How to Power Through a Book You Must Read

There are many of us, especially those in school, for whom reading is an essential part of our job. It may be a textbook. It may be a novel. It may simply be a report or research article. Sometimes they’re enjoyable reads, but oftentimes, the opposite is true. Sometimes we hate the reading or it bores us until we fall asleep. But no matter how we feel about it, we have to read it or suffer consequences in our grade or job performance.

So how do we get through the difficult books? I have a few helpful tips that have gotten me through many a difficult read.

  1. Make a plan. There was a study a while back that said goal-setting was an important step in meeting your goals. This is an excellent time to apply that idea. So take a step back and look at your required reading. Start with the due date. If there isn’t one, give it a reasonable due date based on either when you would like to have it finished or when it would be appropriate to have completed it. Next, evaluate how long the work is. Only a few pages or an entire novel? Then, break it up into manageable chunks. Figure out how much you need to read within a certain period to meet the goal.

    That was kind of abstract, so let’s look at an example. Let’s say you’re taking a literature class and you have to read a 200 page novel in a week. But you really really hate this book and would rather do anything else, like watch paint dry or stick your fingernails in your eyes.

    Due date: 7 days from today
    Number of pages: 200
    Pages per day to finish on time: 28.5

    So we calculated that to finish this book by the due date, you need to read 28 and a half pages per day. That sounds a lot more manageable, right? There’s your plan.

    Note: you can also base your calculation on number of chapters or number of sections rather than pages. Find what works for you.

  2. Schedule your time. Figure out when you are going to read those pages. Morning? Evening? Between classes? Before you go home? Just find a chunk of time that works based on what you have available and how long it will take you to read it.
  3. Do the reading. That’s it. Follow your plan and read those pages or chapters or sections each day or hour or whatever schedule you worked out. Pro Tip: you’ll be done faster if you can make yourself read past your goal. Once you hit your daily or hourly (or whatever) goal, see if you can do just a little bit more. It really adds up by the end of your deadline.
  4. Reward yourself every session. When you reach your session goal, make sure to give yourself something to celebrate. Eat a piece of candy. Go hang out with a friend. Or, my favorite (which also doesn’t use food as a reward, which is dangerous), now you get to read a fun book. Yes, once you finish the pages for whatever reading you are required to do, you can relax with reading you actually want to do!

A special note for the writers out there: these methods also work for getting yourself to write on a schedule! Woot! NaNoWriMo taught me that one. However, one different note for writing is that you could also base your goal off of daily writing time rather than word count, pages, chapters, etc.

Now, I know this isn’t the most timely post, since schools are finishing up (congrats, grads!), but these tips can be so handy at any time. Use them for school readings, for reading books for reviews or critiques (hey, looking at you, writing critique partners out there! and beta readers and anyone else this applies to), and for completing reading in your job. Personally, I used to have a lot of school reading and I currently do review reading, critiquing, beta reading, reading to build my internal library, and reading articles and protocols for work. Sometimes these readings can be rough, and these tips have seen me through them!

Your turn: tell me what tips and tricks you use to get through difficult reading. Share below! I can’t wait to see how everyone else deals with these things. 🙂 Happy reading!

Writing When Life Gets Crazy

As writers, we often find joy, peace, and stress relief in our writing (ignore those infuriating, anxiety-inducing things like “sharing” and “querying” for a moment). Once we dedicate ourselves to our writing, we even find that we want to make time for it on a regular basis, that it gives us excitement, energy, and purpose.

But when we are just starting out or when our lives start changing, that can be more difficult. Maybe we have full-time jobs or responsibilities that cut into our writing time. Maybe we have a lot of hobbies that eat up our free time. Or maybe events happen in your life that change your ability to write for a time, such as planning parties or weddings or starting a new relationship.

Personally, I encountered this between the end of March and beginning of May. I got married on April 21 (yay!), which meant that for the weeks leading up to the wedding I was insanely busy and stressed (boo!). It also meant that the weeks following the wedding I was traveling and recovering from being insanely busy and stressed.

And you know what? Not having the time, creative energy, or motivation to sit down at the keyboard took its toll on me. I became irritable and anxious about everything, even toward the man I love more than anyone. I started having stress-related health issues (which I’m still trying to fix). I battled my anxiety and my depression to keep from losing it completely (when they say weddings are stressful, it’s an understatement).

All because I had no outlet and I let myself get caught up in not doing the things that restore me. I wasn’t creating and my dreams felt stagnant. I wasn’t working toward them. My job felt pointless and unfulfilling. And yeah, there was good reason I wasn’t working toward my dreams, but still, being able to do something to move you toward your goals is SO IMPORTANT. I knew it was a temporary situation, but I really did suffer for it.

So, in hindsight, let’s discuss how to deal with your writing (or any other dreams) when life gets a little out of control. And maybe next time, I won’t lose it so much either!

  1. Use the time you can find. It can be hard to find time to do things that restore you when you’re busy and stressed and ready to explode. But you know what? You can. It won’t necessarily be your first choice, but if it’s something important to you or something you need for your own self care (like writing for me), then you need to just do it.
    So what do I mean? Can you set your alarm five minutes earlier in the morning and just write for five minutes? What about staying up five minutes later? Brainstorm while you’re on your commute? Take a couple minutes out of your lunch break? As soon as you get home, scrawl a sentence into your work in progress? These are all tiny, but if you can do even one of them, it can make a huge difference in how you feel. It’s small, but it’s not stagnant. You’re keeping your creative brain active and awake. I wish I had done that this past month instead of letting everything sit and fester.
  2. Cut yourself some slack. Listen. Life gets rough sometimes. You run into issues or things get away from you. It happens to everyone. Don’t beat yourself up. We’re all doing the best we can. Your dreams will still be there no matter what you do. Try to take little steps, but if you can’t even do that? Give yourself a break. As writers, we have enough forces coming at us in the form of rejections and critiques and reviews that we really don’t need to add to the negativity just by opening our own mouths.
  3. Take care of yourself. Make sure you put yourself and your health above trying to crank out work. Yes, do those things that you have to, like wedding planning or building a relationship or whatever it is that is interfering with your writing schedule… but don’t forget that your health is the first priority. That includes mental health. So take that bubble bath. Read that book before bed. Take a walk. Just take care of yourself in whatever way you need to in order to get through the tough time.
  4. Refuel yourself. Listen, tough times drain us. They drain us emotionally, physically, mentally, and creatively. Don’t expect yourself to jump right back in as soon as things get better. You need to recover. Make sure you’re putting coins in the bank of creativity: keep notes while you’re busy of things you can come back to later, make every experience count toward writing fodder (as I call it… this is anything I consider usable writing material). But while you do that, give yourself time to relax and refill creative tanks without pressuring yourself to get back to your former writing performance. It takes time. For me, it was my honeymoon. I spent a week with no responsibility, seeing things I’d never seen. And by the third day, I was already inventing story ideas in my head. Refueling is vital!
  5. Keep dreaming. Don’t give up, even if you can’t be as involved and active as you want to be. Life can be hard. But don’t let it steal your joy.

Writers are such a unique breed. We need to write to take care of ourselves, yet our writing is also one of our greatest sources of stress and anxiety, especially when we can’t work on it. So, knowing this, we need to work extra hard during the tough times to take care of ourselves and do what we can to keep the creativity flowing. Or to at least make deposits in the creativity bank. If we can’t take care of ourselves, our writing is going to suffer, and so are we. Take care of yourself.

For now, that’s all. I’m ready to dive back into more creation! Good luck, and please share your tips and comments below. I’d love to know how you deal with your writing when life is busy!