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My Most Radical Resolution

January 9, 2013

stack of books BOANRESOLVED: I’M GOING TO READ FEWER BOOKS THIS YEAR.

There, I’ve said it. More than just said it. I put it in writing for all the world to see (or at least anyone who reads this blog).

That’s surely a radical resolution for a writer to make. Writers love reading and I’m no exception. So, why? Why would I make such a radical resolution? There are a couple of reasons.

The first is that I’ve lost a sense of balance. I read when I should write. Yes, reading is essential to writing, at least if you want to write well, but sometimes I find myself reading as an excuse not to write, especially when I get stuck on a plot point. Instead of figuring out how to get Jennie Connors out of trouble, I’ll pick up a book and let Elizabeth George get Barbara Havers out of trouble.

The second and, maybe even more important reason, is that I’m reading without thinking. I gobble up books like popcorn – anything and everything with a title or a cover that catches my fancy. With this resolution, I’m promising myself that I’ll read fewer books but read more selectively. For example, I’m going to set aside a month to read Willa Cather. I’ll read (in some cases, re-read) all of her books in the order in which she wrote them. I’ll watch her grow as an artist and as a human being.

In this process of reading fewer books, I’ll read slower. I’ll take time to savor the language and to stop and think about the ideas. I admit I’m a character lover when it comes to reading. I’m going to at least try to find the theme in a story, to ask what this story has to tell me.

So, that’s my plan for 2013. Will I stick to it or will it go the way of most resolutions? Who knows? I’ll keep you posted. (I’m sure you’re all holding their breath to know.) Maybe I’ll decide it’s a bad idea and abandon it. Maybe thinking about reading too much will take the fun out of it. If that happens, forget it. If reading ceases to be a pleasure, I’ll know it was a bad idea and edit this radical resolution out of my life

NOTE: Every time I start typing resolution, my fingers want to type revolution. Could it be Freudian?

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. January 9, 2013 12:25 PM

    Sandra, you are right – reading can also be a form of gluttony. Our local library is open on Sunday afternoons and I often stock up for the week. No writing gets done. We have to mark our own boundaries and put up a (little)fence.

    • January 9, 2013 2:19 PM

      “… a form of gluttony” – that’s so accurate. Since we all agree that reading is a good thing, it’s tempting to feel a little smug because we read a lot and forget that reading is communication and is best when it’s a two-way street. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

  2. January 9, 2013 3:23 PM

    I like the idea of reading more selectively. I sometimes find I’m reading things I’m not that drawn to simply because someone I know wrote it. I have to remind myself that even though I love someone dearly, that doesn’t mean what they write is for me. Although I do have to say I’ve discovered some wonderful writers by picking up things I thought I wouldn’t like!

    As for reading less? Nah.

    • January 9, 2013 3:30 PM

      I know what you’re saying, Terry. Sometimes it’s a thin line to walk between supporting writing friends and guarding our own time. The question of reviews is even trickier.

      • January 9, 2013 4:30 PM

        It’s a good idea Sandy but before I even think about trying something so radical I want to know what it’s like so I’ll be waiting for an update! One thing I have learned to do in recent years though, is to stop reading any book I don’t like for whatever reason. It might be badly written or the story or characters might not grab me etc. etc. At one time I treated books like a meal…anything I started I had to finish in the same way I was brought up to leave a clean plate! Not any more though. Life’s too short.

  3. January 9, 2013 5:16 PM

    Sorry. This addict plans to read just as much if not more in 2013. That’s not a slap against you, Sandy. I’m a book dynamo, writing and reading-wise. I prefer reading to watching tv or going to the movies and I reward myself with a good writing jag with some reading before bed. It’s all in knowing what works for you. Best of luck!

    • January 9, 2013 10:19 PM

      Oh, I’m not going to stop reading, Gina – just trying to show the books that I’m boss of my own life. They’re going to have earn my time.

  4. January 9, 2013 10:21 PM

    Sheila, I’ll keep you posted. You mentioned another thing I need to do – stop reading when a book doesn’t really grab me. I still keep slogging away, waiting for them to get better.

  5. January 10, 2013 10:28 AM

    I agree that reading can evolve into a form of gluttony. Sometimes, I find myself picking up seven or eight books at the library and then having time to only read two or three of them. Last year, I decided to stop reading after the first chapter if the book didn’t interest me. My time is too valuable to waste on unproductive reading.

    • January 10, 2013 10:40 AM

      Joanne, I’m hearing more and more often that readers are giving a writer less time to capture their attention. I always feel bad when I give up on a book (think it was my clean-your-plate upbringing), but you’re right – time is too valuable to waste + there are so many books out there just waiting to be given a chance.

  6. January 26, 2013 5:37 PM

    Yes. Let those words wash over you and baptize you. Getting the essential plot points down misses the point of the words and how a story unfolds.

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