Book Therapy Session

I started this post immediately after having an afternoon-long email conversation with Estelle, who is now my un-official book therapist. I’m not talking book therapy as in “I’ve had a long day and reading is my therapy to help me unwind”. I mean actual, “take a look and what you’ve been reading and how you’ve been reading so far and how it’s affecting your life”.

2014 was supposed to be my year of less stress. I vowed to make less commitments. I vowed to stay ahead of my ARC schedule to alleviate the stress of all the things I needed to catch up on. And really so far, I’ve been doing a good job of that. But while talking with Estelle, we realized something. While I’ve been enjoying the books I’m reading and I really have stuck to my resolutions, I’ve still been scrambling to keep up with my Goodreads goal and stay on track to hit 135 books this year so I could at least hit the same goal I reached last year. And therein lies my problem.

I don’t mind trying to keep up with ARCs and I’m enjoying the groups and commitments that I have been a part of so far this year… But the sheer number of books I’ve committed to read in 2014 is already daunting and causing me stress. Reading is a passion. Blogging is a hobby. And as much as I want to read quickly and keep up with my own books and new books and books that everyone else is reading, that sheer quantity alone is not possible for me right now.

I’m planning a wedding this year. It’s actually coming up pretty quickly (November 8th!) and at first, I honestly didn’t think it would take up that much time. A lot of the plans are things I can easily accomplish, right? Well, sure. But there’s also going to halls. Going to chapels. Researching. Getting together with the friends I ask to be bridesmaids. Meeting with my family. Going to open houses. I suppose it’s not a LOT of time being taken up, but it still is quite a bit of outside activity that I normally reserved for reading and blogging. The things we end up doing on the weekends for the wedding — besides the projects on our house and our normal chores like grocery shopping and laundry — end up using the time that I normally had set aside for bookish things. The more Estelle and I talked, the more I realized that I just don’t have the amount of time I used to before I owned a house, before I got engaged, before I was planning a wedding and staining a bookcase and finishing a basement. I just don’t have the time that I used to and you know what? That’s okay.

Being a book blogger usually means that we read a reasonably larger number of books each year than the average person. We have blogs to keep up with, a whole INDUSTRY to keep up with, our friends to keep up with and even just our own personal goals, and my personal goals just aren’t reasonable at the present time. It’s the third week of February and I’m already stressed out about staying on top of my 135 book goal. I have enough things to worry about this year that I can’t afford to stress myself out over my hobby and something that I do for fun and to relax. After thinking long and hard about it, I asked a couple important questions:

What means more to me? Stressing all year to meet my 135 book goal or taking it easy and not reading as much as I did last year? Why do I need to beat my goal from last year? Why do I need to compete with myself? Isn’t the point of a goal to make myself happy that I read that much? And if I’m stressed out over meeting my own goal, what does that accomplish for me?

So after Estelle and I had this conversation, she suggested and I actually had the same thought forming in my head… I should lower my goal. A goal of 135 books beats my reading accomplishments from last year by five books, but it’s already been stressful trying to keep up! I’ve already lowered my goal by just five books to 130 for the year and I already feel a weight off of my shoulders. I’m currently on track to be either one or two books ahead if I keep up with my current reading schedule and it already feels SO much nicer to be ahead (possibly all year?) and feel happy about being ahead instead of stressing about being behind on a self-imposed goal. I kept thinking it was the stress of trying to balance ARCs and my own books and my commitments but what I was overlooking was how MANY books I was trying to read in a given week or month or year.

A book blogger is not successful based on how many books they read in a given year. Haven’t we always known it’s about quality and not quantity? I’ve also already proven that to myself in a different way in that I’m way behind on reviews right now. I used to be the person who wrote and drafted reviews right after I finished a book (which would be nice to still be able to do, but again. The time.) and as of right now, I’m probably about five or six books behind… And that’s because my book blog isn’t all about reviews. I love having a mix of discussions and reviews and features and interviews and events. Reviews are important to me and really the whole reason I started my blog, but I also don’t want to feel stressed and pressured to write them either. Anyway, the point is, I’m taking a small step backwards to take a little bit of reading pressure off myself and just enjoy being a book reviewer, a book blogger, and an avid reader! I tend to get a little bit overzealous sometimes but that’s only because I love reading and blogging so much that I just want to be able to outdo myself and really put forth that extra effort so everyone can see and feel the enthusiasm that I do when they read my blog.

So what about you guys? Do you feel pressured to maintain a certain goal for the year? For the month? For the week? What do you do to relieve the stress of keeping up with your goals? Do you think that we as book bloggers and/or reviewers put too much stress on ourselves to read ALL THE BOOKS and stay on track?

26 thoughts on “Book Therapy Session

  1. Nadia @ Nadia Reads

    I’ve been seeing how most book bloggers have a goodreads goal of more than 100 books and I always wonder how they manage to read so much! I’m kind of a slower reader and I try not to obsess about reaching my goodreads goal. Reading is supposed to be fun! Right?

  2. Jan

    I know what you mean! I’ve had a lot on this year and although I thought I was still managing to read a lot when I looked at goodreads I’m already starting to fall behind. Rather than just think things are a bit full on at the moment and I’ll catch up when things calm down I, of course, started panicking about whether I’d reach my goal! I think we definitely put too much pressure on ourselves and we really shouldn’t. It’s something we do for fun, to get away from the pressures of real life. It doesn’t matter if we read a certain number of books, what matters is that we read and enjoy books! I’ll keep trying to tell myself that anyway! 🙂

  3. Kristen@My Friends Are Fiction

    I totally agree that we tend to put too much pressure on ourselves. I try to not feel the pressure but it becomes impossible not too at times. Something fun sort of shifts into a new stress. I think you are doing the right thing by changing goals- it’s a lot of work planning a wedding! It’s fun but really time consuming and stressful. I love this post and hope it’s a series! We all need some book therapy 🙂

  4. Danielle @ Love at First Page

    I know how you feel. It’s a constant thing for me to want to stay caught up with my goal and read as many books as I did last year… but it makes for a lot of stress. And it also means that I’m rushing through books just so I can move on to the next. I only started my blog late last year, so the added pressure of writing reviews is now there too. It’s something I’m definitely going to have to work on throughout the year not to put so much pressure on myself.

  5. Candice @ The Grown-Up YA

    Good for you! I’m glad that you’ve been able to step back and take a look at everything. It’s SO easy to let blogging and reading and keeping up with the Joneses overwhelm us. And really, why? Why do we all feel like we have to outdo ourselves or compete with ourselves? I get the same way sometimes and am constantly having to remind myself to stop. I’m always impressed by how much you do with your blog and love that you’re so involved with it. But I’d totally prefer you stepped back and did less if it makes you stressed, especially with all the new things you’ve got going on in your life (fiance, wedding planning, house). I want you to be a less stressed B! 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this with us and I’m so glad you’re deciding to take it easy. Hope it works out for you and you’re able to better enjoy all the fabulous things you’re doing!

  6. Rachel

    I totally get what you’re talking about. I used to be super weird about having to outdo myself all the time in terms of reading and it was REALLY stressful. I like made this reading schedule for myself that I really couldn’t ever follow because it was way too much for me, but thank goodness I’m not like that anymore. The way I approach reading these days is doing my own personal best, but doing so in a way that’s realistic and adaptive with the rest of my life. Would I love to read four books a week? Absolutely. This is something I strive for, but it’s not something I *have* to do. Some weeks I don’t feel like reading. Some weeks there’s just no time. Basically I have a goal, but I’m really flexible with it and there’s a lot less pressure when I look at it that way. I hope this new approach works for you and takes a lot of the stress off of reading!

  7. Quinn @ Quinn's Book Nook

    I know what you mean, Brittany. I’m someone who, once I commit to something, I do everything I can to reach that committment – even if that puts too much stress on me. or if that committment isn’t really reasonable with all the other obligations I’ve got going on. And, honestly, sticking to my committments is good in many ways. But it can also add SOOO much pressure, – pressure that really doesn’t need to be there.

    I’ve recently gotten really motivated to organize my house. I mean, seriously organize. So that means my weekends I’m not reading as much as I normally do. And weekend reading is where I get the majority of my reading done. And I have this guilt hanging over my head the whole time. I keep thinking, I should be reading right now. Even though I am way ahead in terms of reviews to be published on my blog.

    I have to remind myself that even though I love blogging, I also love doing other, non-blogging-related things too. I think that lowering your reading goal to 130 was a good plan. Because really, what does reading 135 books, or a 130 books really mean. That doesn’t at all take into count how long each book is. Or how many hours each books took to read. Because some books are heavier, and are slower reads, but more rewarding.

    And, most importantly, you do not want to get burnt out. Then that would ruin reading and blogging, and that would be the worst thing ever.

  8. Ciara @ Ciara Reads Books

    I think the pressure is there, but I always try and remind myself when I get stressed (and it’s happening a lot lately) that the goals and targets that I set myself are exactly than- set by myself and I can change them any time I want. It’s easier said than done at times but I do try and keep it in mind during those moments of panic.
    Like you, I find it at times when I’m trying to reach my target of books read for the year. Sometimes I’ll want to read a longer adult book instead of a YA book but the adult book will take longer to read.If I start thinking in terms of targets it’ll be along the lines of “I could read two or three YA books in the time it takes me to read one adult book” but when I start thinking about what I want to read then length doesn’t come into it. Right now I’m just reading what I want, when I want and if I have to amend my goal or if I don’t achieve it that’s okay too.
    It’s great that you have changed your goals to accommodate your busy schedule and posted about it here- I think a lot of book bloggers will agree with you about the pressures we put on ourselves.

  9. Rebecca @ The Library Canary

    I don’t feel the pressure for the year overall, but I do feel the pressure on keeping up with ARCs. One of my goals this year was to get through all my egalleys and be way more selective when requesting/downloading new ones. I just went a little book happy when I first got on Edelweiss and Netgalley and I need to clean it up. Once that’s done, I will feel a lot less stressed. Enjoy reading at your own pace girl! Wedding planning is tons of work and we all understand! 🙂

  10. Stormy

    I totally understand this. It’s interesting–we often talk in the book blogging community about competing with others(if we feel like we are, if we need to, etc.) but we never really talk about competing with ourselves and stressing ourselves out. While neither is healthy, I feel like as a community we’re pretty good MOST of the time about being “heyy, everyone do what works best for you!”, but we don’t always say that to *ourselves*. I’m always trying to outdo myself, and it gets stressful, even though I genuinely enjoy what I’m doing!

    Right now, I have quite a lot of time to blog and read. Most of my time is my own. I work full-time, but there’s not a *whole* lot of other responsibilities pressing on me, but I know there probably will be in a few months, with life changes and such coming up, so I’ve been trying to already get myself in the frame of mind that the pace I read at might go down, and that’s okay.

  11. Kelly

    This is the whole reason I went back and forth about whether or not to set a Goodreads goal in the first place. I liked the idea of feeling accomplished if I were to hit my goal, but the stress of seeing “you’re x books behind on your reading goal” is not something I wanted to deal with! I decided to aim for 100, which I think is do-able, without being super stressful. If I ever start to feel like that number’s unmanageable though, I’ll probably lower it so I don’t freak myself out.

  12. Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books

    This is such a relevant and thought-provoking post! I really like the idea of book therapy as you defined it here – and I think it’s a concept that really should be examined by book bloggers. I’m lucky in the sense that I didn’t really get into blogging until I already had a ton of non-blogging commitments. Because reading like crazy was never my priority starting out, I haven’t felt as pressured to read as much each year, or if I do it’s still an amount that’s manageable with my current life obligations. Maybe that makes sense? haha
    I can see it being frustrating coming to the realization that you can’t put in as much time or effort as you used to, but honestly you churn out an impressive amount of content on a regular basis, so I haven’t been able to tell how busy you are with real-life obligations.
    But I’m glad you’ve been able to find a way to better manage your reading stress! 🙂

  13. Danie @ The Bookish Brunette

    I definitely think I put SO much pressure on myself as far as ARCs and review books. And then even library books. I box myself into a corner thinking I absolutely HAVE to read this book by this date and if not the whole world will fall apart. I don’t so much feel pressured as far as finish a certain amount of books by a certain date though. At least, not until the end of the year, and then when I’m 20 books behind my Goodreads goal and it’s December 29th, I start freaking out and getting almost anxiety attacks, because OH NO I’M NOT GOING TO MEET MY GOODREADS GOAL HOW WILL LIFE CONTINUE!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    And I totally agree with book therapists. I have one too, and she’s the best!

  14. Hazel

    Thank you for this post, Brittany! I so needed to read this. I was feeling a bit ambitious during the start of the year and set a 150 books goal from my usual 100. How crazy was that? It’s a jump of 50 books! I mean, I know, I usually outdo my 100 but still- that was a little reckless on my part. I’ve promised myself to read at least three books a week to keep up with my goal and honestly, it’s stressful. I beat myself up when I’m not able to read during the weekend. I don’t do well with pressure, I guess.

    ‘Why do I need to compete myself?’ I needed that wakeup call, Brittany. I’ll def be lowering my goal. Maybe 130 will do me good too. Brilliant post! 🙂

  15. Lisa @ Lisa Likes Books

    You know, thinking about it now I guess I really don’t put too much pressure on myself to achieve my reading goal(s). I don’t know if that’s because I’m a slacker or what, but I guess it’s a good thing. I know the first year I made a goal for how many books I wanted to read I was super serious about hitting that amount of books. So much so that I got sort of burned out half way through. At the time my goal was 100, but it just wasn’t happening with the busyness of my life. I think it’s important to step back every once in a while and ask if you’d even enjoy hitting that goal or if it would just be more stress. I’m glad you and Estelle were able to talk it through and figure it out. But hey, 130 books isn’t too shabby. Pretty amazing, I’d say.

  16. Pamela D

    Last year, I read over 100 books. I can’t remember the number, it was somewhere between 120 and 140. Anyway, I knew I was going to have a lot of stuff going on this year, so I only made a goal of 100 books. I am also okay with counting anything that GoodReads counts as a book (e.g., short stories and novellas). I love reading, but there are a lot of other things that I love to do too, and I don’t want my book goal taking over my life. 🙂

  17. P.E. @ The Sirenic Codex

    Great post! This is really relevant for me because I was looking at my Goodreads challenge yesterday and I’m already eleven books behind. Every year I’ve been reading less books, but this is ridiculous. I’m only trying to read 100 books this year so I’m incredibly disappointed with myself so far. But you’re right. I like to have a lot of discussion posts on TSC so really, reading 100 books is not necessary. It’s just hard because there are always so many books that look so good, and I want to read them all but it’s just not possible.

    I guess I do feel the pressure, and it’s a pressure I put on myself. I want to be a good blogger, and I feel like a huge part of being a blogger is kind of maintaining that “expert” type label.

  18. Nicole

    When I started school part time I had to come to terms that I would be reading A LOT less. And it’s not always easy because I want to read ALL THE BOOKS but I just don’t have time like I used to. I set my reading goal for only 104 books this year, which is like 70 books less than I read last year. That’s a HUGE difference! But when things get busy the best I can do is usually two books a week (one audio, one physical). There is literally just not enough time in my schedule and I have to be ok with that. Granted I am ahead of my goal right now, but I’d rather be ahead, because like you, being behind is stressful, and unnecessary really because these are self-imposed goals. And in terms of beating my goal last year, I don’t care. I already know it’s impossible (unless I never sleep or go out).

    I have also always sucked at writing reviews right after I finished a book but I am even worse now, rather than 3-4 reviews to write I’ve been having on average 5-6. Which I hate. So I am still working on how to prioritize my time. But basically, I get it. I get where you are coming from and it’s always hard to adjust to change but you’ve got SO MUCH going on and you really shouldn’t stress yourself out any more! Your blog has great, well-rounded content and you should be proud of juggling so many different things and doing a damn fine job at it. And quality over quantity any day! And 130 books is still SO MANY. 🙂

  19. Alexa S.

    Honestly, there are days when I feel no pressure at all, and there are days when I do. I’m one of those people who makes a “to do” list and sticks to it precisely. If you apply this to my reading goals (and also my blogging goals in general), it’s no surprise that I sometimes find myself disappointed by what I wasn’t able to accomplish. There’s certainly a lot of pressure to read all my books, stay ahead when it comes to ARCs and produce great blog content regularly.

    The thing is, I just try to remember this: running my book blog is supposed to be FUN for me. I love being challenged to write more creative posts and produce quality content, but at the end of the day, I do this because I love it. I love it because the blog is MY space of the internet, and because it’s my space, I should handle it as I see fit and by doing what makes me comfortable. So yes, I love the challenge of continuing to maintain this blog — but I love the fun and passion for books even more, and I try to keep that in mind.

  20. Lauren @ Lose Time Reading

    I was really feeling pressured for awhile and recently I decided to do the same thing and lower my goal! I think we definitely put too much pressure on ourselves to read everything 😛 I am moving in May, and that alone is a lot of work and stress plus when I move we are wanting to explore lots and enjoy our new community … why was I putting this pressure on myself?

    I hope you enjoy reading more now Brittany and don’t stress out as much, You got a wedding to plan 😀 😀

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