On the 30th of May, I finished That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis – the forty-fifth book in my book buying ban.
I was finished. I was done.
181 days had passed without a single book purchase. I’d read 45 books that I’d owned and never read before.
I’d love to tell you that I bought one book, or perhaps two. Or three.
Reader, I did not.
I splurged. I feasted. I laid waste to my bank account. I had a list, I crossed off that list. I crossed off books that weren’t even on the list. I made brutal decisions on which books to buy and which books to leave behind. It was cold and calculated and amazing.
I splurged on books on sleep, classical poetry, on hieroglyphics, on classics, on current events, on the Amelia Peabody series, on children’s books, on research books and so on and so forth.
I didn’t know why on earth I’d done such a stooped thing as to ever embark on a book buying ban in the first place. What a half-wit! What a nincompoop!
I was a fish returned to her natural habitat: the sea.
And then it abated. (These things tend to.)
(A lean month of penny pinching followed. Your actions, dear friends, have consequences.)
“I’m all for building a personal library, but I want to do it in a mindful manner. Not in a frenzy of buying a stack of books I’ve haven’t read.”
I have no defense. For the bad grammar (PRESENT PERFECT? Here? Pfft. What a noob.) or for ignoring the lesson. I was a bookworm drunk on power. I have learned lessons and after the ban, I chose to ignore those lessons. It was glorious.
I’ve learned that as a reader, I should enjoy the things I have – the books on my shelves. No book left unread! and all that.
And as a ban-parched bookworm? I’d like to think that I’ve learned to appreciate the prospect of new adventures and to look for books of interest. Not mindlessly reaching for just any old book ( LOOK! A BOOK IN THE WILD! GOTTA CATCH ‘EM ALL!), but to think about the ones I’d like to read.
Because of that book on sleep, I’ve learned the value of sleep, get more than five hours per night (huzzah! There can be miracles!!) and the black sacks under my eyes are less evident. (I mean – they’re still there but I feel better about them. )
Books have power – to inspire, to give you knowledge, and to whisk you away to worlds unknown.
I love it.
I truly do.
If this book buying ban has taught me anything it is this: reading is a delight to me – a real delight.
Shopping trips now are gloved, masked affairs where avoiding other shoppers a major priority. It’s bizarre and surreal. And yet food needs to be bought, these trips have to be made.
No more is there a 45 minute-1 hour commute to work. My desk is at the end of my bed and there’s no need to wake up at 5:15 am. No need, but I still try to get up at six because a routine is importantdamn it. Meetings are held over Microsoft Teams and instead of the radio, my own music plays.
Every day we are told the amount of people who have died – what caused alarm when we heard Italy’s, Spain’s and France’s death tolls, now seems part of the every day.
(Seven hundred today, I would call across the hall to my dad.)
(These are people – PEOPLE! With lives, and families and loved ones and hopes and dreams – all snuffed out and gone, leaving unfillable holes behind. A damn tragedy that can’t be communicated by numbers.)
(It seems that the Sword of Damocles hangs over everyone’s heads.)
It feels as though we are in a tonally off novel – I and my family are spending so much time together, enjoying nights around the fire in the garden, playing on the x-box, sharing meals, staring at the stars – and yet the world outside is one in which the illusion of immortally is thinner than ever and death seems even more present.
Reality intrudes in the form of crossing the road to avoid other pedestrians, a firm two metres between those queuing, the news online, tales from colleagues and friends on the front line, and delivery men who no longer wait for signatures but deposit their parcels on the doorstep.
And then the door closes, hands are washed and we are quiet again.
Keep going, friends – one foot in front of the other! Be kind – to yourself and others. Take comfort in beauty where you can find – a soft breeze, a blackbird’s song, a good conversation with a friend over Zoom or Messenger, or diving into a really good book.
I’ve found myself reading more than ever: Georgette Heyer, Elizabeth Peters, and C.S Lewis are keeping me company these days. I will keep blogging, I’m sure, but I often pull up a draft and stare at the blank whiteness of it and think but why?
And that’s okay. I’ll post again, soon – rambles about books and things I find interesting and all that sort of thing – but for now, this will do.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.
I can’t draw. Or at least, that’s the excuse I’ve used for years to hide the fact that I was incredibly disappointed with myself because I didn’t emerge from the womb a full-fledged Da Vinci. (No, I NEVER create high standards for myself. Pfft. Why do you ask?)
At the beginning of March, I thought – NO. MORE.
I decided that I would take up sketching and sketch as often as I could. I would have an art journey and it was going to be long, arduous, and painful but I wanted to have a before and an after and draw a super duper eye gosh darn it!
I might not have talent, but I could pour in some time and see what happened.
It’s been a month now (what a month) and I find myself picking up the paintbrush rather than a pencil, choosing to use colour in a notebook rather than words on a document.
It’s so relaxing. So very relaxing. I focus on the page and the paint and not on the world which is whirling round and round with so much panic, confusion, hurt, and deathand- I promised myself that it wouldn’t be a post about COVID-19. Dang it.
My writing has come to a standstill, but my hope is that in April this will change. My family is currently self-isolating, I am working from home and our country is in lockdown … so that should cut out commute time and free up some extra time.
(THIS IS LIKE BEING IN A DISASTER MOVIE.)
(Also, the idea of writing of worlds when my own is in such disarray seems preposterous to my subconscious mind.)
I look back on my ‘goals for march’ list and I could laugh at how much didn’t happen. I survived work, and we are currently weathering the virus. That’s what happened. Everything else, didn’t.
But that’s okay. March has been horrendous and surreal and just very much not normal. I’m not entirely sure what normal is going to look like. (My mind flies to one of those YA novels where everyone wears grey and the heroine is sixteen and suddenly THREE BOYS LIKE HER OH WOE IS HER HOW WILL SHE SURVIVE AND THE WORLD IS SO BLEAK AND ALL THE SKYSCRAPERS ARE ABANDONED AND FALLING DOWN LIKE BABEL.)
April goals? I’d like to write more. If it’s possible. I think I’ve managed to wipe off OneDrive from my computer (I AM A GENIUS!) and have tried to reload it and it’s just not working, dang it.
Ironically, the ‘surviving work’ goal for March has now transformed to ‘survive’ for April. Wasn’t quite expecting that. So. Plot twist.
This is Lilabet, by the way. She is calm, serene, and UNBELIEVABLY humble. Her hair has Medusa snakes and she’s spray-painted them brown. Rumor has it that that hand? It’s not hers. It could be plastic. From a mannequin. It’s far too small to be her natural hand.
(I CAN’T HELP IT – EVERYTHING I DRAW/PAINT HAS A BACKSTORY. Even a butterfly. I was painting its wings red and I just knew that they were angry wings and basically THE BUTTERFLY WOULD BE AT HOME IN THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.)
Keep going, old chum. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray. Look out for others – via phone, or email, or shouting over the fence. And try not to get dragged into the depressing cycle of endless Twitter and news websites. It’s no good. Nope. Nuh-uh.
As you know – or don’t, that’s okay too – I’ve embarked on a book buying ban. Namely, on my last count, I own a lot of books that I haven’t read. The number shames me. Shames! Me!
So, taking matters – and the books, though not all at once – into my own hands, I decided to read 45 of those books.
When I was telling someone from church about this last year, they asked how long it would take me to read all 45.
“Oh,” I said breezily, probably wafting my hand in the air. “Maybe a month or two.”
THREE MONTHS LATER …
At the time of writing, Book 18 is being devoured: ‘The Ministry of Truth’ by Dorian Lynskey is about George Orwell and the creation of 1984. It’s grabbed my interest and has yet to let go. So far? I highly recommend it.
But though I am in the middle of this experience, I have already been learning some lessons. Let me share them with you.
I FEEL BETTER ABOUT MYSELF
Though the list of books I wish to read at the end of this is growing, I feel much better about myself. I’m not longer buying with eyes too big for my bookreading stomach (just go with that analogy). I’m reading what I have. And – astonishingly enough – what I have is really interesting.
Who’d have thunk it, right?
This year has been marked by me trying to be more mindful of the money I’m spending, the time I waste, the books I read, the clothes I buy etc etc. This book buying ban? It’s been so very useful.
I do not need to chase after the next book, the next interesting title … I just need to enjoy the ones I have.
BLAM! UNEXPECTED DOSE OF CONTENTMENT STRIKES UNEXPECTEDLY.
COULD BOOKSTAGRAM BE … UNHEALTHY??
Taking pictures of books and posting them to Instagram is one of life’s little pleasures. However, it has made me question my motives: am I doing it because, personally, it’s something that feels like an expression of creativity OR – more to the point – does it have a whiff of boastfulness about it? A sort of: ‘Behold! I read this book! Bow to me! I am intelligent!’
I hope it doesn’t, but I am growing increasingly wary of Instagram – what are my motives? Why am I even posting this? Is this for my ego? Or is it because sometimes I have to express myself and ramble and to get things off my chest and I use this blog and that Instagram account to do so? (also I relish taking pictures of books and thinking oh wow this has much goodness. First, Instagram – next? NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC!)
We all know that social media can be incredibly unhealthy – showing life how we want to be perceived instead of how we actually are, promoting comparisons and that general feeling of being less and having a life that isn’t quite as good as anybody else’s.
Does my validation come by the number of likes and retweets a post receives? (I mean, if that’s the case, let’s be honest … I am in deep trouble.)
I keep a book reading diary to log what I’m reading and my thoughts regarding it. I don’t update Goodreads anymore because I was so darn proud of the statistics and I just knew that that was the first stage to unabated narcissism and grandiose delusions of grandeur. I don’t post pictures of every single book I’ve read because:
I have a crisis of what is the point does this help anyone oh gosh nothing I’ve posted about books HELPS anyone why would anyone listen to my book recommendations OH WAIT it’s fine I’ll do it anyway no I won’t I can’t be bothered OH MY WORD WHAT IF THE WORLD FIGURES OUT MY PERSONALITY BASED ON THE BOOKS I’VE READ also what if this makes people think they need to buy ALL the books am I promoting an unhealthy mindset also I think my ego is far larger than I’ve ever suspected also I think I’d be a terrible regency heroine because my ankles aren’t finely turned.
I’m occasionally paranoid in a HELP BRING SMELLING SALTS kind of way.
Something in this world has to be private, dang it!
Though possibly overthinking everything can also be unhealthy, it’s worthwhile to examine my motivations.
ALSO THIS PICTURE MAKES ME LAUGH AND ONE DAY I WILL HATE MYSELF FOR PUTTING IT HERE BUT HAHA BEHOLD:
THE EBOOK VS PAPERBACK DEBATE HAS BEEN SOLVED FOR ME
It’s hardbacks and paperbacks and smelling the pages in front of your face. I used to read far more ebooks, but since the great ebook cleanse of December ’19 (300 novels! DELETED!) I’ve been reading almost exclusively paperbacks and hardbacks.
It’s just too easy to spend money on ebooks. In my tumultuous past, I’ve inhaled novels by the dozen. Read two or three in one day. It’s almost shocking how much money – and, more importantly, time – I’ve spent on Kindle.
This ban has forced me to take a step back. To enjoy what I have instead of chasing after what I haven’t. It’s not hoarding if it’s books, one of my cups says. But … to be frank … if I’m buying book after book after book and not reading them … it certainly feels like it is.
I’m all for building a personal library, but I want to do it in a mindful manner. Not in a frenzy of buying a stack of books I’ve haven’t read.
Well, it’s a new month. Instead of reviewing what I did in February (… I saw EMMA. three times. That’s it.) I’m going to put my goals/wishlist for March right here. Feel free to let me know what your goals are for March. Or don’t. That’s okay too.
EDIT ANOTHER 40 PAGES OF PROJECT IF
The editing of Project If is going so slowly that it makes a glacier like it’s breaking the sound barrier. However, I will take whatever victories I can and so therefore, I wish to edit another 40 pages and update the word document for the last 40 pages.
Patches of the novel still boggle me – I’m not sure how I got the plot into such a state, but I did. And so, I must mend it.
I don’t see problems … I see solutions.
EDIT/PROOFREAD OUR INTREPID HEROINE THE FIRST
Our Intrepid Heroine was taken down because it needed de-typoing and updating and just a major overhaul. It’s getting a new cover – exciting, I know – I’ve got Monkey and Whale Designslined up to do it for me and I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with. I’m going to have a whole step-by-step front cover design post at the end of it too. (I always find those really fascinating to view. AND IT IS NOT BECAUSE I AM NOSY. I am interested in the creative process. So there.)
It’s that life to work to sleep balance that I’ve been lacking recently. I slipped out of my writing routine and didn’t get enough sleep and so everything went to pot. I don’t know about you, but if I’m sleep-deprived, I turn into an emotional wreck riddled with paranoia and bouts of Certainty That Everything Is Dreadful.
NO MORE! This is going to change. I – a twenty-five year old adult – am going to have a bedtime.
Yeah, I know.
SUCH A BLOOMIN’ ADULT. MUCH SHOCK!!
WRITE MORE + SPEND LESS
Once I’d finished Project If and Unicorn Poop Part One I fell into a creative hole. Well, much like Ben Solo, I’m going to crawl out of the pit, save someone’s life and then die and OH MY GOSH THE RISE OF SKYWALKER WHY WOULD YOU HURT HIM LIKE THAT????
Well, I’ll be hammering out Unicorn Poop Part Two and possibly starting back up on Our Intrepid Heroine The Third.
Also, I’m going to be budgeting – or if not that, at the very least be more aware of how much I spend. I need to save up for a cottage with room enough for a library, you see. PRIORITIES.
WEATHER THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK
I don’t usually – or ever, really – talk about world news on this blog, but let’s break with tradition for a wee moment …
No one truly knows what is going to happen though it is very easy to think of worse case scenarios. I keep on thinking of FEED by Mira Grant which is rather inappropriate because that was about zombies and bloggers. (There’s a difference.)
I just hope that we can weather this with the least amount of cases as possible. Perhaps this is too much optimism but there’s always a chance that it won’t be as bad as some people predict.
Oliver Cromwell apparently once told his soldiers to: put your faith in God, but keep your powder dry.
I think we can change this to:
Put your faith in God, but also please wash your hands.