Moving from college towards a new stage of life and living situation has meant purging belongings that don't make the cut. As someone whose first thought when it comes to favored belongings goes straight to my book collection, it was not easy to consider--let alone go through with--purging books from that collection. Especially when I never got around to actually reading many of those books.
Alas, I did the unthinkable, and I will tell you why I feel lighter for having done so.
Reading has been a primary interest of mine since childhood, but my reading frenzy slowed tremendously partway through high school and into college. Homework, required reading, and extracurricular activities took its place. My TBR shelf mocked me for years with unfinished series and dozens of interesting debuts that I couldn't or wouldn't squeeze into my schedule.
I didn't feel entirely the same during that period of time. Books were a huge part of my life previously and the focus of my ideal future, so the lack of regular reading time left a hole that nagged at me constantly. How could I leave the third or fourth book of a beloved series sitting on a shelf unread? How could I improve my writing or stay current in the industry if I wasn't reading books?
Eventually, a few good books pulled me back in and I made it a personal mission to prioritize reading once again. But the TBR shelf remained. Staring at me. Shaming me for abandoning it all those years. And what did I do?
I bought more books.
I wanted to read new releases and stay current with the market. I gave in to their irresistible siren's call. They were fresh, and new, and--as I eventually realized--they did not remind me of times I wished to forget. The books on my TBR shelf dated back to high school. After years of feeling pressure to catch up with books I had long abandoned, I finally realized what I wanted most was to move on.
Culling my TBR shelf was not easy. It required giving up on series I had once cared about but would probably never fully connect to again. It meant discarding books I had barely even touched, which felt like a complete waste. But it also meant freeing myself of a burden I hadn't realized had become so heavy. It opened my shelves to new possibilities and new adventures, which I am excited to experience.
The books purged from my TBR shelf will serve a much better purpose in the hands of their next owners than they did accumulating dust on my bookcase. The TBR shelf is an iconic piece of a bookaholic's existence, but if your TBR shelf plagues you as much as mine did, consider taking another look and deciding which books you truly want to dedicate your time to, and which are there out of pure obligation. There's a chance you will feel much lighter afterwards.
Besides, trimming a TBR shelf doesn't mean you no longer have a book obsession. What did I do immediately after purging mine?
I went to B&N and I bought more books.
It’s been a while, but I’m back! Although I usually try to post to this blog every week or two weeks, over a month has passed since my last entry, 5 Reasons to Pitch on Twitter. I decided to take a step back because it was my last month of undergrad, I had a dance showcase to organize and perform in, final papers to write, a college to graduate from, and friends and family to spend time with. In the end, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and East Asian Studies with a Minor in Japanese, and proceeded to spend four days traipsing through amusement parks.
A break from the writing world was needed, but difficult to take. In April, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo and set a goal of 20-25k words. I had ideas for my WIP and a desire to write it, but it fell too low on my priority list. Prioritizing school, RevPit, and DVpit meant allowing that goal to fall by the wayside.
That was a hard decision. After all, if I could meet the 50k goal in November, why couldn't I write half that amount in April? I felt disappointed in myself for knowing I would not meet what at first had seemed a reasonable goal. But at that point in time, it was not a reasonable goal. I could have forced myself to make it happen, but it would have meant stressing myself out, taking my energy and focus away from other areas of my life, and probably pushing out poor writing. In the end, it wasn't worth it. I might not have met my goal, but I did write part of it, and that is just as important.
I have certainly missed writing and engaging in the writing world. I've missed out on discussions and writing challenges, and I have a growing list of editing to-do's. But I also needed the mental break. I needed a chance to take a step back and think about where I want to go next with my writing. Where do I want to focus my efforts? Which story keeps popping into my head?
Taking a break as a writer can be very difficult. With so many sources telling you to write every day or as often as possible, it feels like failure to press the pause button. But it's not. Just as with every creative endeavor or profession, writers can burn out and deplete their wells of creativity. Pushing your way through writer's block is one thing, but forcing yourself to write when it will be more detrimental than not is not worth the mental strain.
If you need a break, take it. Let your mind wander. Let it rest. Engage more in the other areas of your life. All of this will help you in the end. Living life breeds inspiration, and that inspiration will fuel you once you have the energy to dive back into writing. When you're in it for the long haul, you have to learn to take breaks or you won't make it. The stories will still be there, the community will still be around, and you will feel more engaged with both after you've taken a step back.
Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for regular posts again!
I write YA fantasy and contemporary fiction. This blog is dedicated to thoughts and advice on writing and publishing, as well as various interests related to the world of Young Adult.