Beginning a new year: looking back, moving forward

Happy 2015! It’s January 14, halfway through the month, and I’m starting to feel like I’m recovering from the chaotic extravaganza of the holidays, starting to feel like myself again.

Rather than posting a half-thought-out end-of-year favorites’ recap, or a half-planned resolutions list, (both of which I did write, but which felt incomplete), this year I’ve given myself time to mull over what last year meant to me, and what I hope next year may become.

Here are my thoughts. In 2015, I want to focus on quality, rather than on quantity. The last couple of years have been a reading frenzy for me…first, I discovered the joys of Goodreads, NetGalley, and blogging. Then, as I tend to do, I threw myself passionately into organizing, cataloging, and reviewing what I read, and more than anything, reading as much as possible. For awhile, I had a goal of reading 100 pages daily. I came to realize that this goal was not necessarily, for me, a good thing. As someone who is adept at becoming obsessive about any kind of work or study, I have a tendency to create work out of what is initially pure pleasure. So, when I found myself feeling anxiety over not reaching my daily goal, which is, to be honest, not the easiest thing when one has a life to lead as well, I started to reassess my reading.

I initially considered my reading and reviewing as a possible pathway toward a career in publishing.  But what I actually experienced was that my reading goals meant that I was reading more books than I could properly review. Before I had reviewed one book to my satisfaction, I was halfway into another, and the impact of the first was fading from my mind. I also realized that my habit of reading multiple books at once meant that sometimes, especially when the books were in the same (thriller) genre, the lines between characters could get a little blurred.

So, what I realized was that I wanted to slow down and enjoy my reading. Making reading into what felt essentially like an unpaid job robbed a lot of the joy out of it.  The more I wrote reviews, the more I felt conflicted about writing them. On the one hand, I very much enjoy the purely analytical element of reviewing. I also enjoy sharing recommendations with other readers.  But when I review for a publisher, often, my honest review includes a lot of negatives. And I felt increasingly uncomfortable with the idea of perhaps discouraging a newly published author, one who may have potential, but who is still honing their skills.

Ultimately, I have great admiration for anyone who has the inspiration, the discipline, and the courage, to write and publish a novel.  I have written my entire life, and the first career goal I remember having was to be a writer “when I grew up.”  So, where does this leave me in the present day?

In 2015, I want to read in a more focused, more internally-motivated manner. I’ve been surprising myself with how very much I am enjoying non-fiction, including such books as The Discovery of France, by Graham Robb, and Surpassing the Love of Men, by Lillian Faderman.  Reading social and cultural histories seems much more meaningful to me as a woman in my late 30’s, than it did when I was studying history in primary school. I also want to allow myself to read less, to slow down, and to allow myself more time to think about what I’m reading.

One of my main goals in 2015 is to finally, finally, write a novel in a disciplined manner, rather than having scraps of poetry, notebooks with short stories, or 20 pages of several different novels saved in obscure locations on the computer.  To accomplish this, one of the main things I think I need to do is to take a break from constantly reading other people’s fiction, so that I can focus on creating my own.

In 2015, I will continue to read, and to review, when I feel inspired, or want to record impressions about literature that excites me.  I will continue to share recommendations with online friends, which is one of the things I have enjoyed the most about Goodreads. But I will also remind myself to slow down, to enjoy.

Books began as one of my greatest pleasures. Before I could properly speak English, I ran about chewing on their cardboard corners, and reading them to myself in my own private language before my parents woke up in the morning. I’ve been blessed to have been read to by enthusiastic parents, to have been encouraged to read by librarians, and encouraged to write by supportive teachers.  Now, as an adult, I want to continue to allow myself to find pleasure and passion in reading. And this year my goal is to write.

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