Hard Times

Journal comic drawn with a Sharpie brush pen on a Moleskine Star Wars crawl text limited edition plain notebook.

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Hard Times

How I Started Reading More (Again)

A few more insights into how I got back to reading, beyond using a reading journal, as it has come up in conversations lately (people are gearing up for 2019 resolutions, I guess):

  • I started with detective novels, easy reads, things that were fun and not too challenging to dig into. M.C. Beaton, P.G. Wodehouse, John Scalzi were my friends. I was trying to rebuild a habit, and so the last thing I needed was to start with books that I would resist reading. My mind had to learn to treat reading as a pleasant pastime and not “homework” anymore, so the more challenging books came in only about a year after I started.
  • I used streaks to challenge myself to read 10 minutes a day, every day. Why 10 minutes? Because I felt that this was the minimal amount of time required for me to start easing myself out of the choppy, constantly distracted and interrupted reading habits that I had picked up after years of using social media.
  • I deleted the Facebook and YouTube apps from my phone, and after a great deal more struggle and a few relapses, Twitter. Instead of browsing them when I had a minute or two to spare, I used the Kindle app.
  • I put reading in my new year’s resolutions (yes, I have been doing those for the last three years, and I’ve been pretty successful in meeting them for the last three years, but that’s a different post). At first it was just for a certain quantity of books (24), and then it was for a certain number of books of each kind — challenging books and long books.
  • I set up a Goodreads account and started a reading challenge there. As with the resolutions, it’s important to keep the goal not only attainable under normal circumstances, but also attainable when things go horribly wrong with your life. Start lower than you think, and ignore other people’s goals. You’re doing this for yourself. If it’s 5 books, 10 books, 20 or 20, it should be what you can do. I chose 24, because that was 2 books a month, and something that I felt I could get to without resorting to reading only short and simple books.
  • I cut out TV almost entirely from my life. This wasn’t just about reading, it was about making more time in my day for things that were more important to me, but it definitely helped with my reading. I cancelled my cable subscription and I watch about 2 hours of TV a week.

This has been my journey back into reading. Take from it what you wish, but if I can distill them they’d look like this:

  1. Decide you want to do it. If it’s not coming from you, it won’t happen.
  2. Set up systems of daily reminders and goals. These can be private or public, they can be analog or digital, as long as they help you keep on track.
  3. Make it pleasurable. Start with easy reading in a genre that you enjoy, maybe with a writer that you know, and keep your goals easy and attainable even not on the best of days.

 

How I Started Reading More (Again)

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again

Ironically enough, by the time I finished with my MA in English Literature a few years ago I had “lost” the habit of reading. From someone who used to read at every available (and not so available) moment I had turned into a non-reader almost entirely. This bothered me so I set up to rectify it by “gamifying” reading until I had tricked myself back into the habit again.

Field Notes had just come out with their Arts and Sciences, the perfect format for my plans. The idea wasn’t only to create a journal where I would log my thoughts on each book as I read it, but create a little set of “achievements” that I could unlock for each book as I read it. For each quarter of the book I read, I got an achievement, a little logo that symbolized the book which I drew on a separate page. The accumulation of those silly little symbols was enough to push me forward as I learned to enjoy reading again. I kept that up for three Field Notes Arts books and then when I ran out of them, I simplified the format and moved to the Moleskine Two-Go, which had just come out. The Field Notes Arts notebook wasn’t fountain pen friendly so I used a Karas Kustoms Render K, a Blackwing pencil and the Caran d’Ache Bicolor 999 double sided coloured pencil.

On the first year that I tried using this system (from March 2016) I got from not reading any new books (just my old familiar favourites) to reading almost 20 new books. On the second year (2017) I got up to 42 books. This year to date I’m at 58 books, and I’ll probably read 60-61 books by the end of the year. I no longer need to spend time drawing little “achievement badges” as my reading habit is back here to stay. I do, however, still keep a book journal even though I’ve started using Goodreads since 2017. It’s a satisfying way to keep track of my reading and organize my thoughts on the books that I’ve read.

You can check out the format of the entries for fiction and non-fiction below. The unlined left side of the spread (verso) is where I do a little doodle that reminds me of something central in the book, and explain the star rating that I gave the book in each category. I really recommend that if you choose to create your own analog reading journal, you create your format yourself. Mine has changed over time, particularly for non-fiction, and it works with my reading goals for the year.

This is the index, which is useful for reference later on and is a good way to check my reading progress throughout the year.

My Reading Journal, or How I Taught Myself To Enjoy Reading Again

Quick update

  • I’ve started reading my 54th (!) book of the year, John Scalzi’s “The Collapsing Empire”. I’m not skim trading anything, it’s just that my newly acquired Kindle Paperwhite allows me to fill more empty time with reading.
  • Adding more strength workouts to my training schedule has made me appreciate yoga more.
  • I’ve played Matt Leacock’s “Forbidden Sky” cooperative board game and it is fantastic. I’ll post a review once I’ve run through it a few more times.

  • It’s still not raining here, which is worrying.
  • I’ve been back to writing every day, even if some days it’s only 200 words.

Keep at it, don’t let them get you down, you’re awesome! Swing for the fences.

Quick update

Quick Update

Here’s what’s going on in a nutshell:

  • Back to writing while I figure out what to do with my first novel (beta readers, synopsis, etc).
  • I’ve deleted Tweetbot from my phone again. I’ve really cut down on my social media lately, and it’s time to once again take a step back from Twitter for a while. It just makes me so angry and frustrated lately, to no good end.
  • Listening to Serial season 3 (talk about angry and frustrated), MBMBaM, Do By Friday, Roderick on the Line, Felicitations and the Pen Addict. I’ve really cut down on my technology podcasts for the past few weeks, because there’s only so many times you can hear a bunch of dudes talk about their iPhones or watches.
  • I’ve managed to return to journaling, and my running is back on track. I’m still spending a lot of time in the hospital, on the phone with the hospital or researching health things on the internet for my mom, but I’ve managed to eek some sort of balance into the craziness of it all. Keeping my head above the water at this point, which isn’t bad.
  • Drawing and reading like crazy, instead of watching TV or playing video games, which is a net positive for me.

 

Quick Update