New Goals for 2020: I am a Snail

snail

All hail the mighty snail!

 

“Finding myself in the middle of a book I never want to end is among the greatest joys of reading. I live for the desire to finish a book in one sitting, and the competing desire to slow down and make the pleasure last. Sadly, I robbed myself that pleasure this year. I blew through everything I read, including books I would’ve dragged out for weeks just to live in their worlds a little longer.” Hurley Winkler

Let me say at the outset this post has nothing to do with anyone else. These thoughts should probably stay in my journal, but in the last month or so, I’ve read a number Tweets or Instagram posts that speak similar feelings, myself included and since this article confirmed all this I decided to share.

Last Monday, the 13th, Charlie Place tweeted an article, “Why I’ll Never Read a Book a Week Ever Again in which the writer, Hurley Winkler, shared her frustration over the stress of reading goals to the extent it affected her love of reading. She had raised her Goodreads Challenge from 40 books read the previous year to 52 in 2019. She found herself reading to finish, instead of reading to savor. “The pressure to finish books sucked some of the day-to-day joy out of my reading life.”

Some of the negative habits that were reflected in this year of fast reading were that she  read books she wasn’t wild about in order to keep up with the habit tracker on Goodreads. Or reading all the stories in a collection when she would normally read only the ones that piqued her interest. In the pressure to read more books she chose shorter-paged books. I am astonished to admit that I could relate to all of these.

In the past, I’ve always felt at peace with abandoning a book before finishing it. Why waste time on a book I don’t love, trudging through to reach an ending that won’t satisfy? But reading a book a week made it harder to justify abandonment. I didn’t want to fall behind—like I said, Goodreads will tell you when you do. And the thought of that sent my Type A brain into a tailspin. So I wound up finishing several books I felt lukewarm about from the very first chapters.

Winkler’s reading experience resonates deeply with me, because not only have the goals and challenges (and my failures to meet them) in the last year affected my desire to read, they also affected my desire to write about what I read. I have made so many excuses to myself as to why this is happening, but nothing made sense until I saw myself in this article and realized how much my reading and blogging has changed in the four years of Relevant Obscurity when at the beginning I took the time to read and then to let the book sit with me before I wrote it up. During the early years I didn’t participate in challenges, except for the Classics Club and the year-long Reading New England hosted by Lory of The Emerald City Book Review. And I just read the classics I wanted to read.

At the end of 2018 I started feeling anxious that I didn’t ‘put out’ as much as I saw other bloggers doing and that maybe I am not as serious a reader as I thought: equating the more books I blog makes me a more serious a reader. I was not allowing myself to be the slow reader and writer I really am.

It’s almost embarrassing to think at this age I am acting like some jr. high schooler who compares herself to everyone else and finds herself lacking because she isn’t measuring up. I need to learn to honor the individuality of everyone’s style without seeing my slowness as a deficiency or someone else’s speed as my liability.

As I think over what I set for reading goals this year, I unconsciously resolved this issue. The challenges are fewer than previous years and have me reading mostly classics, the books I love, and not pressuring myself with a books-read total. I have decided I will not put up a Goodreads goal, but keep my own list until I feel I am back to being honest with myself.

And the books I read, but don’t blog? I will stop feeling anxious about those, too and utilize Instagram or Goodreads for short reviews. Faster readers thrive on goals and contests and I will celebrate those milestones in the bloggers I follow. And I will be ok with being the snail!

I could probably quote every sentence in the article, but this is a perfect conclusion:

“That’s why I’ve set a different reading goal for 2020. This year, it isn’t based on the quantity of books I aim to finish. Instead, I resolve to abandon books I don’t like. I’ll take the whole summer to pore over that staggering novel I never want to end. I’ll recommend books to friends after I’ve lived with the story awhile. I’ll read intentionally and joyously. After all, there are too many good books out there. From now on, I’ll take the time to savor them.”

 

snail2

My new pledge for 2020 is to read only what I love and to blog slowly.

 

39 thoughts on “New Goals for 2020: I am a Snail

  1. So true! The internet really does conspire to turn us into the self-conscious middle school girls we once were! Somewhere I read that there was a prophecy that electricity would unleash demons like never before. LOL. But I suppose the need to compete has been around since the beginning of time. It’s funny how we even rob ourselves of simple pleasures. Crazy humans.

    I can never stick to reading programs and sometimes feel bad about it, but I can’t deny myself the pleasure of reading The Brothers Karamazov SLOWLY. I refuse.

    Here’s to a year of blissful reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Adrienne. I am working through this and finding my joy in reading again. I am not sure when blogging will follow…May a different kind of blogging. We’ll see.

      Ha! I can only imagine what people must have thought about electricity when it first came in. The devils handiwork!

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  2. This need to avoid the pressure of the weight of challenges or goals is one that really resonates with me too this year. I want to read to enjoy – and write only when I have something to say – and not feel the need to meet a set number of pages or books. The only real reading goal I set for myself this year was to aim for an (average) number of reading hours per week, and that was largely to remind myself to read rather than wasting time! But I think this is a good reminder that when we choose to read for pleasure but then add pressure of goals or challenges to the mix it can dampen the very joy we’re aiming for.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad I’ve read this post, Laurie, at a time when I’m missing a lot of others. The ‘read like a snail’ mantra was really brought home to me with The Go-Between this month because I’d left it too late before beginning and had other important calls on my time when I did finally start it but I really did want to get my post out at the time agreed. To achieve that I had to set myself fixed amounts to read every day and set aside other books. I did love the book of course, but I could see the places where I would naturally have taken a break – points where I felt sated by the writing or the narrative and just wanted to wallow in that moment. It’s confirmed to me that I need to read at my own pace and also that I need to read several books at once to truly get the most from the reading experience. As for blogging about books and challenges – there’s a whole new post! We are so lucky to be retired with such freedom of choice. I’m sure you will settle into a reading pattern that works for you, and quickly step away from the problems you’ve identified for yourself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Self-knowledge is so important, isn’t it? We each have to understand what works for us may not be right for another. So you are right in that I need to find my own reading pattern.

      I set myself a blogging schedule I could never meet. Every time I picked up a book, blogging about it was on my mind; the joy of reading for its own sake escaped me. I think if I work on that, how and what I blog will follow. And it’s funny how stressful accepting a no-scheduled blog has been! Yet, that’s how it was when I started this blog.

      I’ve actually had a very good week. I am reading three books at once, which I almost never do, but I am remembering this is what it means for me to love books!

      Thank you for the encouragement and for sharing your own struggle.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m so glad you’ve written this. I almost didn’t start a new GR challenge either for this very reason. In the end I set the number really low, just so I can enjoy the stats without the pressure. It’s ridiculous really, to turn leisure into just another form of stress and competition. I’ll be a fellow snail, or a tortoise, slow but steady.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Ha ha! I love challenges, but I never take them seriously. I try to complete them, but usually know I won’t so I don’t stress about it. In my case, the value of challenges is that they get me reading more. And that’s what I want. So I join them and fail and that’s okay. At least I’m reading more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Blogging really can affect how we read and it can eventually impact the pleasure we get from reading, so I hear you! I do read loads of books but only because I chance to love vintage crime and sci-fi which tend to be not much more than novella length. I only read about twenty to thirty “good” books – i.e., classics or heavyweight fiction – a year. I also set a challenge on Goodreads but it’s the same every year based on my historical reading rate and I don’t care whether I achieve it or not. I like that it tracks how much I have read though, because I’m a geek. 😉 I think it’s important to make sure we remember that blogging is a hobby rather than a job – as soon as I begin to stress about being behind with reviews or whatever I’ve trained myself to take a break. But it’s taken me several years of blogging to find a balance that works for me, and I still need to remind myself from time to time not to take it too seriously. Hope your new approach will bring the joy of reading and blogging back to you… 😀

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I LOVE this. I certainly feel what you’re saying in terms of keeping up. I may read a lot and meeting my book goal is never a problem but that is because I don’t really challenge myself in reading as frequently as I should. Instead, I find that I don’t review as much as other people and I am flat out terrible about finishing my ARCs. I never think anything of other bloggers posting less than I do or taking a break, why do I think that others will think poorly of me? And, at this point in my life, why do I even care?

    This is fantastic. You be a snail. Enjoy every minute of this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I am glad you didn’t keep these thoughts to your journal. I get tied in knots every time I have to post a review; what’s meant to be fun feels such pressure! This year I’m just doing the classics challenge so that hopefully I can read at my own pace and try and find some way to blog in peace!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Nice to hear from another snail, I’m glad it’s not just me. After a bit of soul searching, I have decided not to join Goodreads, but to just set my own challenges for this year, as I think I will have much more control over what I read by being my own boss as it were, as opposed to being constantly reminded I have certain goals or targets to reach. Over the last couple of years, I think I have developed a degree of book baggage, as I have become somewhat self-conscious about the types of books I enjoy, and I don’t think Goodreads or the like is the best way for me to engage with literature, for now anyway. I hope your new resolutions mean you are able to fully enjoy reading for its own sake once more.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I read that article too, and I thought it was great. I don’t enjoy myself as much when I put too much pressure on myself to read fast or to finish something I don’t want to. I seem to need to find a balance between challenges that I like, and that help me to read better than I do on my own (left to my own devices, I don’t read as much higher-level material as I want to, and as I enjoy when I actually do it) — and pressure to read more than I realistically can do. I’m a ridiculously fast reader, so it was never a problem for me to read a book a week — but lots of books need way more time than that, and those are often the books that are much more worth reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You make a good point about challenges.They have exposed me to so many books I may not have read on my own or known about that I ended up loving.

      Yes…I am hoping as these next few months go along I can find some balance. I really love writing up books when I am not concerned with time and the pressure I started putting on myself over reading fast to write them up fast, so I could read another! And I also think I would read more if I can just understand I don’t have to write up every book I read. That was putting pressure on me, too. It’s all self-inflicted!

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  11. I also read the piece and thought that it was a good one. I also make slow reading progress and do not blog with the frequency that others do. I tend it to not feel too much pressure however. But I do wish that I read more. I generally work long hours and I have a lot of interests so I also move like a snail.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One of the difficult things from the past year was putting off my other interests to complete these reading goals. I am almost embarrassed to say that, but it’s true. I lived a very unbalanced life, but self-imposed. Now to get back to my bicycle!

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  12. At the risk of repeating what others have said, I’m with you on this one, Laurie. Any kind of pressure to read (deadlines, reviews, challenges, whatever) lessens the pleasure. So read and write as you will, we will continue to enjoy whatever you tell us on your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. This is really honorable, and it is very inspiring. You are listening to your soul. After I comment, I am going to read the article, too. There is a quiet pressure to keep up the pace with others. I feel it, too, and it has affected me as well. You remind me of the joy I experienced when I originally began slowly through my reading and blogging 8 years ago.

    So, while I did put a number on my reading progress this year, I am also on a weeding-out process to read only those owned and unread books on my shelves, and similar to your ideal, I WILL stop reading those books that I do not love. If reading becomes arduous, the book is not for me — not at this time. And I won’t be burdened about letting it go. I am on a quest to find only those books I want to keep and read over and over, to live with them forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love everything you shared. I relate to the bad habits too. Probably we all readers fall into some or all that at one point. And I love the new resolutions, I also have made very similar ones for myself, of reading that which I love, and taking my time to savor it.

    We all should tailor the quality and quantity of what we read, and write, I guess, if we want to make the reading joyous or meaningful.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I do so concur with you, Laurie: I know from my post about reading for pleasure in 2020 that you’d despaired of the pressure you’d unconsciously put yourself under to not only meet the reading goals you’d set yourself but to write about them. Myself, I love writing — you’ve probably worked this out from my rate of posting every two days! — but I at least have the leisure time and the inclination to gab endlessly about books I’ve read or am reading.

    But energy is often in short supply so it’s important to pace oneself, measuring want against need. Actually, reading a book a week hasn’t been too onerous for me because I like to read several books and genres simultaneously: if that results in me blogging about a chunkster one minute and a children’s picture book the next that because I have a grasshopper mind.

    But see, I said I loved writing, and now I’ve overdone it wittering again, sorry!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I have also figured out I don’t like reading more than one book at a time, unless one is nonfiction. And that is a great personal revelation. When I have thought in the past that “I just can’t keep up” I realize now, “sure I can…with my OWN pace!”

      Two things I admire about you is your vast knowledge of books, and that you write so well about them. Though I often have not read the book you’re talking about, you usually include something about the time period or the author or compare it to something else that I might be familiar with, so that I still find something of interest in your posts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re very kind to say so, Laurie. I don’t claim to be at all well read but I am fascinated by connections between works, their contexts, and what they may say about us and our relationships. I can understand your total immersion in one novel at a time as it’s a habit I had for many years when I was working, but now I have the leisure to leapfrog from one work to another as the mood takes me and love the way often very different books can inform each other.

        Liked by 1 person

        • This comment has made me think….As a still newly retired person, I keep thinking I have to do something and honestly, I have not accepted I can read at leisure, too. I wonder if this is just work-related “Oh I have to be somewhere…don’t I?” And at some point will just accept I am free. Gosh. I have some problems, don’t I?

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          • No, no, it’s normal, Laurie, that feeling, and it does eventually wear off! When I was first teaching I’d still be doing schoolwork when the holidays started, writing names in registers, planning new syllabuses and so on; and when I retired I chose to build up a small piano teaching practice until the last house move convinced me to stop! If it’s anything it’s a good instinct to want to keep working on not feel like you’re a burden on society or whatever. 🙂

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  16. It is a strange human trait to manage to corrupt even things that are good and wholesome in themselves, with our expectations, worries, and self-criticism, thus manufacturing problems where none need to exist. It’s good to read of you and others throwing off those chains. I am also trying to come to peace with my reading choices and reading pace.

    I love the medieval snails!

    Liked by 4 people

    • I can be my own worst enemy, that’s for sure. It’s a relief to face what is not working and even better when I find a solution.

      When I was looking for graphics for this post I came across these curious photos of knights fighting off snails in the marginalia of medieval manuscripts. Apparently, scholars aren’t sure what they mean. But they are such fun to look at!

      Liked by 1 person

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