Keeping track of what I read…not as easy as it sounds!

Good intentions get a bad rap, but I suppose it’s justified when they end up as only intentions. I know the problem all too well.

Books

Years ago I decided it would be useful to keep a record of what I read. My memory is terrible when it comes to recalling titles and author names. Someone would ask, “Have you read so-and-so’s new book? What did you think of it?” Not until they recounted a bit about the plot would I recognize the book in question.

I started a spreadsheet and added relative information, including a little blurb for each book. And it worked well … for a while. Before the end of the first year I was frequently playing ‘catch up’, trying to remember books that I’d read but already returned to the library, lent to friends or deleted from my kindle.

Blaming my lapses on the inconvenience of having to get the spreadsheet up and running on the computer, I printed out a copy with lots of blank spaces where I could jot down the details until I had time to transfer them to the computer.

That worked until I misplaced the sheet. I mean, how likely is it that a single sheet of paper would get mixed up with others on the desk of a writer? It had to be there somewhere, but I never did find it.

So I hunted up a notebook. The obvious choice, right?

It had to be just the right notebook. Big enough that it couldn’t easily be misplaced on my desk. Not so small it could hide in my purse, but definitely small enough to pop into my tote bag alongside my book-du-jour or kindle. My choice was one of two that were gifts from family — each with a grandchild’s photo on the wipeable, laminate cover. It brings a smile every time I look at it. I enjoy using it when I remember to.

Those good intentions I mentioned at the beginning? Any method would work if I were more self-disciplined, and I intend to be, but in reality the daily distractions and interruptions often mean when I finish a book, I put it aside and move on. The advantage of the notebook with a pen clipped on, is that it stays with the book until I record the details. If a library due date is approaching I’ve been known to renew online to give myself an extra few days to get the task done!

The other benefit to the book is that I usually remember to write down the title, etc., before I start reading, leaving a half page to add the blurb or my reaction/review later.

What works best for me is flexibility, not discipline. I like to be organized, but when I’m not I need a system that can compensate, and my just-right notebook delivers.

Do you think there’s value in keeping track of what you read? If you do, what method works best for you?

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Céad Mile Fáilte — Yes, welcome!

Although I’m a second (third?) generation Canadian, on St. Patrick’s Day I always enjoy taking advantage of my vaguely Irish roots. I haven’t been spending much time here on the blog, so no “new” post today, but if you’d like to catch up on some of my earlier Irish-hued entries, you could click back into the archives:

2009 and again in 2014 – A Green Moment in Time

2010 – Spreading the Green Around

2011 – The Luck o’ the Irish and Other Blessings

2012 – An Irish Recipe and a Blessing

2013 – Going Green?

I apparently missed posting anything last year, but there’s enough now to keep you reading for a while, if you’re so inclined. And if you needed a little Irish song (with men in kilts, no less) to set the mood, you might like this…

Go n-éiri an bóthar leat

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Spring Things – 1

 

Spring moss and ferns2

“This is the forest primeval.
The murmuring pines and the hemlocks,

Bearded with moss, and in garments green,
indistinct in the twilight,

Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate
answers the wail of the forest.” 
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.
From the poem ‘Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie’ (1847),
as collected in The Poetical Works of H.W. Longfellow (1855)
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Spring Things and Other Excuses

I haven’t gone AWOL, but I admit to ignoring my blog recently. It’s one of those priority things I mentioned a couple weeks ago — I had to decide if writing posts was a bigger priority right now than family, work commitments, the mess that passes for our slowly-unwintering garden, and my ongoing novel writing. It wasn’t, so blog posts lost out.

Lilac Buds

The annual ‘March Madness’ challenge with my #wipmadness gang began on March 1st. ‘Speedbo’, a similar effort involving the Seekerville peeps, also started then. AND my garden began showing signs of spring. Next weekend Daylight Saving Time will begin, and we’ll lose an hour that I won’t be able to find again until November.

Everyday life still has its share of obstacles this month, too, so if I don’t plop new posts into this space quite as often as usual, please don’t hold it against me. In fact, you might even consider joining me in the writing frenzy. We can keep each other accountable since excuses don’t wash under scrutiny.

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Speedbo2016 (2) (1)

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Writing Time vs Online Time (It’s all about balance)

I did say this post would be coming last ‘Friday’, didn’t I? Mmm, yes. This isn’t Friday, is it? Some bloggers might be inclined to say, “Oh, well, suck it up and let’s get on with it.” Personally, I wouldn’t think that was a polite way to respond. I’m more the apologetic type. “So sorry,” I’ll say. “Unavoidable interruptions. Sincere apologies.” Now suck it up and let’s carry on.

We writers sometimes need a jolt to unsettle our complacency. In my previous post I mentioned a comment from a book I’m currently reading by Jeff Goins. I went to his website for the URL to share with you, started reading his post and that’s where I got today’s jolt.

“…what do writers do? They write. There’s nothing mystical or magical about it — you just have to show up and commit to doing the work. Place butt in chair, fingers on keys, and start typing. And this, of course, is where most writers fail. They never actually write a word. They talk about writing, think about writing, even read about writing. But they do not write.”

I think that makes last week’s post even more appropriate. Not only is our “crazy social media platform maintenance” frenzy a form of stalling, the talking, thinking and reading about writing are all equally effective deterrents to any success.

It’s decision time. Time to make strategic choices that will provide the resources we need while allowing us to spend the majority of our time pursuing our creativity. So, what will those choices look like? Take a moment to…um, I’d say smell the roses, but it’s too early for them…so maybe just admire the snowdrops (they’re everywhere in my garden right now), then grab your notebook and start planning.

Winter Snowdrops

(Winter Snowdrops – Galanthus)

  • Restrict social media networks to the few that are the most useful

We agree: we can’t do it all. Ideally, the best networks will be the ones where we encounter people of similar interests, the sites where we will find the information that is most suited to our purpose or that will reach the most people who are likely to be interested in our product or subject matter. It isn’t necessary to constantly explore cyberspace. Once we’ve found them, settle on a select few sites.

I have a group of writing friends on Facebook in addition to my family, church and purebred dog connections, so next to my blog, that’s my network of preference. I check in on Twitter occasionally, but don’t spend much time there, I recently quit Google+, and I’ve avoided Pinterest entirely because I know it’s addictive.

My list of regularly visited blogs and websites have been whittled down considerably this year to include those of a handful of friends, fellow authors, and writing mentors, the Seekerville writing community, and a couple inspirational sites. That’s not to say I don’t occasionally visit some that are on my earlier lists, or go to places like Amazon and home-decorating sites, but they are no longer places to dally on a daily basis or let eat into my writing time.

  • Allot specific amounts of time to spend online

How long do we realistically need to check and respond to e-mail, to peruse a limited number of favourite blogs or websites, to do the research for a particular writing project? Determine that ahead of time and set a timer. Knowing it’s counting down should keep us more focused on our task and less inclined to dawdle. Once our ‘social’ time is over and we move on to the day’s work, I try to resist checking in online every few minutes. If it’s a writing day I might work for an hour and then allow myself a ten minute break to check for messages, get a Coke or a coffee, and carry on. Your daily tasks will be different from mine, depending on your day job, family responsibilities, and other commitments. How much time we allot to social media is up to us but we need to be disciplined, honest and realistic about how we ration it.

  • Include opportunities to ‘give back’ to the writing community

It’s easy for writers to become immersed in our fictional worlds and believe the online hype we try to create is all about us. It’s not. We relish the support and encouragement of those we look up to, those whose efforts have brought them success, and in turn we should be ready to offer what help we can to others. Whether it’s leaving comments of encouragement, interviewing newcomers on our blogs or offering book reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads, we can show appreciation by giving back, regardless of our level of expertise or inexperience.

  • Schedule time into the day for creative refuelling

Whatever our workday consists of, it’s important to make sure we carve out a niche for personal refreshment. (And that doesn’t mean to go blog-hopping!) Some of my favourite writing books aren’t actually on the craft itself, but on nurturing the writer within. Julia Cameron recommends artist’s dates — going for a walk, visiting an art gallery or museum, spending quiet time in an environment that is personally rejuvenating. It can be a whole afternoon, or just fifteen minutes. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s “me time”.

That’s about it. I’m not all that proficient when it comes to how I spend my online time, but I’m trying to be intentional about it. When I succeed, I’m surprised at how much more I get done in a day.

As for those links I promised, here’s a list in random order of some of the more helpful writing sites I particularly like (no, I don’t visit them everyday, and you’d better not, either!):

Writer UnboxedWriter’s Digest, Anne R. AllenK.M. Weiland, Jessica Morrell, Chip MacGregor, Rachelle GardnerJane Friedman, The Write Life, Seekerville, The Writer’s Alley, Write to Done, Story Fix: Larry Brooks, The Kill Zone (Hey, don’t raise your eyebrows; I write cozy mysteries!), Jeff Goins, Pub Rants, Molly Greene, Kirsten Lamb, Live-Write-Thrive: CS Lakin, Jody Hedlund, Agent Query, Writer Beware, Preditors & Editors, The Passive Voice: The Lawyer Guy, American Christian Fiction Writers, The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Writers Helping Writers, Absolute Write WaterCooler Forum, Bookends Literary Agency blogWriting World: Moira Allen (blog has concluded, but has sixteen years of archived articles). 

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