Reading responsibly…

How lockdown has affected my relationship with books

Hello, long time no speak.

I hope you’ve been enjoying my book reviews on Instagram — I wanted to post more on there and it’s been a great editing tool in helping me cut reviews down to reasonable(ish) lengths!

Anyway, since my last post on here in early February, SO MUCH has changed. The whole world has seen a huge shift due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we’ve all had to make changes to adapt.

However, what I’ve noticed during this strange period is that aspects of my life that I thought I could control have slipped from my grasp…

A couple of mornings ago (what day even IS it?) I opened up my Goodreads app yet again with an overwhelming sense of dread, stared at my reading goal for the year, and had a revelation.

I’ve been punishing my own reading habits for almost two months.

Now, before I go on a — probably quite self-indulgent — rant about my discovery, I do want to point out that there have been some beautiful things happening in regards to reading during this lockdown. There are people who had never really made time for reading before who now consider it their new favourite hobby; people are discovering new authors, new genres; books are being sent in the post as gifts; conversations about books are generally thriving from what I can see, and as I said, it’s a beautiful thing.

But back to my Goodreads.

Goodreads, for the most part, has been brilliant. I’ve discovered so many new books, recommended and been recommended tonnes and loved being nosy at what my friends are reading. I smashed my reading challenge last year, and upped the number of books for this year. This quantifiable goal had never been a problem for me before.

But ever since the lockdown, and ever since connecting via social media became more important than ever, that Goodreads goal has been taunting me. Telling me I’m one or two books behind my goal, while everyone else, it seems, is storming through… I want to keep up, to be on target. I’ve found myself, DAILY, thinking I can’t possibly read fewer books than last year, I’M A READER. I can’t abandon my personality as a bookworm! Why aren’t I using all this free time wisely?!

The problem is, of course, my own self-critical mindset. I’m surrounded by incredibly talented friends and family members, many of whom are reading a lot and creating amazing things at the moment. The ‘good’ side of my brain (and my heart) is immensely proud and happy for them, but the toxic, comparative side, makes me feel awful that I’m not also having a busy period of reading and creating.

What troubles me, as I’m sure it does for some of you too, is that this lockdown hasn’t gifted me any particular inspiration to start up baking, sewing, drawing, working out more, or even learning a musical instrument. Just like the world outside, the creative side of me is facing a period of uncertainty.

I’m a very ‘all or nothing’ person, meaning that when I’m interested in something, I won’t stop until I’ve researched and learned everything I possibly can about it, to the point of obsession. The lockdown has knocked this aspect of my personality majorly. I can’t really focus on anything for too long. I’m hopping from one thing to another because I’m restless. I could be doing more in-depth research into an idea I’ve had for a novel, but I know I’d get bored within less than half an hour. And because I miss everyone so desperately, social media has invaded my hobby time.

When I read, I usually leave my phone in another room or away from me, and I can easily spend a few hours in another world. Recently when reading, I’ve found myself stopping, updating my page number on Goodreads, seeing what everyone else is reading, feeling bad, and then opening up Instagram, doing the same, and consequently spending the next few hours hating myself. It sounds silly typing it out, but there you go.

It’s a quote I’ve been seeing a LOT, and then ignoring entirely, but I’ve realised it really is ‘okay to not be okay’ — it’s okay to not even feel like YOU right now.

You’ve also got to remember what your goals were before the lockdown — okay, a lot of them will be on hold, but for instance, my goal was to get a new job that I enjoyed and to really throw myself into it and prove myself. That’s a goal I think I’ve achieved (and am still in the process of achieving). Now, I’m working from home and lucky enough to still be on full hours and pay, unlike many others. I’ve realised during this time how passionate and resilient I am about work. I’ve been beating myself up about my hobby and not giving myself enough recognition over the thing I spend most of my time doing!

Also, even if I was still going into work as normal, I don’t think I’d be able to get through as many books as last year anyway — I drive fifteen minutes to get to the office now; two and a half hours have been cut off my daily commute time compared to last year. I used to do most of my reading on the train and the tube, so I had only just established a new reading routine before the world went into corona chaos. Also, because I am currently very anxious, I’ve been needing more than books to distract me and calm me down of an evening (playing Animal Crossing has helped; I highly recommend).

My last post on here was about the book releases I was most excited about this year. Have I read any of those books? No.

I finally bought The Mirror and the Light and Hamnet, however they’ve been sitting on my shelf abandoned. I’ve been purposefully avoiding them because they are hardback and they are long. Of course I’ve enjoyed the other books I’ve been reading and reviewing, but I’ve been denying myself the pleasure of reading others because of an unimportant number on a social media app, and that is incredibly sad.

No more.

Two mornings ago I lowered my Goodreads goal to a more realistic one. I may even get rid of the goal altogether.

Because of my previous ‘I need to read a paperback and get through it quickly’ mindset, I am currently reading The Five by Hallie Rubenhold. But I’m now reading it carefully instead of rushing through and tracking the page number each time I put the book down. I’m reading it at a slower pace because it’s a lot of historical detail to take in, and I want to read it with the respect it deserves. And I’m also reading it at a rate I’m comfortable with because I simply need to take a bit more care of myself.

I know this post hasn’t been particularly original, but hopefully it helps to remind some of you, as well as being a reminder to myself, that you don’t have to be on top of things right now. You are enough, you don’t need to use this time wisely, etc etc!

Stay calm, stay safe and healthy.

Read responsibly, create from a place of love, and give yourself a pat on the back for getting through this post.

Till next time!

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