AKA, The Short Life (and Slow Death)
of My Reading Schedule
So, this weekend I came to an incredibly important realization about my reading life.
Over the past few weeks, I’d been feeling… something… that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Something that made me uneasy when I was reading a book and not enjoying it. Something that made me sad when I saw people reading a book I really wanted to read, but I thought I “couldn’t”. Something that made me hesitant to pick up any book that wasn’t on my reading schedule.
On Sunday, I realized what it was. I felt guilty.
But… guilty?! Why should I feel guilty?! This is not happy-making!
There are a few factors that caused me to feel vaguely discontent, and then downright guilty, about my reading life. But I think the reason they sneaked up on me was because they all started out as good, positive things.
First of all, after consistently blogging for 8 months or so, I began getting accepted for more anticipated ARC’s on NetGalley and Edelweiss. Getting these approvals was an amazing feeling, and I am always so, so grateful and honored and excited whenever a publisher decides to let me review a book. But it was also overwhelming. These books were going to come out soon, and I needed to get organized so I could read and review them without missing any dates, or letting anything slip through the cracks.
So what did I do? I had the marvelous idea of creating a reading schedule. I said to myself, I know I’m a complete mood reader, but who cares? I can totally stick to a reading schedule! Look at these great books I’ve got to read! Also, I totally envied people who could stick to reading schedules. They always knew what they’d be reading, how soon they needed to read it, and when they’d be posting their reviews. They seemed like the gods of Reading- and Blogging-Life Organization.
I could do that. I knew I had the skills. I wanted in.
So, I crafted a fail-safe reading schedule in my Google calendar. The result was a thing of beauty, a perfectly organized calendar that had everything in its place. I had every review-book all mapped out, along with new releases I knew I’d be getting. I gave myself about 5 days to read a book (which gave me a little wiggle-room, as it usually doesn’t take me that long); and I also noted the day it would be released, and the day of my scheduled review. I could reorganize if I wanted to — but why would I do that? My schedule was perfect! I had cracked the code to a successful reading- and blog-schedule!
Now, my schedule did work well for a while. I started it in November/December 2013, and the first couple months were great — I think because I’d scheduled books that were actually engaging, incredibly few of which I wanted to DNF. I actually got ahead of my review-schedule, writing posts that wouldn’t go live for two or three weeks! Obviously, this directly corresponded to my amazing new reading schedule, and was a sure mark of success! (Ha. Haha. Hahahahaha. Oh, past!me is so funny.)
The weeks wore on. I got well into my schedule. I was on top of reviews. …But there was something wrong when I thought about reading other, unscheduled books; when I saw people talking about books I really wanted to read, but “couldn’t” because of my schedule. But I brushed this feeling off, without thinking too hard about it. My schedule was great. It was working. I loved it. (Or did I? BLASPHEMY. OF COURSE I DID.)
However, slowly but surely, my discontent grew. Something wasn’t right. Okay, I thought, I know how to fix this. I’ll just drop in a few mood-reads to mix things up, and I’ll be fine. Well, I ended up doing a LOT of schedule-rearranging, shifting everything around and messing with my with reading- and review-dates and… Oh, look. My schedule is suddenly a mess. How did that happen?! Suddenly I dreaded even looking at my calendar, because it was basically just a huge guilt-trip. (See? See this book right here? You should’ve read that last week! Now you’ve moved it to next week! What have you done?!)
During this time, I also ran into a number of ARC’s that I wanted to DNF. I couldn’t deal with them. By the 10-20% mark, I was pulling my hair out, either in pure boredom or complete dislike. I set these books aside, picked them back up, set them aside, picked them back up… Not fun. But they were on my schedule! I had to read them! I had reviews scheduled and everything!
At this point, I hadn’t realized exactly what it was, but I was feeling it, big-time: I was positively drowning in bookish guilt. A direct result of my self-imposed schedule, and my belief that, if it was an ARC, I was honor-bound to force myself through it if it was the last thing I did. (I DNF’d a couple ARC’s while in the midst of that guilt, which makes this point even more upsetting. I felt like I’d failed in my bookish duty! It was not a healthy — or happy — outlook.)
And then March 4th happened. For those who don’t know, March 4th saw the release of one of my most-anticipated books of the year, Words of Radiance. (This book is a monster. It should come with a warning not to operate near small animals or children.) But guess what? I hadn’t added it to my reading schedule. I hadn’t put this four-hundred-thousand-word book (that’s like, 5 average-length YA books) into my reading schedule. It’s fine, I said, I’ll just read pieces here and there in between my scheduled books. No big deal. Hah. Yeah, I’ll give you one guess how that worked out…
(What’s your guess? What do you think happened?)
What happened was: Two weeks later, once I’d finished my Words of Radiance binge, and in the aftermath of all that schedule-rearranging from weeks ago, I was a super happy reader, with a reading schedule that was positively destroyed.
That’s what happened.
And I am so, so glad it did. Because for once, I’d read what I wanted to read, when I wanted to read it, and it wasn’t on my freaking schedule. And nothing earth-shattering happened other than me being totally satisfied with my choices.
READ WHAT YOU WANT.
Some things I’ve learned:
- ARC’s and I aren’t always going to get along. I thought it wasn’t that big of a deal to make myself suffer through ARC’s I really really didn’t like. But I was forcing myself into an unhappy reading-situation; I was making myself finish books I actively did not want to be reading. For me, right now, that’s not an option. I give every book I read a fighting chance, and oftentimes ARCs more than others. But I’m sure publishers understand that not every book is going to be readable for everyone. And I’d much rather spend more time writing positive reviews anyway, and reading books I’m at least liking.
- A set-in-stone reading schedule does not work for me. I think I could get behind a general mindset of, “You might want to think about reading these books in this order because of release dates.” But NEVER AGAIN will I schedule and force myself to read a book when I’d rather be reading something else. I just can’t. What if I force myself to read a book and dislike it, when I would’ve otherwise liked it if I’d been in the mood for it? Nobody wins!
- I am human. Reviewing is a hobby. I deserve to be happy. Now we’re getting to the important stuff. I can’t continue in the excuse that “all jobs get stressful/not-fun sometimes” — which was starting to become my mantra as the guilt increased. But I can’t let reviewing or reading become a job that I’m forcing myself to do.
- ∴ I will read what makes me happy. This is earth-shattering. I just… wow. What a novel idea, right? These books don’t have to make me emotionally happy — I’m not going to be reading light fluffy books from now on. I just need to read what I want to be reading. I’m sure there will be some 1- or 2-star books in there that I’ll stick with and regret it — but that’s my choice, because I want to stick with them. I’m absolutely sure that there will be plenty of higher-rated books, because those are obviously books I want to be reading.
So, enough of the guilt! I READ WHAT I WANT.
For me, this means I’m back to my mood-reading ways. For others, maybe you want to stick to a reading schedule; maybe that works for you. And that’s awesome. I salute you. But I don’t envy you anymore. From now on, I will keep an eye on upcoming titles, and of course try to stay on top of my ARC’s and ARC reviews. But at the end of the day, I’m going to pick my current reads based on what I want to read, more than what I have to read.
And I cannot tell you how amazing that feels.
So, now I want to know…
How do YOU read what you want?
What role does scheduling (or not) play in your reading life? Do you schedule everything? Are you a sort-of-scheduler? Or do you pick up books as the mood takes you?
Whatever you do, I hope that it’s making you happy. ♥