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Willow

Turns out I have a lot to say under this post’s subject heading. I’ve been working on part 1 for a few days now and I think the problem is too many competing thoughts. So here’s part 2 first, instead.


I guess in some ways I feel very much against the clock at the moment. Some things, you just can’t apply for extensions on – tenders, grant applications and babies. I have a lot I want to get done before the baby comes. A lot of things I want to get sorted or just dealt with so that I don’t need to deal with them afterwards. Right now, I have time, and mostly good headspace. Later, maybe not so much.


And in the process of working through stuff and how to set systems up to cope when I have more on my plate I’ve been able to come much more ruthless and decisive. I spose it’s a momentum you develop and the hard bit about saying no or culling things from your life is the starting. Once you’re used to be able to say no, once no isn’t so terrible anymore, once you experience the freedom that no brings, it’s a lot less scary and a lot easier to say.


I’ve been weeding my book collection. The truth is, it’s not really a well thought out collection anyhow. It’s a bunch of gonnas, maybes, one days and shoulds. When you move that clutter out the way though, it’s left with OOh! and Hey! and I really have been meaning to! I’m weeding my shelves a couple of books at a time. Sometimes I have to think about it for a few days – if I like that writer’s whole body of work except this one book, do I have to keep that book? Turns out, I’m not a library and I am under no obligation to have a complete archive – I’m only ever going to lend a book like that with, “I personally thought this one was shit, but hey…” I’m slowly pruning it to bookshelves where every book on them means something positive or uplifting (in experience/memory) to me. And I’m removing books that I feel I need to have because someone else will be impressed by my owning it. Or books I have there for guilt reasons – gifted to me, or struggling to enjoy or feel I should have to read or maybe if I try reading in a couple of years time I’ll make it past the first 40 pages.


I don’t really have much time for leisure reading. It’s not like that fact is going to substantially change in say the next five years. Any book I have in my TBR queue is taking the place of a book that’s yet to be published that I might want to read. Or will become a feeling of guilt when I do buy that 2015 book and I haven’t read the TBR pile yet. Cause I have books still sitting in my TBR from more than 5 (10 and even 15) years ago now.


I’ve started trialling turning off backlit electronic devices before bed and reading paper books in an attempt to combat some of my insomnia/trouble getting to sleep. It’s helping. But I’m also discovering that a lot of books I have in my TBR are not fun/enjoyable to read. If that hour before bed is my only time in the day for complete relaxation reading and might be the only time for the foreseeable future, why should that hour be a struggle, or be me forcing myself to push on with a book because I feel guilty about not reading it or feeling I should read it or because I bought it therefore must read it? I’ve stopped reading a lot of books in the last three weeks and culled them – mostly pulp crime or chic lit – because those books should be easy, page turners, and if they’re not, why am I reading them? Being able to start making that decision that if I’m not enjoying a book after 40 pages, it’s wasting the time I have for enjoyable reading, is helping me work through a bigger issue.


What do I think will be so different in 5 years time in terms of enjoying this book more than I am now? I often put a book down that I’m not getting into with the thinking that maybe in a different mood, or a different place in my life, I might enjoy the book more. I can’t really think of one example that that’s actually ever been true or happened.


I saw a great pic on Facebook the other day that said “If you don’t enjoy reading, you’re doing it wrong” – you know how sometimes some random placard just hits a chord with you? I’ve been thinking a lot about how some people like to say that if you haven’t read X you’re not entitled to an opinion about Y genre or you can’t consider yourself a “real” fan or you’re not as worthy of participating in discussions, you haven’t “earned” your cred. I came to SF in my own way and in my own time and on my own terms. But for a large portion of the last decade or so I’ve been feeling obliged/guilty/required to get certain books read. So that I can consider myself a proper legitimate person entitled to an opinion. The thing is, I find a lot of those books boring. And I felt bad about that. I felt inadequate. Like, maybe I didn’t really enjoy the genre if I didn’t enjoy X or Y. Or didn’t get why other people did.


And that made me stop enjoying reading. It’s given me a reading block for the last 5 to 7 years. Certainly for novels. It makes the culture consumed section of Galactic Suburbia hard, a struggle, and sometimes embarrassing for me.


Then I started culling books I wasn’t enjoying. I started looking at each book I was picking up to read from my TBR at night and asking myself if, given I have a limited number of books I can read over the rest of my lifetime, did I really want this book to be one of them? It’s amazing how, with that perspective, it’s easy to ditch a book you’re not enjoying. Especially when you read slowly and carefully. Especially when the choice is between forcing yourself to read something you don’t like versus zipping through something you’re really engrossed in. Ahhh … being engrossed in a world and a story. Wasn’t that the point of this whole hobby in the first place?


And then I came across this a week or so ago:



It sums up exactly where my head is at right now. I don’t need anyone else’s approval to sanction my fan activity as legitimate. I don’t need to sit anyone else’s test or read their curriculum to get a pass. I don’t need to like what other people like in order to prove my worth. I’m me. And I like what I like, because *I* like it. Because my experience is unique and personal. And my interests, and what interests me, are mine. And lots and lots of the books that I’m “supposed to like” are books that I probably will never be able to relate to no matter how many times I try and no matter how many decades I try to read them in. Luckily for me, the genre I love is diverse and broad and has lots of different niches and books within it. And there *are* lots of books that *I do* enjoy reading. And forcing myself to read books I don’t to win some other person’s approval or permission is a complete waste of *my* time. And in fact, was working to make me kinda hate my so defined genre.


Who cares if person over there thinks I don’t get to have an opinion? Last time I checked, no one has been awarded the policing-the-genre badge. What if I have my own opinions anyway? It’s kinda been working out ok for me so far. And … this is supposed to *fun* after all, right? Right? Deciding who gets to have an opinion and who doesn’t, based on your own contrived approved list of books, is just another subtle act of excluding people. And I finished highschool a looooooong time ago now.


Ah… the freedom! I don’t need your approval. I don’t need your permission. I don’t need you to like me.




Originally published at Champagne and Socks


Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
lauredhel
Jul. 31st, 2013 03:32 am (UTC)
Yes, all of this! And I get the same thing, with the niggling "should"s and the ridiculous TBR, and all of it, and it deserves to be jettisoned. With extreme force.

And, for what it's worth - I really love hearing about the movies, TV shows, graphic novels etc that y'all are consuming on GS, and the news, and the opinions, and all the other stuff. It's not about judging your novel reading!
girliejones
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:16 am (UTC)
There is great freedom in the simplification. I am currently really basking in it! The trick will be in the not getting to a point of compulsive accumulation again!

Thanks for your feedback on GS - means a lot!
benpayne
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:12 am (UTC)
I like you and I approve of this post ;-)

Seriously though, I know what you mean, especially about the putting books down and thinking I'll get into it later. I'm learning to give up books but I'm wondering if I'm turning into a grinch. What if I eventually can't finish *anything*?????

Anyway this post has inspired me to quit the book I'm reading!
girliejones
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:15 am (UTC)
I have to warn you that I have just been through a very severe and protracted period of not finishing anything. I thought it was me - that I was incapable of finishing novel length works. In part, the distraction of the internet has problem been one issue. And actually shutting backlit screens to stop insomnia (did not do this last night, paid horrible price) has helped with focus and concentration. But also I think I was just persevering with the *wrong books for me*. I never had to deal with the guilt of abandoning a book cause I put it on the "later" pile.

Also? Re the grinch? So many books do not deserve your reading them. Harsh but true.

benpayne
Jul. 31st, 2013 09:24 am (UTC)
Yeah I know what you mean about the internet distraction and backlit screens.

I guess you become better at telling what books are for you as you get older? And also harder to impress? I think there are books twenty year old me would like that just don't do enough for me now? I want a bit more from books than I did when I had more time to read, if you know what I mean?

It's interesting to compare with our LSS reading. You know we had to overcome our guilt about not finishing the "ok" stories? Like the "3" or "3.5" stories that you kept reading in case they pulled it all together at the end? I guess that's where I'm at with novels. I can abandon crap books just fine, but it's those books that you're not *loving* but you think aren't bad, that you keep plodding on with because you think in a different mood I might love it, or you think it might kick up a notch as it goes along....

But I guess you're right...if it's not working for you right now, then....
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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