Midweek @ Musings: My “un-project”

Last week, as I was basking in glory, having read all the Booker Prize winners through 2009, a few commenters asked about my next project.  Well, I’m about to do something different and daring:

I’m going stop hyper-planning my reading.

When I began blogging in 2007, I quickly jumped on the reading challenge bandwagon.  There were so many to choose from!  Some, like the Notable Books Challenge, pointed me towards books I might not have found on my own.  Others, like the Spring Reading Thing or Nonfiction 5 Challenge, helped me work through my TBR pile.  I finished 9 challenges that year, and had a lot of fun.  And I continued signing up for challenges, albeit fewer each year.  I’ve also been moving away from timed challenges, preferring participation in long-term projects and reading events.

I also set reading goals each year — like reading 12 Virago Modern Classics, or a certain number of books from my stacks.  Managing yearly goals, long-term projects, and challenges requires some planning, so I created a spreadsheet that I’m actually rather fond of.  This reading plan also allows me to analyze my reading, and compile yearly stats.

But suddenly, all these goals and commitments feel too confining.  I’d like to read more of the books piling up on my shelves, regardless of whether they satisfy a challenge or goal.  I’d like to take part in a group read or blogging event on the spur of the moment and not feel guilty about other, competing reading goals.  I’d like to go on a “reading jag” focused on one author or genre. I’d like to read what I most want to read at that very moment.

Simply put, I want to read like “normal people” do.

So my next project is really an “un-project.”  I’m going to go easy on the planning.  I’ll continue reading Booker Prize nominees, and encouraging others to do so on The Complete Booker.  But in 2011 I will not set quantitative reading goals, and I will not join challenges.  My handy-dandy spreadsheet will be a reading record, not a reading plan.  That’s a subtle change; I’m aiming for a historic view of my reading, not a list of books I intend to read.  I’ll still participate in reading events, including Orange January/July and The Classics Circuit … and hopefully even more.

This may seem like a flash of the bleedin’ obvious to many of you.  But I’m a highly structured and analytical soul.  This un-project may actually be quite a challenge!

Wish me luck!

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17 thoughts on “Midweek @ Musings: My “un-project”

  1. It sounds like it will be rejuvenating though. I tried something very similar last year and it certainly felt quite freeing in some ways. But I think it also contributed to a heightened sense of needing to read extra-voraciously this year. ::blinks to clear blurry vision:: Somewhere in between these two years is my reading ideal, I think. Good luck with your un-planning. At the very least, the time you once spent planning will now be up-for-grabs reading time!

    • @BIP, I do think it will be rejuvenating and freeing, at least for a while. But I also know what you mean about the “extra-voraciousness” — I’m already thinking about the huge pile of books I want to read all in the next few weeks!

  2. You’re so brave!!! And I’m happy to hear you’re not ditching the spreadsheet entirely. You are my spreadsheet goddess, you know.

    I’m happy that some of the challenges I’ve taken part in this year (esp. the TIOLI) have actually made my reading more spontaneous. I still feel some pressure to finish some books by a certain deadline, which is becoming less fun. Yes, finding the balance is key.

    • Terri, my spreadsheet rocks, and it’s not going away! You know, I think it was the TIOLI that got me thinking seriously about this un-project. The past couple of months I’ve looked at the TIOLI choices and for the most part have said, “oh darn, that doesn’t fit my plan.” Now I can participate in the monthly “challenges” using books on my shelves, which sounds like fun.

  3. I reached this point in January this year. I realized what started out as fun was becoming a chore! I wanted to read books as the mood led not because I had to read it! I went cold turkey and dropped out of all challenges – all 17. By June I was ready to come back but only 2 or 3 plus some personal untamed ones. Am much happier now 🙂

  4. I’ve abandoned most challenges too. I like to keep my reading requirements to reviewing books for Early Reviewers or other sources, plus Orange January/July. Other than that, I am a freebird!

    • Oh yes Jill, Early Reviewers is another opportunity. I haven’t done much of that at all, because my early experiences were clunkers. But Trespass was an ER book, and I have another, a memoir, that I’m really looking forward to reading.

      But of course I’m already thinking about my OJ reads, I can’t help planning that … 🙂

  5. It would take considerable effort on my part to abandon some of my lists. So good for you. I’m amused by the idea that you could be a normal reader 🙂

  6. Good luck on your unstructured reading, Laura…I am moving more and more in that direction as well and it is very motivating! But, I agree with those who want you to keep on graphing and spread-sheeting (is that a word?)…I love those!!!

  7. I’ve been using one catch-all challenge this year, which is the Read-and-Review challenge. I read whatever I want, and I write about it on my blog. That’s it. Easy. I was starting to feel the same constraints and pressures that you had been feeling, though joining those other challenges, “Chunkster”, “Classics”, “Non-Fiction”, etc. in earlier years, did help push me towards some books I might normally pass over, and I was grateful for that.

    I haven’t decided what I want to do this coming year. I do like keeping track on my blog, though. 🙂

  8. Enjoy! I tried a month of unstructured reading, and realised that I prefer a bit of structure in my life. 😉 But I like more amorphous structure that still allows room for whims. Finding that balance is tricky! I’m hoping I can manage it for next year. 🙂

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