Over the past month and a half, I’ve been making a serious effort with my book blog, as well as joining the (sometimes intimidating) world of #bookstagram. Every day since early August, I’ve posted pictures of books on Instagram, some of which have taken an hour or two to set up and take. (Others are, of course, much quicker.)
Yet in that same period, I’ve also been struggling to find time to read, and the two things aren’t unrelated.
Obviously, the hours I’ve put into taking book photos aren’t solely responsible for my lack of reading. I have a job now, one that takes a considerable amount of my time and even more of my energy. In August, I was preparing for Pitch Wars, so most of my reading time was dedicated to writing. Plus, I’ve been suffering from severe headaches, which have really limited my ability to do anything.
I should also add the caveat that what I consider to be “very little reading” is not the same as most people’s idea of the same, since I’ve always been a fast and constant reader. I read around 17 books in August — not a small number by anyone’s standards, but less than I wanted to read, and the list of things I want to read or reread seems to get longer every day.
All of this is fine. Normal. We all go through busy patches, and I need to settle down in this job before I start beating myself up about not doing things outside of it. I’ve also been in a bit of a reading slump, finding it hard to stay focused… but part of that is my apparent inability to just put my phone down and focus on a book for a couple of hours at a time, the way I used to.
I told myself when I started taking book photos that I wouldn’t let myself get to the point where books were just objects. I wasn’t going to acquire them just to look nice on a shelf or in a flatlay. Sure, if they do, that’s a bonus, and a reason to buy paper copies over ebooks when I can… but ultimately, it’s the contents that matters.
Books make great decor, I’ve always thought that, but I never want them to be only decor. I never want to look around my room and realise I’ve only read half the books I own because I just kept adding to them, you know? I’m nowhere near that state at present — it’s rare for me to buy books I haven’t already read and enjoyed, unless they’re by favourite authors — but it’s easy to get to that point if I don’t consciously think about it.
In other words, I need to make time to read. To work through my ambitious stack of library books, to get through the ARCs building up on my Kindle, to reread the books whose sequels I’ve pre-ordered. And that’s tough, when I spend most of my days off sleeping and taking photos and sleeping again (this time unintentionally).
I made a little bit of headway by delving into the world of audiobooks at work, on days when I’m doing repetitive tasks that don’t involve engaging with the outside world. I’ve made it through six so far, and have all but exhausted my local library’s supply of audiobooks that interest me. Now I’m raiding Cambridgeshire libraries too, since I still have a library card there. But it’s going to take a couple of work days to get through any audiobook at the best of times, so it’s not exactly the speediest way of doing it, and the vast majority of books I want to get through are not on audio.
Something must be done, I thought to myself a couple of days ago. We’ve gotta fix this.
So, a plan was formed.
Step one: decide to read a book. This part seems easy enough; I have a list the length of my arm of things to get through.
Step two: turn off my phone.
I firmly believe technology and books can coexist and complement each other, but that doesn’t change the fact that I’m kind of glued to my mobile. Joining the bookstagram world doesn’t just mean I spend a lot of time TAKING photos — I also spend a lot of time looking at other people’s photos, idly refreshing Instagram even when timezones mean nobody’s online. And that’s on top of all my previous social media habits, which were bad enough.
So. Step two. Decide that right now is the time to read, and switch off my phone. It’s better for the battery, anyway, and the only way I’m going to get through anything without being distracted is if it’s not there to distract me.
I tried it this evening. Got 100 pages into the book I’d planned to read and then, finger between the pages to keep my place, fell asleep curled up in the armchair, and stayed there for an hour and a half.
Welp. Maybe I should find time to sleep properly first, and work on the reading afterwards. Anyone got any tips?
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