The Year of Reading Dangerously
Setting A Reading Goal Without Setting A Reading Goal
Reading dangerously might sound like an over-the-top introduction to the “Working Writer” newsletter, but I mean it in the sense that I want my reading next year and beyond to challenge me.
As a writer, I often hear the advice to read as much in my genre as possible. But that advice is skewed and makes some big assumptions. First, by genre, the advice actually means a fiction sub-category, like cozy mystery or paranormal romance. Second, it assumes I’ve already read enough fiction to know how to write a novel in general. The advice isn’t wrong, really. Just limited and, like most writing advice, oddly too specific and simultaneously too generic to be very helpful.
But I’m not writing this to give advice. I just wanted to acknowledge how this type of reading isn’t enough for a writer or anyone, really. Unfortunately, it’s been my default reading mode recently.
Honestly, this type of reading has sucked the joy from the experience. It’s also left me less energized creatively. It didn’t challenge me or give me new ideas or insights. Ideas come at me from everything I read—fiction, memoir, history, poetry—all of it. I never know where an idea will come from.
Literature is a wilderness, one we should wander freely through, exploring, discovering, and savoring along the way.
The pandemic killed my deep attention and my ability to read long form fiction. When I started again last year, it was to learn a subgenre for a pen name. It was a task. I still wasn’t reading novels for enjoyment and enrichment. I want to return to that joy. To fill my mind with new, sometimes provoking ideas. To simply enjoy reading again.
So in this time of resolution-making, which I don’t normally do, I am resolving to read widely and deeply. Whatever interests me. At whatever speed I need to, to understand a book. I’m working on another post about deep reading, but my goal for next year and beyond is simply to return to that deeper level of reading. No FOMO when I see Bookstagram and BookTok posts about must-read new books. I won’t be setting a goal for the number of books to read in the year. I won’t read through award nominated lists, and I’m not staying in my genre lane.
Literature is a wilderness, one we should wander freely through, exploring, discovering, and savoring along the way. A landscape full of perspectives and experiences outside our own. We rob ourselves of so much richness and joy whenever we limit ourselves. Embrace the wilderness. Investigate our surrounding diversity. Be curious and wander.
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