As we stagger out the exit, let’s not look back on 2017. It’s done; we survived.
Now we check our gear, wash our faces, and clean the white board. Is there anything we want to adjust before starting the next sure-to-be-adventurous 365 day trek? Here are a handful of bookish ideas for resetting in 2018 – no “shoulds”, just ideas.
Scheduled Reading Time
Maybe it’s not actually hard for you to sit down and read, but maybe you feel a twinge of (totally misplaced) guilt, like you should be doing something “more important” (ha ha – as if). Well, not to take the spontaneity out of it, but have you ever tried scheduling your reading time? Say, 7-8pm is only for reading: no bills-paying, Netflix, or dog-walking – and turn the stinkin’ phone off. You’ll have to fudge it occasionally, cuz that’s life, but imagine that steady flow through your TBR pile and totally guilt/distraction free book time.
Audio books for Workouts
If you have some kind of fitness goal for the new year, the challenge will not be the first few workouts. It’ll be the next few. Whether you’re planning on running, lifting weights, or jazzercising, an audio book might help you get through that habit-making-or-breaking sophomore slump. Choose wisely, something you know you’ll like and is long enough to last a while. Then make sure you only listen to it during workouts. It might give you that extra motivational leverage you need to stick to your plan. It’s one of the few things in life that does get easier, once you’ve created a dopamine-riddled ritual, ie “exercise bike = Harry Potter, therefore I can’t wait to get on that bike.”
We did a whole list of books for meditation/contemplation, so that might be a place to start with this one. Oprah does it. David Lynch does it. Monks of every religion, including Jedi, do it. This list is about resetting, and that’s if not the purpose then the likely result of meditating. It’s like a power nap for your soul. Think of it as washing the 4 or 5 dishes you got dirty just now, rather than waiting until every dish you own is dirty and there’s an empire of bacteria living somewhere down at the center of the stacks – your kitchen sink – which you haven’t seen in 2 months.
Having a Reading List
Rather than ping-ponging between book recommendations from random sources, why not have an actual reading plan for the year? You can build in some flexibility, so you don’t feel like your 2017 self is bossing around your 2018 self, but is it possible that a sense of direction could both reduce chaotic background noise and add a subtle feeling of accomplishment? I could use both of those. Book Riot does an annual reading list called Read Harder. We have our own low-key reading list too, which doesn’t mention ebooks anywhere, in case you’re like us and break out in hives at the thought.
Picking an Issue, Becoming an Expert (more or less)
What’s been hard for a lot of folks in 2017 has been not only the frequency of sh*tstorms, but the variety. I wonder if it would be helpful to pick one issue (immigration, refugees, environment, whatever) and make it your main thing? It doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore everything else, but having one lane and totally owning it, might make you more effective. Read deeply on that one thing, follow the news around it, get involved in it – you’ll know you’re contributing and exactly how, without being overwhelmed by the entire tidal wave. If you are especially well-informed on the issue, it also means you’re not constantly reading little bits and pieces thinking, “Is that true? Is this real?” because you will have a deep background on it. Be your circle of friends’ go-to person on a given issue, and it will be easier to mobilize them when needed. The benefits are many; follow your heart with your best effort.
An App to monitor phone use
This is totally non-bookish, but it’s relevant, I think. I found an app called Moment. It monitors phone use, with some interesting extras, if you opt for the pay version. You start to become more aware of those habitual pick-ups and pointless scrollings. Without even trying, I knocked a few hours off my usage. I was able to turn off the electroshock function after only a week. (Joking.) Get it (or something similar). Use it. Save yourself.
Being Part of a Book Club
When we’re young, we’re usually in some kind of club. The Goonies, Mean Girls, the kids in Stranger Things – these are all clubs (cliques, gangs, whatever). We need that stuff, but as we get older, it doesn’t happen with the ease it did when we were kids. We’re too busy or professional or we have some idiotic notion that we’re supposed to be independent. You might be lucky enough to be in a club on account of some hobby or professional connection or church group or other collective – but if you’re not, you might want to think about finding one. We’re social critters.
How about a book club? These can be tricky, because they can be extraordinarily flimsy. You might need a premise beyond just reading random books. For example, there are a few groups focused on working their way through the famous David Bowie 100 Books reading list (in fact, we should have an interview with one of them up in the next week or so). There’s bound to be a little more cohesion in a group that exists for a purpose and has something important in common: like David Bowie. What about an Afrofuturist Book Club? Forgotten poets? Gothic Romances? Victoriana – you could have tea, and it could be a whole thing. You could even do field trips. Think about it. Maybe start with 2 or 3 like-mindeds, then invite the noobs with scientist parents who just moved here from Africa.
Okay, deep breath, we get to start fresh now.