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Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Reading Resolutions 2020: Part 1- Assess How You Did in 2019

My management philosophy is "lead by example." As the author of this blog, one that I know is used by thousands of library workers all over the country as a trusted resource, I also understand that I must not only hold myself to a very high standard, but also, I need to model the behaviors I think all of you should also employ.

This is why every single year, before I set out my own reading resolutions, I publicly assess my resolutions from the previous year. From last year's post where I assessed my 2018 resolutions, but with changes to reflect this year:

Before any of us run headlong into 2020, we all need to take a step back and assess our personal reading during 2019. Did you make any reading resolutions? If so, now is the time to assess how you did.

It is extremely important to look back at the year that was BEFORE you plan for the year to come, otherwise you are simply making plans in a vacuum, which helps no one. I will demonstrate why this is necessary for you today by using myself as your example.

I will go back and assess myself in a moment based on my personal resolutions, but first, I also want to remind all of you who did NOT make reading or professional resolutions last year, that you are NOT off the hook for assessing yourself. Everyone can take a look back at their year in reading. And here are a few ways to do so:

  • If you keep track of your reading on Goodreads, they created a personal year in books report for you. Click here to read about how to access it from their blog. Even if you made reading resolutions and you also kept track of your reading on Goodreads, this is something you need to look at. Seeing everything you read in one report is very helpful, as I will demonstrate further below. It is always one of the best resources I have in making my annual resolutions. Looking at all of my reading in one place allows me to see trends I miss while caught up in the reading a reviewing of individual books.
  • If you did a reading challenge instead of making reading resolutions, sit down and really look at your data for the challenge. How did you do? Also, assess the challenge itself. Was it useful? Did you accomplish what you wanted from doing it? Really think about it as a tool not just if you "finish it" or not. Would you do another reading challenge this year?
  • If you did neither of these, I hope you had a way to keep track of what you read in general. If you did, take some time to look at the entire year and think about what you read, how you kept track of the feel of those books, where you had deficiencies or gaps, where were your strengths, etc... Spend some time analyzing what you read.
  • It is important to assess what you "read about" too. Staying up to date in the genres and the trends is important. You do not have to have read every book you wanted to in order to have gained information from them. Think about how you did on this front too. How are you staying in shape to help all readers?
Finally, before I get to myself, I want to make my annual plea to NOT make resolutions about the number of books you will read in a year. Many people set goals based on a number and in my experience this is never a good idea. It makes most people anxious and leads to choosing books based on how quickly you can finish them. It is quality not quantity. Sometimes a book that takes you a month to finish will help you more [whether professionally or personally because it nourished your soul] than 5 that you could have rushed through in that same time frame. Just before the end of 2019, I had more to say on this topic here.

Do what you want, of course, but that is my professional opinion on this issue.

Now on to the leading by example part. Here is the full post where I laid out my 2019 Reading Resolutions with reasons. As a reminder those resolutions were:
2019 Resolution: I will move the backlist to the front list
2019 Resolution: I will post reading challenges here on the blog
2019 Resolution: I will "read about" all areas of Speculative Fiction and share that process with all of you
2019 Resolution: I will continue to closely monitor my horror vs non horror reading
Assessment time. Like last year I will address it in categories of "The Good," The Bad," and "The Ugly."

The Good:

  • Resolutions 3 and 4 went spectacularly well, but not both in the way I had imagined it as the year began.
  • I worked very hard as the "captain" of the Speculative Fiction section of the ARRT Popular Author List and am so very proud of what our group created. I shared frequently about all speculative genres here on the blog throughout 2019 [I even created a "speculative" tag for this purpose], and I posted here about how we created new categories under our Speculative Fiction umbrella beyond the traditional SF/F/H that we had in the past. Currently the updated resource is only available to ARRT Members, but it will be in the NoveList database soon. This was one off the easiest resolutions for me to keep because it was tied to deadline but even I exceeded my goals on how well it went last year. 
  • Now the "monitoring my horror vs non horror reading," that was a resolution that went well because I made the resolution in a honest fashion. I did not know what would happen as I actively thought about my increased horror work and how it would effect the rest of my reading life. If you had asked me in January of 2019 though, I probably would have said I may come to feel like I abandoned all other reading for horror and start to resent the genre for it. But, I happy to report that the opposite happened. As my paid work in horror ramped up, I got more entrenched in the community of horror readers. Previously, I was keeping my interactions to the authors and professional reviewers only. This community nourished me and I learned form them. 
  • Also, as the number of horror titles I "had" to read increased, I did not find myself searching for more non-horror titles to keep me balanced. I came to terms with the fact that only about a third of the 60 or so books I read a year are going to have zero connection to the horror genre. But more than coming to terms with it, I am fully satisfied by this. I make sure to schedule my non horror titles as audio or during breaks between assignments and have come to terms with all the books I will never read [link to post with more on that topic]. 
  • Having my resolution last year be that I would monitor the situation left me the space to not pre-judge, rather to just dive in a see what would happen. And in that space I gave myself, I found joy. I found a new community of horror readers who inspire me. I found that I was more willing to stretch myself within horror and I embraced my professional roles within the genre with more confidence. That last bit was the most surprising. As I finished my first full year running Summer Scares and as Secretary of the Horror Writers Association, I now feel like a fully entrenched cog in the horror wheel. And, surprising myself the most, I agreed to write a third edition of my book [due in September of 2020]. Back in January of 2019, I would have told you no way I was going to do that, but here we are. But, by giving myself the space to "monitor" the situation, I also gave myself the chance to grow, evolve and change.
  • Finally, although it was not a resolution last year, my decision to do shorter reviews of the books I read for fun on Goodreads and then do 4 or so roundups here on the blog [to keep the titles searchable on the blog] is still going great. It has limited my stress and even made writing reviews for myself [not pay] an enjoyable outlet once again. This is now a standard in my work life, one that began as a result of the assessment of my 2017 reading life. I was overwhelmed and overstressed, but instead of giving up, I thought about how I could make things easier on myself without sacrificing the quality of my work, and viola.... my thoughtful assessment worked and I am in a better place. Plus, you are getting better reviews to use to help your patrons. I included this longer view here to remind you that assessing yourself each year is not easy [as we will get to in the next 2 categories] but the work pays off.
The Bad:

  •  I tried to read more backlist-- books 2-5 years old. Technically I did fine on this goal. I set out to read 6 books that were in that range and I read 6. But, and this is why you need to really assess yourself, only 1 of those was on purpose. You need to honest with yourself. I went back through my Goodreads and clearly I got lucky. 1 was for a horror column, 2 were ARRT Book Club Study titles, and the last 2 were because at the end of the year I was looking for audio titles on Libby and I found 2 available at that moment and both were backlist. Now, don't get me wrong, I am excited that I went from 0 backlist titles in 2018 to 6 in 2019. But I need to reassess this as a goal. Instead of making reading backlist titles a goal, which is hard when I am paid to read and review new books on an ever increasing schedule, I think I will make some 2020 goals about using the Libby app more and staying in ARRT's Book Club Study, both of which will allow me to enjoy backlist titles in my limited "free reading" time. Of course, I am always reading about books, including backlist titles and suggesting them to readers, so it is not all bad.
The Ugly:
  • I did nothing to post reading challenges here on the blog. Nada, zip, zilch. My goal was to give you RA for All branded challenges and goals. Honestly, I even forgot I made that a resolution. That was a goal for the blog, for adding a level of new content because I felt I needed it. However, I did succeed in the principle- creating new content- if not the actual resolution, and this new content did serve as a challenge of sorts. In 2019, beginning in January and continuing still, I doubled down on EDI and challenged all of you to do something about our problems with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. I made an EDI Mission Statement and created a program to help you also do better. Here is the post from last January that spurred me to action and then dominated my year. This is also important to assess. I had a resolution that I dropped the ball on because something else came up early in 2019 that supplanted it in importance. I will not deny that I did not reach the original resolution, not even close, but I also think it is important to assess why I failed. In this case, it was to make room for a resolution I should have made, but didn't.
That's all for the assessment. Tomorrow I will post my 2020 resolutions, many of which stem from my assessment of 2019 and others that are unique to the year that is upon me.

If you did an assessment of your 2019 resolutions and have something you would like to share with me and my readers, contact me or leave a comment.

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