I am not lost…

January 23, 2017

Don’t Tell Me You Don’t Have Time

So for the first time–I think–in my entire tenure as a NetGalley reviewer, I actually have a feedback ratio above 80%. Woo! (This is where they recommend your ratio to be.) It’s not come without some effort, and it should get higher as I continue to review some of the books I have. But oh my gosh, I can’t say how exciting it was to finally look at my page and see that.

When I was just starting out, I was still in a piece of my life where I essentially decided that I was too busy to read. I had so many other things I needed to be doing, and reading was just a really good way to chew up time that I should have been spending doing something else. (We’ll get to how dumb that is later.) So I had all the best intentions to do well with the site. My father is a NetGalley reviewer, and I thought hey! That sounds like fun. I joined in. Especially after my first residency in grad school, I was even more excited. I got all these emails! So many interesting books I could read, and all of them ARCs! It was like my little bookish dreams had all come true at once.

And then that piece of my brain that decided I was too busy kicked in. Man, I had like…four books to read that semester. How was I supposed to have time to read others? I mean, I’ll try… I’d request books, I’d be approved for them…and then I’d never read them. They’d expire, I’d curse my luck, I’d move on.

…This is stupid.

I was a voracious reader in my youth. I read constantly. I read in the shower. (This fed into my dislike of showers chewing up my time. I’d run the water, and stand in the shower, and then hold the book away from the water. I don’t know what exactly I thought I was accomplishing, because I always put the book away before properly showering.) I read in the car. I read at church. I read anywhere I could possibly convince anyone to let me read. So what happened? Where did the book lover in me go?

And I’m not sure I really know the answer. I think school has a bit to do with it. I think reading books for class ruined some of it for me, because I read so fast that I didn’t catch some of the tiny menial details my teachers wanted me to know. I’d read ahead, and then not be able to describe to their satisfaction what happened in those chapters. I always knew the basics, just not all of the specifics. It was maddening. Add that onto college, where I truly had much less time for reading. When I was a theatre major still, I was taking 8 classes for the equivalent credits of 5. Plus, at that point I’m fairly certain I didn’t have an e-reader, so if I wanted to read a book, it had to be a paper one I brought from home, or one I got at the library on campus. For the most part, I didn’t go into the library unless I was renting a movie, or doing research. Why? Because I was so busy, right?

Apparently.

But I wasn’t too busy. I was just filling my time and my life with nothing. I was playing with Facebook, I was surfing YouTube. I was talking on instant messenger. (Granted, I’ll count this under being social, but still.) I was doing everything in the world except reading. And somewhere around then, I convinced myself that it would take way too long to read anything.

Except when the new Harry Potter books came out. Except when a new Laurell K. Hamilton book came out. Except when the books I was waiting for specifically appeared. So what was the difference? Just desire? But I loved books! What happened?

It just got worse as time went on, until I found myself in my second to last residency, and I mentioned that I had to read four whole books when I entered the program, and the head of the program circled that and essentially asked why I thought that was so many. That’s really when it began to hit me. What was the last book I read? I’d started to play around more with Goodreads by this point, so maybe I’d be able to get an idea from there.

I read 17 books in 2014.

Seventeen. That’s it. Eight of those seventeen were for school. As I look at the list Goodreads gave me, many of the books I read were authors I knew– M.C.A. Hogarth, Lia Habel, K. Baisley. Others were ones I know a friend lent me. A couple were NetGalley books.

So in 2015 I decided I needed to change that. I was going to be better I was going to read more books. I set my Goodreads challenge goal for 40 and decided that it’d be easy and I’d shoot way past it. I was a fast reader, right? I’d be fine. Besides, in February of that year, I’d lose my job. I’d have so much time.

I read a sad quantity of the books for that challenge in the last few months (once I had a job again) and still only made it to 38 of 40. I was so frustrated. This was absurd. I redoubled my efforts on my blog, made a point of putting reviews up every Wednesday, set the goal for 2016 for 50 (because dammit, I was going to be better) and set off. And though there were a lot of ups and downs in all that…I still made it. I read 58 books last year. I’m so excited. I fell off for a while in the middle (I’m shocked) but I had gotten myself far enough ahead that by the time I got myself up and running again, I finally made it with time to spare. And I want to keep it that way.

It helps that I’ve had a huge chunk of January so far off due to snow and/or scheduled days off, but I’ve already read 4 books for the year. I’m not slowing down. My goal for 2017 is 75 books, and I have every confidence I’m going to make it. I’m not going to let myself get thrown down again. I am a writer, and I write books–but I have been told time and time again that what makes a good writer is to read more than you write. Read again, and again, and again. Find new books. Get outside your usual genres. Don’t let yourself convince your brain that you don’t have time. You have the time. I have the time. It’s just a matter of making the time, same as you do for writing. And I’m done wasting time. I have too much to get done, and too many books to read.

As a song I’ve been listening to a great deal recently says: If that’s the worst you’ve got, better put your fingers back to the keys.

My fingers are flying.

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