I’m aware that there’s a certain–irony?–to having made this new pledge to do more writing and then to follow up by writing solely about my reading schedule for the year. I know: that isn’t actually ironic at all, unless you mean “ironic” as in the old Alanis song. Let’s just call it “slightly counter-intuitive.”
And I get that. I’ve tried (and failed) to work my way through Julia Cameron’s Artist’s Way multiple times, but I still remember her counsel about putting yourself on a “reading fast.”
Cameron’s suggestion is that reading a lot (or watching movies, or whatever your preferred media fix is) can be one way that blocked creatives keep themselves “too busy” to do their own creating–she also warns that spending all your time looking at people’s finished, published products can make your inner critic super-hyper-critical when you’re trying to do your own messy first draft of something.
And yet. Reading, seeing art, listening to music: that all feeds me. (That’s why I used that metaphor two days ago about “filling the well.”) So long as I’m keeping my daily appointments to do some writing, I’m gonna give myself full permission to also keep reading and watching movies and enjoying art of all genres and flavors.*
Which brings me back to yesterday’s question: Why? am I doing multiple reading challenges in this super-ambitious way? The simplest answer is because it’s fun.
Obviously, what’s fun to me may not be your cup of tea (and vice-versa). For me, there’s a few different pieces of this that I enjoy.
The first level of fun is likely the one that’s closest to universal: the fun of reading new books and reading a variety of books. Since that’s a common sort of pleasure, I’ll set that aside to talk about some of the quirkier sources of pleasure I take from the project.
One on hand, there’s the anticipatory pleasure. Even before the new year starts, I take enjoyment from the project of planning out my approach to the challenge categories and creating that spreadsheet. I’m always trying to look at what books are already on my shelves or my kindle to see what holes I can plug that way. Same thing with books that have already caught my attention as things I’m interested in reading. Between my personal library and my public library “wish list,” I get a lot of boxes checked. This year, I also made a point of seeing if I could check off a few categories that also allowed me to uncover some more boxes on my “Bucket List” poster.
Basically, the challenge of researching categories, choosing books, and then figuring out how to elegantly carry titles across different categories in the different challenges is fun to me in the same way jigsaw puzzles and cross stitch are fun.
Then, when it gets into the reading itself, I also take pleasure in clearing books off my TBR list, in discovering new authors, and, as the years have gone on, seeing my knowledge of certain authors and series continue to bear fruit. For example, I’ve been reading bits and pieces of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar series over the last few years and checking off different categories with them. It’s just plain fun to keep looping back each year and seeing how I can fold another volume or two into the new category set.
Perhaps an even better example comes from one of the quirkier categories back in 2016: “a protagonist who has your profession.” Now, I don’t know about a whole lot of books about fundraisers, but I happened to stumble across a mystery series by Sheila Connolly where the lead character is not only a fundraiser–she’s a fundraiser at one of Philadelphia’s leading museums. Now mysteries are not even remotely my literary jam, but I will admit to having fun reading this portrayal of museum fundraising, and seeing which neighborhood and cultural institutions Connolly amalgamated together to create her fictional settings. So here we are, 3 years later, and I need to read a “cozy mystery.” Even though mysteries will never really be my thing, it is fun to see that category and, instead of being thrown off-balance, to be able to say “Cool! I can just read book two in that museum mystery series!”
So there you have it: the flavors of fun that make reading challenges something worth doing.
And on the writing side? Given the possibly-daunting nature of my pledge to write every day, I won’t deny that using my 2019 reading challenges and plans has been an easy way to on-ramp myself back into this blog. Setting up the year has created a 3-post series, and then as I review individual books and make periodic status updates on the project at large?
Endless fodder for new words of my own.
* Though clearly I’m feeling a little defensiveness about all that, ‘cos here I am getting all navel-gazey about it. This is probably why I’ve never actually managed to get through Cameron’s program….**
** Which actually begs the question: is this the year I finally give up all fantasy of doing Cameron’s program and just send the book to Goodwill?
100 Books Bucket List: Photo taken by the author, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.