Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Time Management Tuesday: Read Less To Read More, Part 1

The numbers on annual book publication vary just a bit. I've seen claims that  300,000 books, more or less, are published each year. I've also seen the 1,000,000 figure used. I suppose that after a certain point, it doesn't matter how many books are generated each year. More are published than you or I can read.

Then there are magazines, newspapers, and professional and literary journals. The Internet is groaning under the burden of blog material being generated. There's more of that coming out than you or I can read, too.

But many of us want to read. We want to read lots and lots of things. How to find time for all the reading we want to do?

My theory is that if we read less of some things, we'll be able to read more of others. But what should we choose to ditch? Well, of course, I have some ideas to share.

Reading I'm Cutting Back On

Listicles. Listicles are articles written in the form of a list. We're not talking bulleted material broken out of a section of an essay in order to make effective use of white space and highlight information for readers. No, the hardcore listicles really are just lists of related or semi-related facts. Sometimes they're clever and witty, but there's rarely any development of thought. I gave up reading these a few years ago.

Interesting point about listicles: Some on-line publications indicate in their submission guidelines that they're interested in publishing listicles. Yeah, I'm not going to speculate about what that means.

Articles With Numbers In The Title. Seventeen Agents Give Us Their Biggest Turnoffs In Submissions. Our Six Best Procrastination Tips. These articles are more sophisticated listicles. But not much. The quality of the listed items varies a lot. Depending on the number of items in the overall article, you might find a couple that are useful. And those you'll wish had been developed into essays by themselves.

As a general rule, there are only so many facts about any subject, so there's often a lot of repetition both within these number articles and among different ones. If you're reading a number article on a subject that you're at all knowledgeable about, you're probably going to see things you already know.  I cannot tell you how many numbered time management articles I've read that included suggestions to eat properly and get a good night's sleep and plenty of exercise as three of their items.

I have cut way back on the number articles. I try to limit myself to ones with small numbers in the title.  And even then, I skim them.

Clickbait That Ends With Some Variation Of "You Won't Believe What Happened Next." If I won't believe it, why bother reading it? Also, if you've been suckered into reading some of these things, as I obviously have, you are aware that the unbelievable portion of the article isn't that unbelievable. It's usually cute (if it involves animals) or heart warming (if it involves people). I have had enough cuteness and warmth to last a lifetime. I can avoid these and read something else.

Random Marketing and Writing Process Internet Articles/Blog Posts. If you're a new writer, reading all kinds of info on writing and marketing is probably going to benefit you. But if you've been doing it for decades, it's like the Articles With Numbers In The Title thing above. There's a lot of repetition. Lots of marketing/writing process items are written by writers who have been advised to start a blog and then told, heck, write about writing process and marketing. You know what I'm talking about because you've read that kind of thing here. Once again, there are only so many things to say about writing and marketing just as there are only so many things to say about everything. Over the last year, I've picked up a few good things about marketing and read a terrific process book that I heard about at the NESCBWI Conference. But that's a small figure compared to the enormous number of articles I've read.

I've finally cleared out my bookmarks. My plan now: If I see something that's good enough to read, it's good enough to read right away. I'm staying away from the bookmark section of my toolbar.

Are We Reading News Or Are We Reading Entertainment? In The Influencing Machine, Brooke Gladstone says, "Neil Postman once observed that back when we had only newspapers, "news"was information we could use and act on locally. Postman says the moment we could get instant news from everywhere--news not directly relevant to us--that's when news became entertainment." She then goes on to argue that we are in a different era now and news from everywhere these days is relevant. It is "news that affects us all."

But is it? How many of the articles at news sites or in traditional newspapers about events far from you involve news you can use? Instead, how often are we reading pieces about murders and deaths in other parts of the country or the world, personal tragedies that are hugely important to the people involved and their communities but with no relevance to us at all? They will never impact our lives other than providing us with a few minutes of distraction while we're reading about them. Sometimes we're spending more than a few minutes reading about a specific tragedy because new details turn up, but the basic story doesn't change. A child far from us died under horrific circumstances. A child we didn't know, whose family we feel for but have never met, a crime that will not impact anything in our town.

Why do we keep reading those things? Is it for...entertainment?

Now when I see articles about children killed by their parents or how couples planned murders, I feel like a dirty voyeur. Yes, that does help me to trim my reading of "news."

So You're Going To Just Read More With This Time You've Saved By Reading Less, Gail?

I'll have some thoughts about that next week.

In the meantime, what kind of reading can you cut back on in order to make more time for reading other things?

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