decade, I am deep in contemplation about my 20 for 2020 list. It’s exactly what it sounds like – twenty things I want to do in the coming year. This is my second consecutive year making one and even though my 19 for 2019 was a miserable failure (more on that soon) I’m jumping back in. I’m nothing if I’m not optimistic. But I’m a little behind in establishing it and it isn’t quite set in stone just yet. It is in progress and one of my immediate goals for this first week of the year is to settle on the final goals. Stay tuned for more.

One of the things that will not actually (okay, probably won’t) make the list is any intention related to reading. Last year, I’d added a goal to finish 60 books. I read at any possible opportunity and had surpassed my goal by Thanksgiving. Books brought me a lot of joy and satisfaction and I read a wide range, from utter drivel to popular classics. I have no regrets about it.

Over the past three years that I’ve been setting reading goals on Goodreads, I’ve slowly increased my targets. I was coming off a few years of practically not reading at all so I started slowly and as time went on and goals got loftier, I got really comfortable in a label I’d previously worn quite comfortably: bookworm.

Between Thanksgiving and the end of the year, my reading lagged and it got more and more challenging to get through. (It wasn’t the books, I read some of my favourite books of the year towards the end of it.) This stall indicated to me that part of my motivation to read was the goal and not the enjoyment of the process. I don’t think that was a big influence, I think I just got burned out. It did make me rethink how I prioritized reading for the coming year.

For the first time, I’ve downgraded my reading goal for the year – though it’s still what I’d consider high – one book per week. Partly, this is because I’m hopeful that decreasing the expectation will improve the experience. I’m also doing it to take back some of the time I have been spending on books. Last year, I chose reading over many things: making art, knitting, cooking new things. And those are just a few of the activities that I want to do more of.

At the beginning of 2019, I made a decision to be selective about what I was consuming when it came to the podcasts I listened to. I used to listen to anything and everything. People would tell me their favourite podcast and I would immediately subscribe. My podcast app contained downloaded episodes that spanned every popular topic you could imagine – and only a fraction of them were even remotely of interest to me. But I listened to them anyway. It was entertaining, sure, but it was also a total waste of my time. I’m bringing this vibe to my reading year now as well. At the same time, I intend to be more selective about what I’m reading and even more willing to put a book down when it isn’t working for me.

There is a bit of mortality in this discussion and that’s hard for me to shake. Ultimately, when I acknowledge that I won’t have time to read all the books I want to in this lifetime, it’s equally terrifying and motivating. I don’t know anyone that is really comfortable with the idea of their own inevitable demise and that’s the scary part. At the same time, if I won’t have time to read everything, then why they hell would I spend even a few extra minutes on something I don’t love?

My reading world is changing. What about yours? Did you set a reading-related goal for 2020?

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