What to Do About the DNF Guilt

What is it about not finishing a book that gives us so much guilt? Find out in my latest blog post!

I’ve spoken before about that awful feeling with the DNF pile in your reading list. You can check out that post here. Quick definition for those that aren’t familiar, DNF stands for “did not finish.”

I know, it’s hard to imagine not finishing a book when you really consider yourself a reader. When you identify so strongly with the label reader that it’s just a core part of who you are as a person, the sick feeling of not finishing a book feels like a betrayal somehow.

I was listening to my cousin’s podcast recently (Eclectic Readers – check them out!) and they discussed that guilty feeling with the DNF pile. That got me thinking about the association of guilt with leaving a book unread.

The word itself means a sense of remorse for some wrongdoing, like breaking a law or committing a moral offense. Lord knows there’s nothing illegal about leaving a book unfinished. There’s nothing even immoral about it. Seriously, it’s a totally neutral action, of which there are no consequences. So, why do we feel the DNF guilt?

As I began to really think about it, I’ve come to believe the feeling stems from a sense of “cutting your losses.” Sure, it’s not the same as running a business and spending millions of dollars on a project that turned out to be a lost cause. It’s probably at most a $25 + tax loss on a brand new hard cover from Barnes & Noble.

It’s still a loss though. It’s a loss of money spent to purchase the damn thing. It’s a loss of shelf space that could have gone to more worthy contenders. It’s a loss of time and energy, as you’ve already spent both on starting and getting through some portion of the book, so you might as well finish, right?

The guilt we feel from not finishing a book comes from a sense of loss, and in my experience, people sure hate to lose. For me personally, that monetary loss cuts deep. Sure, one book is at most $25, but what if I bought 10 books that I didn’t end up finishing? That’s $250! Maybe that still doesn’t sound like a lot to some people, but for those who prefer to save money wherever they can, that’s a dent in the wallet that makes them wince.

This also reveals another deeper problem: the need to stop buying so many books. It’s so easy to get caught up and swept in by the love at first sight feeling when you see that gorgeous cover on the shelf and just want to take it home. Looks can be deceiving. Even words can lead you astray. That back cover description of fascinating worlds and characters just sucks you right in and entices you with, more often than not, sweet nothings.

That’s why this year, I’m resolved to exercise restraint to reduce the DNF guilt and the feeling of having wasted money and minimize time spent on books I don’t enjoy to avoid that feeling of money, time, and energy lost. That means less trips to Barnes & Noble to browse the aisles. I often go to the cafe to write, and when I’m done with that, I think to myself, “Let me just take a quick peak.” I have to physically force myself out the door, because I know a quick peak will devolve into “just a book or two.”

I’m also going to use my library more to find books I want to read. Granted, that’s a bit harder, because many of the books I want to read are independently or self-published, which means they don’t get picked up by most libraries. My library especially can be a bit lackluster with its selections. Unless it’s The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl or The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or whatever iteration of Girl we’re on these days, the chances of finding the book I want from my local library are slim.

I will make every effort to find the books I want to read through the libary first. When that fails, I’ll look into second-hand options to try to find them for much cheaper than retail prices. Heck, I’m even making the effort to borrow books from friends more often. Buying brand new from a big-name chain bookstore is my last resort this year.

Also, I already started making the executive decision to just nix some titles off my TBR altogether. If I can’t find it for a reasonable price anywhere, I take the Marie Kondo approach. If it doesn’t spark joy, I let it go and click delete on my Goodreads “Want to Read” list.

What are your thoughts on the DNF guilt? How do you avoid the guilt altogether? Let me know in the comments!

How to Save Yourself from Reading and Writing Slumps During Times of Crisis

A couple of weeks ago my grandmother was in a car accident. This left her badly injured and in need of constant care for a week. Since I’m currently unemployed, the responsibility fell to me, which I don’t mind. I mean, I’m home. What else am I doing?

A couple of weeks ago my grandmother was in a car accident. This left her badly injured and in need of constant care for a week. Since I’m currently unemployed, the responsibility fell to me, which I don’t mind. I mean, I’m home. What else am I doing?

What also happened along with the responsibility was a huge impact on my writing productivity. I know, not as important, but the thing is, I started the year so strong and was excited to only keep going up from there. Taking care of my grandma though for 8 hours was like a full-time job that left me so burned out I could barely think enough to get much writing done.

This had me worried, because once I start working again, will my writing go on the backburner again? I know the last couple of years were rough because of a full-time job coupled with school, but I thought once school was over, and with just a full-time job I’d have more time to write.

Now, it’s not a matter of time, but of energy. I do need to keep in mind that working in an office is not the same as caregiving for an elderly person (especially one as stubborn as my grandma). The emotional labor is really what wiped me out most. Even so, I didn’t want to end my streak of writing at least a little every day, even if it was just 100 words.

I started scheduling small writing tasks for myself through exercises. I also checked myself whenever I felt overwhelmed with the low numbers from day to day. I had to remember that I was performing a task that takes a great deal of mental and emotional energy, not just physical.

So, instead of thinking of my writing in terms of falling numbers, I focused on what I had accomplished. Little by little, I started setting goals for myself again and that made me feel much more productive than fretting over how much I hadn’t written.

I also challenged myself to keep up my writing numbers over the weekends, when my parents were home from work to help with taking care of my grandma. I spent three hours at the library this past Saturday and accomplished a great deal of writing that I had not done during the week. Thinking of it as spreading my numbers for the week to have the majority done over the weekend also helped assuage the guilt.

The interesting thing about my circumstances for the past couple of weeks is how much reading time I’ve had. Spending so much time keeping my grandma company when I wasn’t helping her with daily tasks left me the time to dig into more reading.

However, that reading was definitely limited to lighter, “fluffier,” reads. I could only concentrate on novels or comic books that didn’t require my full attention. Like I said, that emotional and mental labor of caregiving is exhausting, and I only had to do it for two weeks. I commend the people who do that for a living. Shoutout to all the moms out there. It’s a tough job.

I didn’t get too down on myself for not reading more mentally challenging pieces, because I knew I was still reading.

The important thing to keep in mind when it comes to reading and writing when life throws you curveballs and your routine changes, is to make attainable goals that coincide with the time and energy allotted.

More important than that, go easy on yourself. Remember that there’s more to life than books and writing, and those things will always be waiting for you when you can get back to them.

The Problem With My Problematic Fave

I read a few Michael Connelly mystery books and other similar novels throughout college. I’m currently working through another hard-boiled mystery, Privileged Lives, the first in the Vincent Cardozo novels by Edward Stewart. I love the gritty, dirty mood and feel these novels provide. I like rough around the edges detectives who are kind of jerks, especially to bad guys, but deep down they’re really passionate about their job of protecting people and finding justice, even if they are a bit jaded after decades on the job. I love skeevy settings and shady characters. I love the down in the dirt crimes and seeing the worst of humanity. It’s a weird wheelhouse, but I know I’m not alone.

What I don’t love about most of these books though, is that they also come with a healthy helping of sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism. There’s something about the hard-boiled detective that makes writers turn to tropes of womanizing, prejudice, and “just being honest.” I get it. These novels are made for a hypermasculine audience. That’s their appeal.

And yet, the more I read them, the less and less I can stomach dialogue that blatantly uses slurs and stereotypes to convey the image of hardened police officers who are just macho men. That’s just what these detectives do. They rough up criminals, drink straight Scotch, and spend too much introspection time on pondering the length of a broad’s legs and the attractive shape of her waist to hip ratio.

I guess what I’m getting at here is recommendations from fellow readers. For those like me who love the gritty, hard-boiled mystery but without the bigotry, I’d like to invite you all to tell me what some of your favorites are. I’m still all for the gruff detective who won’t let go of the case that haunts his nightmares, and in the end gets the girl. I just want less of that man’s man mentality that leads to toxic masculinity. I’d really like a female detective lead that has those same qualities that a male character is allowed to have, and still be loved by the reader.

You could say I’m looking for Jessica Jones read-alikes. I think that’s what really appealed to me about that character and show. She was a flawed and terrible protagonist who acted like she didn’t care about anyone, but she still did the P.I. job because the truth was she did care. It’s probably the only time I’ve seen a female anti-hero that fans love and want more of her story.

Though I’m a big fan of the character and the show, I don’t just want to read J. Jones comic books. I want other novels and mysteries in that vein that give me the seedy side of humanity without the outright prejudice. I know that sounds contradictory, but it’s clearly possible if the creators of Jessica Jones could make it happen.

So if anyone out there has suggestions to help me get my fix of the hard-boiled detective mystery without bigotry, I’d greatly appreciate it. Let me know your recommendations in the comments!

Where to Go to Write

where_to_go_to_write

I’ve been trying to find new environments to place myself in for getting writing done. I don’t currently have an office space in my house (that’s changing soon though!), so I just make a little nest for myself in my bed using a pillow chair, blankets, and stuffed animals. It’s not the most comfortable though for a writing session that goes on for more than 2 hours.

My go-to location when I’m getting cabin fever is my local library. I find an empty desk or table near an outlet (for charging when I get low battery), and set to work. I’ve found that the moslty quiet with faint noise on the first floor of South Regional does wonders for my focus. I have just enough stimulus to keep me energized, but not so much that it distracts me from the task at hand.

I don’t always want to stay indoors though when writing. That’s when I go to the beach. However, those sessions don’t tend to last very long, because living in the Sunshine State, the glare on a screen makes it near impossible to see what I’m doing. I try going with good old-fashioned pen and paper, but the beach is a windy place, even on calm weather days.

Of course, I’ve done the cliche coffee shop writing session, be it Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. DD is my usual go-to for these outings as it’s much closer to me than my local Starbucks. The problem with this though is that I don’t feel comfortable staying at a place like that for so long without frequently buying something, because I know I’m taking up valuable real estate that could be used for other patrons. And there’s only so many pastries and so much coffee I can consume before I explode.

This brings me to the question I want to ask my fellow writers: Where do you to go write? I can’t think of other environments to try out for a good hours-long writing session. I’m open to places that don’t have access to electricity, as I can always bring a pen and journal with me for some old-school writing. I just need some suggestions for new places to go for writing. Let me know your ideas in the comments!

Later Gator

later gator poem

You glide by casually
down the ‘Glades while
our noisy asses throw waves
and ripples in your territory
but still you pay us no mind.
And why would you? We’re chumps
in comparison to your prehistoric
perfected design. Blending with
brackish waters, barely un ojito
to be seen, a trail of bubbles
telling us you just passed and
let us go. We’ll see one of your
brothers later I’m sure. For now
you keep gliding the ‘Glades
never minding our waves.

Originally posted here.

Meagan Reads YA Fantasy: Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

My last read of 2018 and first review of 2019. This is the third and final installment in Cassandra Clare’s The Dark Artifices series, another story set in the Shadowhunter world. I want to start by saying that Clare is one of my favorite authors. I adore her Shadowhunter world. It wasn’t until just a couple of months ago that I realized that what’s called urban fantasy was my all time favorite genre.

For those who plan on reading the books and haven’t gotten this far, beware! Spoilers for book two, Lord of Shadows, ahead.

qoaad_blogIn Queen of Air and Darkness, the Blackthorns, Emma, and Shadowhunter community as a whole are reeling from the events at the end of the last book, in which Livvy Blackthorn is killed, as well as the Inquisitor Robert Lightwood, Alec’s father (he’s a major character in The Mortal Instruments series, FYI). With the grief of losing his baby sister and the impending doom that is set to happen to him and his parabatai because they’ve fallen in love, it’s too much for Julian to handle. He decides to have his emotions magically muted, which leads him to become a different person that makes cold, calculating decisions, but not in the name of family and love, instead for the sake of militaristic strategy.

Battles in fairy lead to Emma and Julian traveling through a portal to another dimension called Thule, where the Dark War from the Mortal Instruments series went terribly wrong and Sebastian lived and ruled the land. Suffice it to say, this is not the kind of book you can read casually and pick up as a stand alone. You absolutely have to read at least the two previous books, and the other Shadowhunter series’ books. While it gives just enough detail to fill in those gaps to anyone who might be new to the world, it’s definitely written for die hard fans of Clare’s world.

Taking this book into consideration with the rest of the series, I have to say it wasn’t my favorite. It started off really strong and I was hooked and tormented all the way through the adventures in Thule. The events that unfold after that didn’t quite keep my attention in the same way. It’s not to say that I didn’t like how the story unraveled, but I definitely felt much of it could have been condensed.

There were a lot of moments that were meant to be character development, which is absolutely crucial to any story, but when it comes to the stories that Clare writes, that development must also carry the story forward. I didn’t feel like every detail written for the sake of developing characters did that. As a fan of the people and the world, I loved reading these details into each individual’s personality and thoughts, but as a reader of a novel as a whole, I thought many scenes bogged down the story that wanted to keep going. There was a lot that could have been saved as more “behind the scenes” tidbits, which is something the author likes to post on her social media. In short, it felt like much of the content in Queen of Air and Darkness was dedicated too much to fanservice, which hurt the overall story.

That said, I want to reiterate that I loved learning more about the characters. Specifically, I adored seeing the development of certain relationships between different character sets. Clare has a true talent for putting into words the complexity of human emotions and how those are influenced by and affect the ties that bind. The relationship that broke my heart the most was between Ty and Kit.

After the death of his twin Livvy, Ty leans on Kit for support in his insane endeavors to bring her back from the dead. Kit knows it’s a bad idea, but wants so desperately to please and help Ty because of the love that’s grown that he goes along with the bad idea. The way things end between them left me wanting to cry, but I’m hoping that that particular dynamic has more to come, and it seems like there’s room for growth with the way Clare wrote their ending.

I’m looking forward to reading about Kit’s story in future books and seeing how his story fits in with the rest of the Shadowhunter world. Have any of you read the books in this world and/or series? What are your thoughts on the Shadowhunters? Let me know in the comments!