Friday, October 25, 2019

Reading Challenges, Goals, DNF's: Putting Unnecessary Pressure on Ourselves to Succeed

I've been writing about books for quite a few years. I've loved every single thing about having a blog. I started my blog because I loved to talk about books, and talking about them at work just didn't seem like enough for me. It also helped that I had a friend starting a blog, and she got me interested in the blog world. 

I've had years where I read like a fiend. It was effortless, and I devoured books. I've had years where school and family issues kept me from reading at my usual pace, and sometimes I didn't find solace in reading, when it usually always does comfort me and center me. Heck, sometimes you just have to stare at a wall and chill. Even though I read every day, without fail, some days it's only a chapter, while others I can really dive into a book. Some days I only get to read just before I shut the light off. Reading every day is the one habit I've firmly established and have kept at it without fail for at least 10 years. Now, if I could only remember to take my vitamins faithfully every day...

I've been a Goodreads member for many years, and I've participated in their Reading Challenge for some time, too. It's a fun way to set a goal at the beginning of the year and keep track of what you're reading. There are many, many reading challenges all over the web each year, so this isn't your only choice. A lot of people don't want to have a challenge. It's entirely up to you. For me, it helps me keep track of what I am reading, what I want to read, and what I've already read. 

All of these thoughts on reading challenges and goals came about this morning, as I was thinking about all the books I have stacked at home, all the books that I know are coming out soon, and just how I was going to read everything I wanted to read. I realized it just wasn't possible, and I was tired of feeling bad about it. I am genuinely sad when I don't get to read everything I want to read. Looking at my Goodreads Challenge of 100 books this year, I knew (and have known) for weeks that I wasn't going to get to 100 books by December 31st. A goal that has been easy to reach in previous years has been difficult this year, and I don't really know why. Maybe it's the length of the books I read; maybe life is just busier, or I don't have those little bits of time that I used to have where I could read for a few hours. Whatever the case, my reading is slower this year. 

So I've decided to stop putting pressure on myself to hit that goal. And I've decided to stop feeling bad when I say I'm going to read a book, and I either don't even get started, or I try and it just isn't clicking. I've had countless books that didn't resonate with me the first go round, and months or even years later, I pick them up, and they are wonderful. I've always believed the right books come along at the right time. I guess you could say bibliotherapy is something I believe in, wholeheartedly, and heck, being a bibliotherapist would probably be the penultimate life's work for me. I've also decided that I have to let go of other people's expectations of my reading life. And I can't feel bad about reading what I do read. I read for pleasure. Full stop. That doesn't mean I don't read "big books", or books with diversity or difficult themes. I do read them, but just not as much as I read for the sheer pleasure of a good story-whether it's a romance, or a cozy mystery, or a memoir from a favorite actor. And as I read, I'm always grateful for the amazing mind that created the gift I'm holding in my hand. I read to reduce the stress in my life, to take me away, help me calm down, and yes, give me a few hours of forgetting about my troubles, or my to do list, or my doubts about myself. 

Ah. Well there you have it. I really want you, as a reader, to enjoy reading just because it's bliss, and relaxing. The minute you start getting stressed about it, stop yourself. If you're in a book club that you don't enjoy, then stop. If you're reading a book that doesn't "spark joy" and is a slog, put it down and move onto something else. If you think others judge you for what you're reading, stop. Who wants friends like that anyway? Read whatever you want. Read that graphic novel, read that romance, read that 800 page science fiction novel. It's your brain food! 

I know I'll never read everything I want to read. It makes me anxious sometimes. It's something I'm working on. Reducing my reading challenge goal may not seem like a big deal, but to me, it's a first step in giving myself a big break. So if you're feeling a bit stressed about reading, and the pleasure is fading and it seems like a chore, stop and give yourself some grace. The books will wait for you. They're smart that way. They get us. 


  1. Lovely post! Reading books is a pleasure for me. I've been an avid reader since childhood. Sometimes I found being stressed about reading too for a variety of reasons... Like the feeling I should finish reading a book I'm not enjoying just because I should finish what I've started, it's for a book club, it's a book everyone else has raved about, etc.! Now I have no qualms about not finishing a book and moving on to other books that capture my interest more.

    1. Oh, book clubs can be a real challenge! And there are so many books others have read and raved about, and I just couldn't read them. The only recent exception was Where the Crawdads Sing. I did finally read it and really enjoyed it. I am getting back to reading what I enjoy to read, and not letting myself get into the groove of thinking I should be reading other books.

  2. You have some solid thoughts on this, I think you'll be glad you did this. When I started reducing my reading goal, all that pressure melted away. I also DNF very freely. I figure I can always try those books in the future if they're really calling to me.

  3. Thank you Monika! I appreciate your comments. I feel much less pressure now after making the decision to relax a bit.