While many are setting goals and making New Year’s resolutions to read more this year, I want to do just the opposite. This year, my goal is to read less!
My love affair with books
I love to read. Specifically, I love to read fiction. From cozy mysteries to sci-fi adventures to dystopian YA to inspirational romance, I can’t get enough fiction in my life.
I can read myself out of a bad day at work, a fight with my husband, or the frustration of toddler tantrums. The escape into a character’s life calms me in the deepest places of my heart. After an hour of reading, I have to “wake up” to the real world. I blink my eyes and gaze around the room until I remember where I am.
In 2020, I read 44 novels, 32 novellas, and 8 short stories. That’s about 5 million words. (And that’s not counting the dozens of times I read my own novel-in-progress.)
This is not me attempting to brag. This is me admitting I have a problem.
Confession: I read too much
My name is Megan Schaulis and I read too much. Every night, I read in bed for an hour or more. There’s nothing wrong with this habit per se. In fact, it’s a very healthy way to shut down from the day. However, I shouldn’t need to read.
Once this year, while binge reading The Selection by Kiera Cass, I sat on the floor of my master bathroom—trying not to disturb my husband’s sleep—until 2 a.m. just to find out how the love triangle was resolved.
Recently, I misplaced my Kindle and felt the very real fingers of panic crawl through my chest at the thought of not being able to read before bed. Don’t worry, I found the Kindle right away. But it made me realize how much I depend on reading. And that’s not healthy.
I’ve come to the conclusion I need to be sensitive to how much I read and what I’m reading.
A goal to read less?
My goal is to read less this year. But it’s not so much that I need to read less as I need to need to read less.
I don’t do well with rigid rules e.g. only read 45 minutes per day or only read three chapters at a time. Instead, I’m choosing to be more aware of why I feel desperate if I go more than 24 hours with plunging into a novel, and to make sure I’m handling stress in a variety of healthy ways.
My family is not fictional. They will always win my time over the most well-woven tale.
You know you read too much when…
– you slip into historical dialect at work
– you narrate imaginary conversations between characters
– you imagine scene and chapter breaks in your real life
Some stories aren’t helpful
There are amazing stories that I just can’t read. I get so absorbed into stories that they affect my whole day. If a character is in distress, I’m in distress. If a character is anxious, I’m anxious. I’m a very empathetic reader.
This year I had to stop reading a book about a woman struggling at a new job…because I was struggling at a new job. There was no escape for me in that story, only stress. I can’t read heavy drama because I’m too tempted to mope around and cry. And I have to be careful with end-of-the-world action.
If a romance makes me wish my husband was more sensitive, spontaneous, or romantic, I’ll stop reading. My husband is the most incredible human I’ve ever met, and no piece of fiction is allowed to infringe on how deeply I appreciate him.
I’m never going to stop reading. It’s my favorite hobby. It makes me happy and calm and relaxed. But I do plan to read in a way that needs no apologies.
My goal is to be less dependent on reading for relaxation.
I will remember that books are not my source of peace.
I will give my family my first and best always.
And I will not apologize for being a Kindle-carrying, library-card-wielding, story-loving reader.