One evening several months ago, my kid launched, quite seriously, into a discussion at the dinner table. Topic? “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Not new ground by any means for adults, but for him, it was a fun debate topic.
I was reminded of this discussion this week as I felt myself getting more and more frustrated and overwhelmed by my reading and blogging to-do lists. What’s the connection?
It’s simple: I started feeling under quite a bit of pressure to schedule my reading around the ARCs and digital galleys lined up in my queue. And yet, at the same time, I have a growing stack of new books that I couldn’t wait to buy, a few library books, and some older books on my shelves, all awaiting my attention. Which raises the question — what the heck am I doing?
I started a blog as an outlet for my love of all things bookish. I wanted a place to share my thoughts, meet other book lovers, and — I’d hoped — engage in great discussions about some terrific books. And that’s all come true, more or less, and with lots of trial and error.
But lately, I’ve been feeling the need to pick books to read in order to meet my blogging needs. I’ve been requesting and reviewing more ARCs, some of which I’ve really enjoyed — but always with an eye toward keeping up with what’s new and reviewing books that are more likely to get “hits” for my blog. I’ve been hesitating about devoting time to longer books, as that would mean I’d have fewer reviews to post in a given week. And those books gathering dust on my shelves — the ones that I’ve had for a while or that were published several years ago? Well, where’s the incentive to read those, if I don’t feel like they’re likely to increase my blog traffic?
No wonder I’ve been feeling like not such a happy camper. I have five review copies of new and upcoming books to read — but what I really want to do is read the Susanna Kearsley book on my shelf, then dive into the new Joe Hill novel that should be arriving on my doorstep this week. Plus, hey, I have a few graphic novels to catch up on, and then there’s the promise I made to myself to read one scene from Much Ado About Nothing each day.
Not only that. What about my blog posts back in December and January about my reading resolutions for 2013 and my participation in a TBR reading challenge? Should those be driving my book selections? I was diligently working my way through the TBR challenge list I’d selected for myself — for about three months, and then other books caught my eye. So now I feel guilty about not living up to a challenge I set myself… except why should I? Wasn’t the whole point of it TO HAVE FUN?
Really, I have enough things in my life to worry about. I have a full-time job (which, unfortunately, has nothing at all to do with reading books). I have an energetic, funny 10-year-old who occupies most of my free time around the house (not that that’s not a great thing!). I have an older parent whom I should call more often. I have bills to pay, dishes to put away, a husband who needs attention once in a while. READING IS MY PASSION — NOT MY BURDEN!
Back in January, in my blog post called Top Ten Bookish Resolutions for 2013, I wrote this for #10:
Slow down. Stop focusing on the numbers. Stop worrying about stats. Read for pleasure. Pick books because they’re what I want to read. Take as long as it takes to read, savor, enjoy, contemplate, consider, ponder, and reflect. Remember that I read because I love it, not because I have a challenge to meet or a blog post to write. When I stop enjoying my reading and start finding it more of a chore, I know I’m doing something wrong. READ FOR LOVE. That is all.
Clearly, I haven’t been following my own advice.
Back to the chicken and the egg: Which comes first, blogging or reading? Do I blog as a result of reading books that I love? Or do I pick books to read that I think will help my blog stats?
The answer is obvious. I need to remind myself to stick to my resolution:
READ FOR LOVE.
I hereby vow, once again, that I will not let blogging obsessions dictate my reading choices. I will read the books that call to me, that excite me, that appeal to me in the moment. Planning ahead is fine. Requesting ARCs of new books is fine. But if I’m reading a particular book out of a sense of obligation or in order to have a “fresh” book to review, then I’m doing something wrong.
Which comes first, blogging or reading? It’s clear: I’m a reader. And always will be.
So, I’ll do what I love. I’ll read the books that I really want to read. And I’ll keep on blogging about what I read, because it makes me happy. And hey, if we can have some great conversations about the books we’ve read, that’ll make me really happy too.
READ FOR LOVE.
I think I’ve found my new daily mantra. Happy reading, everyone!