Under Pressure*

Earlier today, I gave up. Looking at the bookmarks toolbar on my web browser, I thought that I should really read some of those articles over lunch, because they’re timely and important or potentially edifying and I will be a better person if I read them or a terrible person if I don’t.  At first I thought about how I could send them to my Pocket app and read them this weekend, but then I realized that would cut into the time I’d planned to set aside to crack open one of the new books I’ve bought myself lately.  Then it occurred to me that my list of subrights reading is growing at such a fast pace that I wouldn’t have time for a pure pleasure read till late May at earliest.  And there are three books for two different book clubs sitting next to my TV, shaming me every time I pick up the remote.  Though those aren’t quite as time sensitive as those requested manuscripts sitting on my iPad, so I’d have to tackle them this weekend instead.  Which naturally lead me to count up the books on my weekend to do list of reading and editing for clients—which is pretty much going to dominate every minute I’m home this weekend except for those I’ll need to spend sleeping.

And while I love reading and feel grateful to have the career I do, I won’t lie:  when the piles of obligations get so high they look like they might topple, the idea of how much I have to (or “have to”) read really stresses me out.  It’s a lot harder to love a book if all you can think about is that you’re reading it too slowly.

So I was honest with myself:  I’m just never going to read all those can’t-miss articles I’d flagged for later because there was no time to dive into them during work.  Instead of reading through as many as I could at the fastest possible clip during lunch, I deleted them.  Going through, some of them seemed so important that at first I was conservative in ditching them.  That technological development sounds like it could be relevant to publishing five years down the line, so I should definitely take a look.  Or that essay on contemporary fiction by Julian Barnes, he’s one of my favorite writers so I can’t skip that.  But when I realized that some of those links were from best books of 2012 lists, I knew I had a problem.  I mean, sure, that summer reads of 2013 list would be kind of handy to have as the warm weather approaches (one assumes!) and those books hit paperback release dates, but that doesn’t mean I actually need to read it.  After all, there are stacks and shelves and stacks and more stacks of books in my apartment and office, so it’s not like I’m short on ideas of what to read next.  So I deleted all those bookmarks and gave myself the favor of a blank slate.  And, I told myself that if I don’t read the 15 books I impulse bought in the last month before the end of 2014, it’s probably going to be okay.

I still have a ton of reading to do this weekend, but the load on my shoulders feels just that little bit lighter. There’s a seemingly infinite amount of writing in the world, much of it worth reading.  Sometimes we just need to let ourselves off the hook so that we can give our best attention to what we do read—and maybe even have some time to enjoy it.

*If you saw that title and thought of this interview, you are my favorite person today.

6 Responses to Under Pressure*

  1. Joelle says:

    You know, about two years ago I gave up reading blogs almost entirely. Every writer friend I know has one and it was sort of all or nothing. I read this blog (mostly because you’re my agency, but also because I usually find it interesting and/or info I need) and I read one by each of my two critique members (who don’t blog that often) and that’s it. And then I decided to stop adding to the clutter and I stopped blogging myself. If people send me links to articles I check them out right away and read or don’t read them (or sometimes I don’t check them out). If this makes me a terrible person, I’ve decided I can live with that because you know what? My brain is less cluttered for writing and for reading books. And I’m happier.

    I once read in a book about how to clear off your desk (or clean up your house) to take a box, put everything from your desk in it, pick a date 2-4 weeks out, write that date on the box, and then go through it a little at a time unless that date arrives. If the date arrives, then you do the entire box that day. It really works. I think you could do that for future articles that come your way…give them a date to be read by or they’re deleted.

    • Lauren says:

      That’s like the grown up version of clean your room or anything still on the floor is going in the trash. I like it! And it’s definitely a good idea for articles and such. How important do I really think it is if I can’t find time to read it within the first week I spot it?

  2. D. C. DaCosta says:

    It didn’t take long for me to cease feeling guilty about those articles (online or hard copy) that I initially thought I “should” read, because experience soon taught that most of them were not written by anyone with especial experience or knowledge, nor did they contain much that was new, convincing, or important.

    For what it’s worth, this is about the only blog I follow nowadays — always something interesting to think about here.

    • Lauren says:

      You know, I actually do think most of the things I flag to read end up being edifying or interesting or important or well executed (or, one hopes, all four!), but there’s still not enough time in the day! Clearly you’re pretty discerning, so it’s nice that we make the cut. Thanks!

  3. Stacey says:

    I can totally relate to this post from my colleague, Lauren! Worse, I keep hard copies of newspapers and magazines! I think we should schedule an office yoga session.

  4. Lynn says:

    You’re right, Lauren, if you get to the point where you’re not enjoying what you read, then it’s time to take stock of what stays and what goes. There are only so many hours in the day and you have to prioritize. As Stacey suggested, finding time for yoga may definitely be a plus!

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