I Met My Goodreads Challenge!—And Why I Won’t Do One Again

Last year, Goodreads gave me a year’s end review, showing me I read somewhere around 35 books. And I thought, “Man, that number is way too small!” So I signed up for the Goodreads challenge for 2016. I went back and forth on how many books to make my goal, deciding to push myself to 45 books.

At first, things were fine. I’d read about a book every week or two and stayed right around my goal. Then, life happened.

2016 was the first year I was on contract. So I not only had edits and other book related duties to handle, but I also had another book to write and edit and prep. This was all new, uncharted territory for me, and it did cut into my reading time.

More than that, I also helped up with several contests during the year. That meant periods where my reading was purely unpublished works that took up a great deal of time. Wonderful, but contradicted with my Goodreads challenge.

I’m also an avid re-reader. I love to finish a book, and while still in that book hangover phase, read it again. About halfway through the year I stopped doing this, because my goal had turned to pressure.

That’s right, pressure. I felt this inane need to keep this goal. Every time I logged onto Goodreads, and my goal would stick out it’s tongue at me, I felt the stress of lagging behind. And that’s on top of a hell of a lot of other stress, both writerly and not, which is not a healthy thing.

Around PitchWars I realized I’d never make the goal. For one month I read nothing but subs, then for two months I read my mentee’s novel, plus was knee deep in my own work. There was simply no time for pleasure reading, and my “books behind” number climbed higher and higher.

Then, in the aftermath of all of this. I got sick. Very sick. In fact, I’m still sick and it’s been five weeks. My mentee was done, my own work was with readers, and I had the brain capacity of a snail—no offense to snails. I read a book, then another, than another, managing to read two entire books in one weekend. I not only caught up to my goal, but I surpassed it.

One less stressor in my life.

On the plus side, this goal did push me to read more, and that’s an awesome and amazing thing! But this goal doesn’t account for all the unpublished books I’ve read this year, between contests, CPs, and my internship. I haven’t kept track of just how many I’ve read, but it’s a lot more than 45.

I won’t do this challenge again. I’ve decided that the only goals I’m giving myself in regards to writing and reading will be coming from my agent or editor. Those are the ones to stress over. Not me trying to write a draft by x date. Not me trying to read x books. I need as little stress as possible, and rather than be a fun challenge, the Goodreads goal turned to stress, and that’s not something that’s good for me.

I’m glad I did it, though. I’m glad I pushed myself to read more, and read more widely, this year I’ve read more diverse books than ever before, and I plan to keep going. I’d like to keep track of all the unpublished books I’ve read, and maybe I’ll record them in 2017. And at the end of 2017, when Goodreads tells me how many books I’ve read, I’ll add my personal number, and see if I’m anywhere near 45.

Until then, I’m still not quite back to health, so I’ll be pulling another book from my TBR list to fall into.