While trying to take care of some online housekeeping over the weekend, I stumbled upon one of my old Amazon wishlists – one that stretched back a decade or more. The titles listed were definitely “on brand” for what I like to read. I’m nothing if not consistent.
For someone with a full time job and a household to run, I like to think I consume written material at a respectable rate (especially given I have no claim on speed reading). There’s not much down time here that doesn’t find me with a book in my hand. There’s nothing to make my efforts feel inadequate quite like seeing page after page of titles I still want to read, but haven’t gotten around to yet. Worse yet, they’re the ones I haven’t even gotten around to grabbing up a copy of yet. That puts them deeply in the “who the hell knows when or if I’ll get to them” category.
Maybe I should reconsider my whole position on the universal basic income. Not needing to do annoying things like earn a living would really free up the kind of time I need to work through the backlog here. Sure, it creates a whole host of secondary problems and unintended consequences, but it seems that’s what it’s going to take to find time enough at last.
One of the great problems I face with reading is that I’ve done enough of it over the years to start racking up a number of favored authors who I love for their writing or their area of focus or both. If those authors are still alive and active, I have a tendency to want to read whatever new material they publish. I suppose that’s only really a “problem” if you already have 150+ books sitting in your “to be read” pile… that didn’t cost $20 or more to order new from Amazon.
That’s not in any way an admission that I didn’t just pre-order the new Harry Turtledove novel, but I will confess to feeling mildly guilty about it. Although you shouldn’t think for a minute that it’s anywhere near the level of guilt that might result in cancelling the order.
I love to read, but I’m not a speed reader by any stretch of the imagination. In an average year I get through 50-60 books. At some point, I’m probably going to have to come to terms with the fact that there simply isn’t enough time to read everything I want to get through. There probably isn’t time for that in several dozen lifetimes.
A less acquisitive person might see this realization as a reason to slow down on purchases and maybe try to catch up – just a little bit – on what’s already stored for future reading. Me? Well, I prefer to just go ahead and rationalize my behavior. I’m fortunate to not have particularly expensive hobbies. I’m not pouring away money on golf or boating. I mean, it only stands to reason that I’m more likely to get to something that’s already in hand, so really I guess there isn’t a problem with tucking just one more thing onto the stack.
If you read any books about writing, they’re chalk full of good ideas about what to do when the ideas aren’t flowing like “just sit down and write anything, it doesn’t matter if it’s just the same word over and over again.” Those books are clearly written by jerkoffs. Sometimes no matter how hard you smash your fingers against the keyboard, absolutely nothing useful ends up on the screen. Given that most evenings I’m usually more or less successful at stringing at least a few words together into a coherent thought, I should probably just accept a few days like this as one of the costs of doing business. It’s also an incredibly helpful reminder about why I never seriously consider one of these batshit crazy writing projects where you take a deep and personal oath to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Even if I could manage it, I have a sinking feeling that the last 20,000 words might come out like ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKE JEFF A DULL BOY. And honest to God, for me writing is supposed to be a stress free, relaxing hobby. I just don’t need that level of self-generated pressure.
I’ve found an interesting thing about writing. The more I do it, the more I want to do it. I’m pretty sure there some chemical reaction in the brain governing this sort of thing, but it feels damned good to see the written word fill up a piece of paper that doesn’t have anything to do with a quarterly report, status update, or policy memo. Since every action has an equal and opposite reaction, I’m finding that the problem is that there always seems like there’s more to say than there is time to say it. Let’s just say that this is leading to some good stuff, but also some bleary eyed mornings.
Someone asked me not long ago what I do for fun. This is apparently it. Some people spend their free time building models or playing kickball, baking, or candlestick making. It seems that for now, this is going to be my most time consuming hobby. It keeps me off the streets and I can do it without needing to go out and deal with large groups of people, so maybe this is exactly what I’ve been looking for after all. Some of you extroverts will scoff and say it’s not a real hobby, but remember to be nice or I’ll blog about you. And no one wants that.
Interestingly, the more I write, the more I read; which strikes me as a strange circumstance since both are inherently time consuming activities in their own right. It’s possible that this is a passing interest, but five years of active blogging, and a new found interest in e-publishing would point to something different. Maybe I will lose interest at some point, but for now I’ll write like the wind because you never know when you’ll get hit broadside by an insufferable case of writer’s block.