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21 or Bust

October 27, 2009

21bustOver the next month or so you’re going to be inundated with posts about NaNo. This is not one of them. Except that it kind of is.

As I have explained I will not be participating in NaNo this year—there’s just too much going on right now for me to give it my attention. But I’m with my friends in spirit.

Yesterday, Jodi schooled us on the theory that it takes 21 days to make—or break—a habit (I’ve also heard 28, but I’m willing to run with 21—unless the Aussies just have an easier time with habits).

And even though I won’t be NaNoing, I can’t say that I have no writing habits that couldn’t do with a little tweaking—particularly reading.

Normally I’m a voracious reader. The year after college, on the suggestion of a friend, I counted the number of books I read from January 1 through December 31. 276 books. And very few of those were short, barely-novels like Animal Farm.

But for the last 8 months I have read a grand total of 8 pages. There are many reasons for this, but the easiest to convey (and most accurate) is that I’m depressed. Normally I love to read not only because I love to devour new ideas, but also because I’m quite comfortable spending time with myself. But when I’m depressed I don’t want to be alone with myself. I don’t like myself—heck, I barely tolerate myself.

But if I ever want to make myself into a writer there’s no way to do it without being a reader again. And the month of the year where friends to the left of me, and friends to the right of me, are making a concerted effort to modify their writing habits seems like as good a time as any to join the fun—even if it’s just from the sidelines.

So this November, while the rest of you are obsessing over 1,667 words I’m going to be making sure to read every day, even if just a little bit. I’m not going to set a specific daily goal, but I do plan to make myself read each day.

I haven’t decided what my tool of choice will be. Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals is a strong possibility, as is Christopher Moore’s Fool. I figure If I’m going to make myself read I have a better chance if I can manage to make myself laugh at the same time.

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  1. October 27, 2009 5:22 am

    I don’t think us Aussie find an easier time of it … maybe we’re just a little less patient for change!

    I’m glad to see that November will be meaningful for you in its own way Dale. We look forward to hearing your progress. If you’re stuck for new material – I’m sure you’ve got a derth of writing friends who would be willing to share their newest material with you … but then maybe not. Since I’m currently reading last years effort … I don’t think I’d inflict my gaping plot holes or lopsided characters. I managed to maintain my reading last year – but given what this year holds – it might just be the thing that slips.

    Good luck …

  2. October 27, 2009 9:44 am

    I agree with you Dale, my reading efforts have fallen by the wayside dramatically until it became a monthly focus (and kicks thanks to Jodi and Paul) I used to devour books, but am only at a stage I can manage one or two a month. You’re right – its all about focus and what is important to you.
    I take my hat off to you for keeping strong to your convictions!

  3. October 27, 2009 4:50 pm

    Much food for thought here Dale. A familiar bell rang for me when you equated time spent reading with time truly spent with yourself. Interesting. Reading can be an escape from myself so I sometimes read when I’m depressed, even voraciously but it’s always a sporadic thing.

    Since my daughter came into my life almost 15 years ago, I’ve probably read the same amount of books these 15 years as I did in one year in my twenties. I hardly ever write anything these days either, but it’s not a terminal condition 🙂

  4. October 28, 2009 9:14 am

    Great article. I do plan to participate in NaNo this year, but reading has never been a problem for me. In fact, I read alot more than I write. There is going to have to be a balance at some point, so I figured NaNoWriMo would be the best time to work on that.

  5. October 28, 2009 9:35 am

    H Dale
    Sorry to hear that your transition is not going smoothly.

    I wandered over from the NaMo link on Twitter – now look-see I’ve ended up in Oz 🙂 Ruby slippers handy, I’m about ready to blink and wake up at home!

    My cure for ev-er-y-thing (stressed because I can’t think of anything it hasn’t work on – give or take curing autism) is : read, write, do – and loud music.

    Good luck with your challenges


  6. October 29, 2009 12:46 am

    Reading has been a real priority for me this year too, and it has helped with my writing.

    Good luck with your challenge.

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