Here in Salem, Oregon, we have a wonderful program called “Salem Reads” that encourages all library users to read the same fiction book and then attend a variety of talks and presentations on the subjects that book touched on. I’m behind reading this year’s official book and talks are coming up, so I plan to hit the library this week. But my husband (who isn’t the fiction addict I am) has already read it and enjoyed it. It feels odd to be behind him in reading this book, even though it isn’t a competition. And that feeling has made me think about how I tend to always be behind the curve reading any new book or popular book.
I just finished Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers, for example. As in last week. The book has been out since July and has more “best of the year” awards than I can count. I’ve followed Chuck for years on Twitter and Facebook, have read many of his other books, and read his email newsletter religiously. And yet I didn’t run out and get the book the moment it was released even though I knew I’d enjoy it. He’s not the only author where I’ve delayed reading. And you don’t want to know how many books I’ve bought on release day only to hide at the bottom of my To Be Read pile when cracking open the cover gives me a feeling of dread.
What is the one thing all authors ask you to do if they know you’re going to read their book? “Please leave a review” is probably tattooed on more than a few writer’s foreheads. And the moment I think of writing a review I find myself running fast and furiously away from even the idea of that responsibility, and avoiding reading the book. What the heck is wrong with me? I love books, and want to be a valued part of the writing community (both on Twitter and in Real Life). But I have zero book reviews on GoodReads, Amazon, or any other website.
Turns out my love of books is being overwhelmed by my deep-seated hatred of having a “responsibility” hanging over me in the shape of writing a book review. My psyche hates the word responsibility. I mean, really really REALLY hates. 99.99% of the big life problems that have been my nemesis have been caused by my avoiding a responsibility until the point where whatever-it-was turned into an actual crisis.
You want to know how I force myself to pay bills, which is definitely a responsibility? I give myself a bigger, more outdated, or more icky responsibility to think about (Taxes! The 5-year-ago thing I still keep promising a cousin to do! Cleaning the toilet!) and boom, bills get paid because my brain gets obsessed with the big one and lets me alone to do the smaller one. (I also bribed myself with an extremely cute Traveler’s Notebook setup just for bill paying, so my brain is busy admiring the cuteness and forgets the project is one of the dreaded R word things, and I get-er-done.)
So, it turns out I’m really glad about this year’s Salem Reads event, and I’m especially glad that my husband read the book first. It has made me actually examine my habit of not reading things I want to read. It’s made me identify that my bugaboo of “responsibility” is getting in the way of my doing something I enjoy. And it’s made me recognize that I need to change how I look at book reviews and find a way past the sweaty feeling of someone expecting something from me. I can’t get rid of my long-standing dread of anything that feels like an unwanted responsibility, so I need to reframe book reviews. It just so happens I have a new Traveler’s Notebook that is in need of a use…I don’t know if that’ll be the way I approach this aspect of the writing community without any (or at least less) dread, but it’s definitely worth trying. Because there are some really awesome-sounding new books out there calling my name, and I don’t want to wait any longer to read them.