Wednesday, February 11, 2009

About reading challenges...

My name is Becky. I'm a challenge-addict. Chances are good that you may be one too. (Though not all my readers are challenge buddies!)

For those not familiar with reading challenges in general, I'll try to explain the addiction/experience. A reading challenge is typically hosted by one person, one blog. That one person sets the rules and guidelines for the challenge. They may help facilitate participants by setting up special sites, pages, posts related to the challenge. They might even have their own yahoo group to help build the participants into a community. Most reading challenges give participants rules as to how many books required and the deadline for reading those books. 6 books for 6 months, for example. 12 books for 12 months, etc. An average book challenge might ask readers to read anywhere from 6 books to 12 books. (Some are larger like the 999 Challenge asks for 64 books minimum. And the A-to-Z challenge asks for 52 books. The 100+ book challenge obviously wants at least 100 books.) Some are seasonal (spring, winter, fall, summer). Some are topical (science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, mysteries, romance, etc). Some are annual events. Each challenge is unique because they are hosted by different people. So the rules do vary.

So since I can't say no, I've learned a few tricks on how-to-stay-sane. I thought I'd share just in case some of my buddies are feeling overwhelmed and despairing of their inabilities to say no. At the very least, you can join together and say at least I'm not her.

1) create your own "scary-but-true" list where you keep track of how many challenges you have going.

name of challenge:
books required:

2) Have at least one place where you have all the links to your challenges bookmarked. This might be in the file above. Or it could be in a browser bookmark folder. Or it could be on your blog's sidebar in a special link section. I feel it essential to keep these links segregated from just your regular blogroll.

3) Consider having a special page (if you've got wordpress) or an additional blog (like if you have blogger) to keep track just of your challenges. I normally blog in blogger. But I started a wordpress blog just to keep track of my challenges because I liked the format and the options available there. I think this is important because you can then have one place where all your lists are collected together. You can also use the search option to find certain books. I didn't originate this idea of having a separate blog just for challenge lists. I copied many others. But it works really well. :)

4) Use tags when writing posts. If a book counts towards a challenge, I will use the name of that challenge as a tag. If a book counts towards five challenges, then list all five. For example, "Once Upon A Time Challenge II" and "Spring Reading Thing" and "A to Z Challenge."

5) This is perhaps the MOST important thing I've learned in the past three months. And again, it's not completely original. But here is my big trick. For each challenge, start a post and title it Whatever-the-challenge-is Completed. If the challenge ends in October, use your "post options" feature to date that entry for October 31. As each book you read for that challenge is completed, then open up that post and create a link to your review. (But remember to save as draft instead of publishing!) That way, you keep track of how many books you've read. When it comes time for the challenge to end, there is no fuss about it. No scrambling at the last minute to tie all those posts together. No rush to count up to see if you've read enough books.

6) Depending on your challenges, you might consider doing daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance. Checking your lists to see what you've read, and what you still need to read. If you've got a list organized in chronological order. The sooner the challenge ends, the higher priority it may receive when it comes time to choosing your next book.

7) To stay sane, remember not to force it. If you really really really don't want to read something, then don't. It doesn't matter how many challenges a book is good towards if reading it is going to drive you crazy. That book might suit you better a month or two from now. Or you might end up substituting (if possible) another book in its place altogether. But always remember you can STILL exercise the Readers Bill of Rights even if you're a challenge-addict.

Readers' Bill of Rights (Daniel Pennac)
1. The Right to Not Read
2. The Right to Skip Pages
3. The Right to Not Finish
4. The Right to Reread
5. The Right To Read Anything
6. The Right to Escapism
7. The Right to Read Anywhere
8. The Right to Browse
9. The Right to Read Out Loud
10. The Right to Not Defend Your Tastes

8) Be forgiving and generous towards yourself. Perhaps this is more of an attitude than a tip. I sometimes hear that people dislike challenges because they don't like the idea of not having the freedom to read what they want when they want to read it. Being challenge-addicted doesn't have to be stressful. I think sometimes folks come to it with the mindset that it's like a diet instead of a lifestyle. (You must do this, this, and this. You must do it now. You must not do this or that. And above all else, this is off limits.) But if you approach it with a que sera sera attitude, nothing can tie you down.

9) Remember it's all about pleasure. Reading is fun. Reading is pleasurable. Blogging is pleasurable. Making new friends, keeping old ones. Finding new books for the TBR pile. All very good things. There is nothing about challenge work that should be UNpleasant. It's an experience. It's a lifestyle. It's a journey you take with friends new and old.

10) Know yourself. Trust yourself. If a particular challenge gets to be too tough, don't be afraid to back out. But don't be too eager either. :) The world doesn't end if you don't finish a challenge. Nothing bad will happen if you don't reach your listed goal. You might surprise yourself along the way.

Bonus: Overlap as much as possible. Have a book count for more than one challenge. In some cases, you might have a book count in five or six. :)

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