Thursday, July 5, 2012

Meditation on Reading Deadlines

I recently participated in a panel at the American Library Association conference which required me to read (or at least familiarize myself with) a large chunk of nonfiction books by a certain deadline. I am not a very good skimmer--I tend to get caught up in reading from wherever my eyes land--and I'm not a very fast reader, either. I knew I had to buckle down. What I discovered when faced with this hard deadline was amazing diversity in my procrastination methods.

With a large pile of sports books to read (most of which I actually wanted to read), I:
  • Perused the new fiction section at work
  • Perused the romance section at work
  • Perused the science fiction and fantasy section at work
  • Requested books I knew I didn't have time to read through interlibrary loan
  • Requested audiobooks, which I thought I could justify a little more easily, through interlibrary loan--even though I had a pile of sports audiobooks as well
  • Eyed the books on my shelves at home and contemplated re-reading, which I haven't allowed myself to do for several years
  • Started at least five non-assigned nonfiction books that looked interesting
  • Started and finished several romance novels
  • Started and finished Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Checked Twitter
  • Checked Google Reader
  • Checked Facebook
  • Checked Twitter again (x100)
  • Reorganized my To Be Read list
Many times I wouldn't even consciously realize I was procrastinating until another day had passed and the pile of unread books remained at the same daunting height. It would simply "slip my mind" that I had a lot of reading to do, given the weight of important tasks such as laundry. I spent more than twenty years of my life in school. I remember being able to do my homework in a timely manner. No more.

I guess I also remember working on projects the night before they were due, as a matter of course.

Should I just declare myself incapable of reading things "on time"? Please don't put me on an awards committee (I blanched when they described the rigorous selection process at the Carnegie medal award ceremony) unless I have an entire year to read fewer than fifty books. My habits of reading slowly and reading ten things at once is one reason that I don't seek out a lot of advanced copies of books; by the time I get around to actually reading them, the book has been published and any buzz has long since dissipated. However, I do actually get around to reading books that have been recommended to me, even if it takes two, three, or even more years.

I am happy to report that I did eventually get all the required reading done for my panel, so maybe I'm not completely hopeless. How did I manage it? By creatively procrastinating until the pressure was intense enough to spur me into action. This graphic seems appropriate: I've done a lot of perseveering and persavowing during the last few months. It's good to know that I can do it, even if I always take the long way around.

Meditation Index


Anonymous said...

I had great ambitions to get some reading done on my vacation (I brought six books) but I keep reading the same three paragraphs over and over. I think travelling with our three year old has something to do with that.

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