The Pressures of TBR Lists and Reading Goals

Looking at my GoodReads TBR (to be read) list verses my owned TBR, there’s a lot of stress – and pressure – to read through everything. I know one of the biggest reasons my TBR on GoodReads is so long because it’s full of books I see people being hyped about that might not even be my thing, but hey, someone I follow said it’s amazing so I have to read it right? Right?

Wrong.

There are so many releases every week it’s impossible to keep up with everything even though series (and sometimes stand-alones) become so hyped and so popular that the pressure to come aboard the hype train is very real. It doesn’t help when subscription boxes do special edition kits and that FOMO vibe kicks in because exclusive always means worth it.

Also wrong. (But 100% no shade towards some of the amazing exclusive boxes I’ve seen out there.)

Now you’ve probably noticed I’ve been using the word “pressure” a lot already in this little post, and there’s a reason for that. Maybe I’m the only one, or one of a few, but when series become hyped up on social media, it’s hard not to feel like you’re missing out on something. An example of this is Caraval, Throne of Glass, The Raven Boys, The Grisha Series, or even Harry Potter. Some of these I read and loved and was able to join in on the fun online, but others I felt like I was missing something and therefore didn’t feel like a “real” book blogger because I hadn’t read something or had but didn’t like it.

A lot of my TBR has been built up of books that have been hyped either on GoodReads, Instagram, or Twitter, and it’s a similar thing to what I touched on last week about impulsively buying books because they looks pretty on Instagram. It’s much less self-destructive to simply add things to an online list that doesn’t affect my wallet, but it does affect how I see my downtime. Constantly feeling like you should be doing something isn’t always a good thing, and can be really stressful. Seeing my TBR list at 400+, 500+, and recently 600+ makes me feel not only like I should be read at all free moments, but it also makes me feel like I should be reading quickly.

Much like the imaginary pressure to complete double or triple digit reading challenges on GoodReads can be counterproductive (hence why a lot of people have recently only set their challenges to one), having huge TBR lists can start to feel the same.

This year I set my goal to 100, but then dropped it down to 80 recently because it felt like a less stressful number. I will probably drop it again because the size of books I’m reading right now is significantly higher than what I was reading earlier in the year.

It’s okay to read slower and/or read fewer books in a year. It’s okay not to add every single book you see to your TBR lists.

Something I’ve started doing, is going through my GoodReads TBR and deleting first every book that I can’t remember the synopsis to, and then deleting books added years ago (that I don’t currently own) but still haven’t read yet. As of right now my TBR of 608 books has been reduced to 420. I’m also setting a rule for myself that until the book is in my possession or on hold at the library, I’m not adding it to my TBR on GoodReads.

It’s so easy to get sucked into that rabbit hole of adding everything to your lists, but life is too short for books you don’t absolutely want to read. My motto has always been that life is too short for books you also don’t like.

What are some things you do to stay pressure-free while reading? Let me know in the comments!


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The [Instagram] Envy Is Real

Today marks the first time I’ll be doing Tuesday Truths, a weekly blog series that discusses some truths that I have learned as a blogger and instagrammer.

This week I want to discuss Instagram Envy. Specifically, in my case, Bookstagram Envy.

It’s tax season, and my finances are honestly not all that great. I work part time and definitely need to start looking for more work to start actually reducing debts and saving money. But this isn’t about that. This is about how my finances aren’t great and that’s a mixture of impulsiveness caused by mental illness, retail therapy, and constantly oggling all the pretty things I see on Instagram.

The thing with social media is that we are constantly bombarded by new shiny things to throw money at or else it will go away forever. The exclusives, the pre-orders, the bonus, the giveaways. It’s thrown at all any time we look at our screens and it can be hard to fight those shopping urges. It’s all fun and games to do impulse shopping unhauls, and it doesn’t matter if it’s books, or make-up, or clothes. It can really be anything these days. And I know for me it only seems to increase my habits when I see the habits of others.

I said in my March Goals post that I was going on a book buying ban, and I’ve broken that four times over already. And for what? For some pictures on Instagram and even less space in my tiny room already full to the brim with unread books.

It can be hard to keep your real life in line when your online life is thriving with others who may or may not be better off than you. I know that the bookstagrammers I follow are almost all married/engaged with full-time jobs and homes of their own. That’s a situation plenty of us would love to be in (even if you’re not looking to get married), and it’s something that is easily forgotten when you’re walking to the bookstore or even Sephora or online shopping at your fav Etsy stores when you work part time and want nothing more than to move out.

The reality is, trying to emulate those we look up to might only dig us farther down. Myself included. I know I would love to travel, to get more tattoos, to have an apartment and a cat of my very own again. But if I keep buying up every pretty book I see on Instagram, absolutely none of that is going to happen.

So what I am going to do about it? What can you do about it?

First, I’m going to be keeping a list in my phone of all the things I want to do with my life, and how much those things cost. New tattoo? $200-$800. New clothes? $50-$100 depending. Trip to New York? $1000. My own cat? $60-100 plus ongoing expenses. My own apartment? $1100 monthly before utilities.

With this list I’m going to really make myself think about how much longer I’ll need to wait to do all of these things.

Second, I’m going to start limiting my own screen time. Am I repeatedly seeing things that I want and feeling those impulsive urges to buy/order them? Put the phone away for at least 25 minutes. I’ve already cut down my show/movie watching time by cancelling my Netflix account (see more on this next week when I talk about being more focused), so why not try to limit my Instagram time if all it’s doing is causing me to spend money I don’t even have?

And lastly, I’m going to track my spending. Along with books, I am also a compulsive notebook hoarder, and with these dozens of notebooks I’m going to do things the old fashioned way and physically keep track of every penny I spend so I can see where it’s going and try to adjust myself accordingly.

It’s not easy to curb a retail therapy addiction, but there are ways to do it. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever had to really put a tight leash on your spending and what you did to help!


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Writer’s Block

As any creative person can tell you, having a block in your inspiration is probably one of the worst things ever. But over coming a block and making things work in art or writing is probably one of the best things ever.

Currently I’m working on something of a semi-secret fantasy series with the incredibly talented Laura Lee as my illustrator. Having this collaboration along with being able to use my editor and friend, Mel Paisley, as a sounding board makes getting over writer’s block just that much easier. A lot of the time – with this project and previous projects – I have found talking through the plot holes or pacing issues with someone I can trust and this actually works more times than not when I’m working through issues and actually prevents getting stuck in a rut. It isn’t always instantaneous. Often times I’ll talk through the same problem over the course of several days before I figure out what I want to do; which in itself can also be frustrating as I feel even less productive.

Another thing that helps when I’m stuck in a rut, is just let the words run. I have written many scene I have hated so I can get to the scenes I want to write (I’m sadly incapable of skipping scenes while I’m writing). The joy of drafts is really where this technique comes in handy. I hand write all of my work and then type it up as I go. It helps me rethink what is wrong with my original scene and sometimes I end up just cutting it out all together, adding any important information into other sections of the story. Part of this, also, is just getting the writing done. It’s being productive and forcing you to keep writing instead of abandoning the project part way.

For me, though, the ultimate way to get over writer’s block is scrap the scene entirely and start over. Re-do your outline for the key events that take place and work your way up from there. Sometimes the scene itself isn’t the problem, but how it unfolds into the rest of the story is. This has been what I’ve been finding myself doing more and more lately with my writing as a story very rarely beings as the same story it ends as.

That’s my two cents on the matter. What helps you over come writer’s block? Let me know in the comments!

 

Fun with Ahsoka Tano

Yesterday was a wonderful day here in Toronto. The weather was cool, I spent the day with my best friend, and – better yet – I got to meet one of my favourite Star Wars characters, Ahsoka Tano!!

her-universe-lego-dress.jpgI have adored the Her Universe clothes line from the moment I first heard of it, and during a fashion show livestream I watched from SDCC, I died when I learned that the one making all the sure cool Ahsoka clothing was Ahsoka herself!! Ashley Eckstein is such a bundle of joy and nerdiness I’ve wanted her to come to Toronto for ages now. Any Clones Wars or even Rebels fans know how important Ahsoka is and how strong she is as a character. Her development through five seasons of one show and then her several appearances in the other mean the world to me. So when Ashley posted on Instagram she was coming to the Eaton Centre, I couldn’t say no.

The reason she was coming was to promote her new book, It’s Your Universe: You Have The Power To Make It Happen. Flipping through it in line, the book is part autobiography and part inspirational guide to making your dreams come true. It’s about showing how someone who has been told nothing but “No” or “You can’t do that” can still be a success and achieve dreams others felt impossible. It can be for children or for adults because at the end of the day, we could all use being told to never give up no matter how impossible our dreams my seem.

The signing itself was held in the Eaton Centre’s Hot Topic (a dark place I haven’t set foot in in ages) and felt to take forever, but for once I didn’t mind waiting in line in a store that was a thousand degrees. No, I’m serious. Ashley – and surprise guest E.K. Johnston – were taking their time and talking to every single fan that was there. She was asking people who their favourite character was, why they came to see her, if they liked Rebels or Clone Wars better, and then thanking every single fan for taking time out of their day to come down. Not only that, but E.K. and Ashley were also taking pictures with everyone.

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It was probably one of the best book signing experiences of my life and I am still so happy I got to meet Ashley Eckstein while decked out in Star Wars everything. (She even complimented my Mud Trooper hat from the Smuggler’s Bounty Solo box)

PS. – I had already had the honour of meeting E.K. Johnston when I was at March Toronto Comic Con, but it was so nice to see her again. She’s a lovely person and I always love hearing authors and celebrities geek the hell out over things. I love her.

Slumps

There are different kinds of slumps we can get into in our lives. Physical slumps, emotional slumps, creative slumps. They all suck and they all can be hard to get out of.

What’s important about slumps is not getting stuck despite our tight of a hold they may have on us. The worst thing to hear sometimes is “It’ll get better” because often times, it doesn’t really get better, only easier to deal with. But it is an important mindset to stay in because the second you stop thinking things will look up, you’ll never get back to being your normal self.

Your health is important. Take care of yourself. Your books will still be there. Your notebooks and sketchbooks will still be there. Just keep pushing through and you’ll always be better off than you would be if you just gave up.

Lost in Several Books at Once

A question I’m very often asked by friends is “How many books are you reading now?” and they always roll their eyes when I say three or four. Now I don’t do this often, but every now and again I have as many as seven books on the go. Even currently, I’m reading three different books. So here’s some explanation and follow up for those wondering how people can read so many books at the same time.

Why?

When it comes to reading more than one book at a time, it depends on where I’m at in life. I listen to audiobooks at work, and read physical or digital books while I commute or while I’m at home. Sometimes I start one book and it relates to another book so I’ll read them at the same time. Sometimes it’s to break up my headspace if I’m reading something with heavy content and I need to something light to clear out my thoughts. And sometimes I just feel like it. You ever go to the library and get out a ton of books at the same time and just want to read all of them? Well that’s exactly what I do.

I can also find that reading more than one book at a time helps with reading slumps. You can stick your toes in and see if any of them are what you’re feeling after a certain book or series puts you into a book hangover.

How?

It’s always a question of “How” in the book community. My key is just managing my time the same way I would any other task. I designate certain times or certain days to the books I’m reading. For example: at the moment I’m reading The Devil’s Revolver by V.S. McGrath, BRAVE by Rose McGowan, and Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews.

BRAVE is a fascinating and heartbreaking autobiography from Rose McGowan of the #MeToo movement and the number one voice speaking out against Harvey Weinstein. As a survivor of assault, it’s an incredibly difficult book for me to read, and I have been trying to push my way through this no-hold-bared book for over a month. As something of a “palate cleanser” I’ve started reading Red Sparrow because not only do a love cold-war-esque spies, I’m curious to see if this is truly a wannabe Black Widow story or if it’s more original than that (so far the book seems more original than the movie trailers make it seem to be). Along with that I have NetGalley reviews to write so I’ve got Devil’s Revolver on my Kobo for before-bed reading (Red Sparrow being my commute reading and BRAVE being read in short moments).

By breaking down my day into the books I’m reading, I find it easier to read several books at once and it helps keep my thoughts in line when there’s a schedule. Since I also review everything I read, I keep a little notebook of major plot points as I go along, helping me remember things if my brain is still back in a different book.

So…

So how many books do you read at a time? Do you make sure they’re all different genres or formats? How do you keep things straight?

Tell me in the comments what you’re currently reading!

 

Don’t Discredit Fanfiction

The film adaptation of a third part of a series not to be named has come out, and with that people are once again blasting fanfiction, as it is a series based upon such.

I, personally, despise said nameless series, but am here to defend fanfiction with my honour. So sit back and let’s have a little lesson in writing, shall we?

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Everyone knows fanfiction can be the worst; My Immortal being the best of examples when it comes to how fanfiction can be the worst. It’s several different host sites giving a platform to some of the worst smut you’ve ever seen in your life. Grammar errors, typos, and mis-characterization galore, fanfiction is the home of many people learning how to right.

At one point in my life I had dozens of notebooks full of bad fanfic. I used to write nasty self-inserts for Yu-Gi-Oh, Naruto, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and – best of all – Harry Potter. I had binders of bad smut I wrote or other people wrote that I just wanted to read over and over again (yes, children, this was a time before I could just read fanfic on my iPod Touch or my phone). Before I moved to Toronto, I found several of these cringe worthy notebooks and I laughed as I read over the pages of smudged pencil. They were all so bad!

But you know what?

Everyone starts somewhere.

Artists always talk about the need for practice and how practice is the only true key to improvement. Well, the same goes for writing. Whether you write fanfiction or not, I can just about guarantee that at some point in your life, you’ve written some garbage stories.

I found my voice through fanfiction and a ton of my friends who help edit my work and let me edit theirs are from Archive Of Our Own (aka. AO3). I still get the random email or two from FanFiction.Net about people liking the shitty anime fanfiction I wrote back in 7th grade. I’ve been writing for years and I am not ashamed to say that the majority of it is fanfiction.

But honestly, so much of the media is fanfiction anyway. A TV show adaptation you like has gone off book? Fanfiction. A movie differs from the source material? Fanfiction. Literally any Sherlock Holmes or James Bond stories published or filmed after the authors’ retirement/deaths? Fanfiction.

With so many young writers starting their writing in fanfic, we need to stop saying that it’s terrible. It’s a practice ground. It’s a challenge of learning out to think how characters act and get it right. It’s a fight to write something new that people want to read. And it helps us become better writers the more we do it.

So don’t rip on people who have fun writing what they want. It’s not all as bad as My Immortal (which is basically the War & Peace of fanfiction in terms of how classic it is).