Monday, June 12

Giving Old Methods a New Shot

When you're in school (especially college), you're taught not to leave big projects to the last minute. Everyone urges you to do things in small bites, a little at a time.

I have always hated that advice.

Not because I don't see the logic, but because I'm so often one of those people who does better by digging into something, getting into The Flow, and staying with it until it's hammered out. Doing small chunks makes me stressed, because there's so little to show for the time I've put in, whatever it is remains on my to-do list unchanged and, in some cases, I feel like I lose more time getting in and then out of the project materials than it's worth.

But as we've worked our way through another serious round of life editing, I decided to give the "small bites" method another shot in respect to my [massive, overwhelming, unreal] reading list. Between the books I'd collected as part of my NTP training, other nutritional/health related literature I'd snatched up when the opportunity arose from Paperbackswap or other free/cheap sites, and the stuff that accumlated from my participation in read-and-review programs, the gorgeous shelves in our library were sagging with stuff I felt responsible to read or re-read and pull notes from, or that I simply couldn't give away/sell (because it was an Advanced Reader's copy, etc.).  Sometimes just looking at it all - on top of my already bulging to-do list - made me want to cry.

So back in January, I took action. I cancelled my Paperbackswap account so that I'd stop adding books to the pile. (It wasn't a huge loss since my ecletic reading tastes meant I was going the better part of a year before anything I wanted came available anyway.) Then, I set up accounts on and Amazon Seller Central. (Neither nearly as hard as I expected once I  made time to do it.)

After that, I started going through my stack. I gave away anything others expressed interest in, and tossed ARC copies of anything that wasn't amazing. That got me started.

Since I've discovered that digital copies are VASTLY faster and easier to use for books I'm keeping for research/reference purposes, I sold, gave away or tossed anything in that category that was available in digital editions (bookmarking the titles for future purchase as I actually find need of them). That helped a lot.

[It also made the local used bookstore love me, because I just donated what I couldn't sell without taking store credit... just to make sure I didn't accidentally start accumulating again.)

Of what remained, I started reading one chapter a day. I told myself that if I read just one chapter a day, I'd finish a book every couple weeks, and that would be enough. With "one chapter" as the item on my to-do list, I could legitimately cross it off and feel done and accomplished every day. My Prince has been incredibly supportive (and done a bunch of streamlining of his books, too), and our formerly groaning shelves have been transformed.

We now have a small collection of books that are genuinely valuable and meaningful to us, from his collector's edition Tolkien to my battered copy of Chrome Circle and long-out-of-print Perilous Guard. A short stack of books not available digitally still sits waiting for me to get through them, but it no longer feels like a struggle.

I will never lose my love for "real" books, and maybe I'm just getting old, but I've come to appreciate the ability to weigh the value of things in the big picture. And right now, our big picture says (in most cases) digital books are better for my mental health and the practical realities of our lifestyle. So here's to never being too old to learn and change, and making changes for the better!

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