And it’s me again. Today let’s talk about finishing books. In my experiment, I only counted the books I had finished. An unfinished book, was an unfinished book. I did not think it would be fair to say that I had read a book, although I read it half way and did not like it. So, what do I do? If I’m on a time crunch, especially with my reading goals, is it worth it to finish a book that’s dragging, or is it better to just pick a new book and enjoy the experience? I’ve done it both ways.
Here’s the question I would ask if you have an unfinished book that you don’t enjoy and are working on? Is there a shortage of books? Do you feel that if you left that boring book, you wouldn’t have anything else to read? I think not. I have gone to the bookstore and have been overwhelmed that several lifetimes are not enough to read all the books I want to read. So, why waste any moment of your valuable lifetime, reading something that doesn’t speak to you?
I know this. I find myself working on a book that’s just progressing slowly for some strange reason and yet, I find myself staring at the books on my shelf that I want to read. Oh when will I read these, I wonder. And yet I have this other book that I’m working on. I feel like some of the books are chains and shackles. They hold us back from book progress. If anything, they even keep us from reading or wanting to read. Don’t let the book imprison you. You have the key. Unlock yourself and find something more satisfying.
I spoke about how I loved teen fantasy. Well, if I feel trapped by a book, I think the best decision for me is to skip and get back to my roots of reading the genre that I love. For me, I’ve been reading a couple of self-help/business books and there’s one that’s still quarter done and yet, I’m ready to pick a teen fantasy series. This happened to my friend. She was reading these heavy books and then she pulled out Miss Peregrine’s school for peculiar children so she could keep moving forward in her reading project. She called me later to tell me that she wasn’t reading anything deep, but she enjoyed the Miss Peregrine’s book and she continued with her reading adventure that way.
If a genre has you trapped then switch. It’s easier than switching careers. I’ll tell you that much. If I didn’t want to be a pediatric dentist anymore and I wanted to be something else tomorrow, it wouldn’t be easy. But with books, it’s totally possible. Shut one book. Pick up the other and boom! You are there.
That’s the other factor of switching and moving on from unfinished books or unsatistactory genres. It’s fast, easy and painless. The only consequence is our mental itch. I find a part of me reminding myself that there’s an unfinished book. And I have this conversation within myself, “but I don’t want to finish you”, “but you have to”, “but I don’t want to”, “but you have to”. Yes, the need to finish and get closure is a big part of who we are as human beings and I’m not downing that experience of finishing or the need to finish. It’s important. But it’s also important to be authentic to yourself and make every reading moment count.
I was having a conversation with a friend and he suggested the unfinished book thought to me when I talked about this project. He said that it was OK to leave a book. If you feel you want to go back to it at a later time, that’s fine. When he mentioned it to me, I realized that we all struggle with this issue of wanting to finish a book. Here’s the question though. Are we confusing our books with our relationships? A book is not a naggy, jealous lover. It’s not going to curse you out and hate you and start looking for a voodoo doll to use against you. It’s almost like a non-judgemental pet. It’s fine and accepts you for who you are. You can always get back to it. It won’t taunt you and say, “OH, now you want me back?”. Nope. None of that. So, why worry about leaving a book half way or even returning back to it when the time is right? It’s all good. Really.
But Dr. Ahmed, it’s not about the book. It’s about me. I feel bad when I don’t finish. I can relate to this psychology. There’s a baggage that comes with it because we as humans are driven by success or failure. Success is completion. Failure is anything but. How about we look at it differently. What if success is any amount of completion. If we read 25% of the book. It’s not that we didn’t complete 75%, we have completed 25%. How about give ourselves credit for that 25 and move on. At different times, the book may speak to you and you may go to it and complete another 5% and make it 30%. Great. But in all this, it’s not about “not” completing a book. It’s about respecting yourself and your time. It’s about what you have completed, what you want to complete and moving on.
Don’t get me wrong. This is very difficult for me also and that’s why there’s an entire podcast episode dedicated to this. I remember being a teenager and having the “must complete book” syndrome. Well, I think somewhere there, or maybe even in my early 20s, I tried to read “The castle” by Franz Kafka. I don’t remember much. This was years ago, but it was the first book I just couldn’t get into. I tried but it was not working. It was the first book I never finished. I don’t even know where the copy of the book is. Did I borrow it from the library? I can’t remember, but I can remember not finishing it. Yes, I carry it with me ‘til today. However, today it’s just a memory. There’s no regret. As a matter of fact, as I’m doing this podcast, I realize that maybe I might want to re-try the book. Why not? Maybe I wasn’t mature enough then. I think I grew up and processed life a lot later than the average person, so maybe if I pick it up now, I might get into it. Maybe. I don’t know. But I know something. 1. I have no regrets about this book anymore. 2. I’m seriously considering re-trying it. 3. I want to retry not to finish it but because at this point in my life, I feel that I may connect with the book better. 4. If I don’t like it, I will move on.
A few years ago, after the Harry Potter craze came Twilight. I know. Please don’t judge me but since it was the next big thing, I bought the full series. I read book 1. It was not even close to Harry Potter. In fact, it was just blah. As much as I love teen fantasy, I think this was more romance than fantasy. I struggled through book 2 and book 3 and book 4 have been left unread. You could argue that I did finish books 1 and 2 but I would argue that I didn’t finish the series. You can always argue against yourself, but why do it? Shouldn’t you be supporting yourself and protecting yourself from harsh critics, like yourself? I think you should.
Think about it this way. You have come so far. I figure if you are listening to this podcast, you are either on your own challenge or are tempted to start one. Isn’t that a great step for you in the first place. If your first book doesn’t fulfill you, do you want your first book of this project to be one that was less than satisfactory. Put it down. Start another and build your life and memories through the books you enjoy. Anything else, is not worth it.
Thank you for listening. I would appreciate you sharing this podcast with your friends. And together, lets read more books that we enjoy. I’m Dr. Shahnaz Ahmed with living a life through books signing off. Remember to water the seeds within you. It’s time.