I often get overwhelmed by the number of things I need/want to do each week. There’s paid editing work, novel writing, family stuff, exercise, household chores, keeping my garden alive (we’ve had a few heat spells in Melbourne recently), driving my son around (my daughter’s 18 and has her licence – so good!), socialising, blogging, social media, listening to podcasts and, of course, reading.
There is a pile of books in my study and another on my bedside table that I need to get to, plus an ever-growing list of books I’ve heard about and would like to read. One of the problems with engaging with social media and listening to writing podcasts is that I find out about great books all the time. Three get added for every one that gets crossed off the list.
The other pressure is the due dates on library books. I borrow a lot from my local library, and with so many books on my list, I never need to browse. I log onto my library’s online portal and reserve books I want to read. When they become available the library sends me an email and I go to pick them up.
What tends to happen, though, is that the books I reserve are often newish releases and everyone else wants to read them too. So there’s a waiting list. Sometimes I’m fifth on the list and sometimes I’m fifteenth. You never know when the book will become available. I love this system but I invariably run into two problems:
multiple books become available at the same time
I only have three weeks to read these multiple books because if someone else has requested the book, you can’t re-borrow it (this recently happened with Boy Swallows Universe ).
With everything else I want to do in my life, having to finish lots of books in a short time can be stressful. I don’t want to have to skim or speed-read these books – I want to enjoy, appreciate and learn from them. I like to read every word. I’m almost relieved when a book is not as good as I’d hoped and I can happily put it aside.
The game plan
Last night, lying in bed wide awake as I often am for the first couple of hours after turning off the light, I decided that I don’t need this added stress in my life.* So here’s my plan:
While I’m going to continue to add books to my list when I hear about them, I’m going to stop worrying about the length of the list.
I’m going to stop requesting books from the library for a while so I can concentrate on toppling the towers of books piling up in my home.
My big lesson
In thinking about the stress of my ever-increasing reading list, I’ve learnt an important lesson. Since This Thing of Darkness came out four months ago, I given copies to people who I thought would enjoy it or, let’s face it, help me get the word out by mentioning it on social media. I’ve probably mailed or hand-delivered about fifteen copies to other Aussie YA authors and YA book people. This has so far generated one podcast interview and probably three social media posts.**
In my mind, I’ve been asking: ‘It’s a short book, why can’t you just invest three or four hours and read it?’ But that’s me thinking only of myself and focusing on the job at hand: to get the word out about my book. What I didn’t stop to consider (because I was so caught up in the idea that the rest of the world should be as enthusiastic about my book as I am) was that all these people have long to-read lists as well. They are probably equally as overwhelmed (although I hope handling it a bit better) as me.
There is always a ranking to the list too. As I said, I prioritise library books because I know I have to return them. Same goes for books I borrow from friends. The books I own get relegated to the bottom of the pile – and that’s where these gifted copies of This Thing of Darkness no doubt sit for the people I have given it to.
So, the point is, I’m sorry for thinking bad thoughts about all you lovely people who graciously accepted my book when I shoved it under your nose. Consider me schooled.
* I’m completely aware that of all the stresses that people experience in the world, this is unbelievably minor and I should check my privilege.
** While one author said no to me sending a copy, it did lead to her asking me to write a guest post for her blog, which was very generous.