Writer Eve Peyser had a good reading year in 2021. Here’s why:
“I got myself to regularly read this year because I abandoned all notions about what I “should” be reading (the classics, the entries on “best of” lists) and instead, do whatever I want. . . . As it turns out, books are fun and great when you follow your own whims as a reader.”— Eve Peyser
For a long time now I’ve been laying out my reading plans at the beginning of each year. But 2021, the second year of the pandemic, threw a monkey wrench into all my best-laid plans. I realized early on that I wasn’t going to come anywhere near close to fulfilling my reading and writing plan for the year.
And as the time approached to fill out the “Did I Fulfill My Reading Plan for 2021?” post I had laid out for December, my dread steadily increased. All those lofty goals would be left hanging, without their check boxes ticked.
After much soul searching last fall, I have arrived at this conclusion:
For 2022 I’m ditching productivity to concentrate on projects.
Once I made that decision—along with the realization that the world wouldn’t end if I stopped trying to check off those boxes for 2021—the fog of dread lifted.
The project approach suits me much better than the productivity approach. My life has been a series of research projects since long before the emphasis on Getting Many, Many Things Done. Even as a child, whenever I encountered something new, I would go to the library and read up on it. I think knowing about things, back then, was my way of controlling at least something in my chaotic life. Also, I tend to think in categories and hierarchies, which is probably why I like lists so much (and why you’ll see so many lists of various kinds on this blog). I love looking for similarities and differences between and among various things.
For a number of years now I’ve been carrying various topics I wanted to read about over from one year to the next. I never managed to find the significant blocks of time necessary to work on them in depth because I was so fixated on checking off those individual boxes. Thinking about projects instead of check boxes allows me to look beyond individual books, to see how themes work out in similar or different ways (and often in ways that are both similar and different, part of the magic of how fiction—and the reading of it—works).
Unplanned Reading isn’t exactly accurate because I do have some general goals for 2022:
- to read more nonfiction
- to read more historical fiction
- to participate in the 2022 Discussion Challenge
- to catch up on reviewing some of the books I read in both 2021 and 2020
- to review new books as I read them
But the project approach will allow me the flexibility to get back to what I really want to do. One of the things I found most constraining about the overly-planned approach was that it kept me from taking on certain projects. For example, the annual Goodreads Challenge to read a set number of books during the year kept me from reading (and in some cases, rereading) big books (books of 500 or more pages). I thought about just reducing the number of books for the Challenge, but I finally decided that if I was going to make the number low enough as to be meaningless, I might as well just ditch the whole thing anyway. It’s amazing how freeing that decision feels!
So that’s my nonplan, and I’m sticking to it. Thanks for listening.
Will this be the year I finally read Ulysses?
© 2022 by Mary Daniels Brown