[Discussion]: On wasting your free time

Recently I feel like everytime I look on twitter, or visit a blog, someone is quitting blogging because of the pressure, the time commitment, or frankly, because it just isn’t fun anymore.  That’s obviously a perfectly valid choice, and I don’t judge anyone at all judge for making it, but I really don’t want to do that myself, as blogging is a thing I do just for me, and I love it.  Having just upped my reading challenge goal on Goodreads though, I can see how easy it would be, as I find myself feeling like I have to use every spare minute to read, or if I’m not reading, to blog.

I’m not very good at relaxing, because I feel like I always ‘should’ be doing something.  When I go to the gym, I feel like I should listen to an audiobook so that I’m achieving two things at once.  When I’m driving somewhere on my own, it feels like a waste not to be using that dead time to listen to an audiobook.  When I watch TV, I’m inevitably blogging or planning out my next reading choices at the same time.

Sometimes, that’s great.  Getting more stuff done in less time is always a bonus…except when it’s not.  Like when you realise you have absolutely no idea what’s going on in your TV show because you were too caught up in the review you were writing.  Or when your workout feels slower without music.  Or when you feel guilty about doing other things you enjoy.

When I first started blogging, I was a student at uni, and I had a lot more free time.  I didn’t find it that difficult to balance blogging, reading 100 books a year, uni work, reading and writing fanfiction, playing the Sims, watching TV, going on nights out and still doing exercise at least once or twice a week.  I even won NaNoWriMo that year (the only time I have!).  Now though, between a full time job and a volunteering role, I have a lot less free time.  I no longer have random half-days off lectures with my other half, or every weekend off together; we have a lot less time off together generally, so I don’t always want to be blogging or reading or playing the Sims in the evenings.  Plus, I’m probably a better blogger nowadays, with slightly more regular content!  What that means is that I’ve stuck with blogigng and reading, but let them pretty much expand into all my free time, and other hobbies have fallen by the wayside. I probably haven’t read or written any fanfiction in over a year, despite the fact I loved it.  I’ve played the Sims maybe once in the last six months, even though we bought a new computer that can play it brilliantly.

Turns out, according to Wikipedia there’s actually three different types of leisure; serious leisure, casual leisure and project-based leisure. Who knew, right?

Serious leisure is the systematic pursuit of an amateur, hobbyist, or volunteer … that is highly substantial, interesting, and fulfilling

Casual leisure is immediately, intrinsically rewarding; and it is a relatively short-lived, pleasurable activity requiring little or no special training to enjoy it.

Project-based leisure is a short-term, moderately complicated, either one-shot or occasional, though infrequent, creative undertaking carried out in free time.

Looking at those, I’d say the vast majority of my free time now falls into serious leisure: blogging, or reading in order to blog.  Casual leisure has pretty much become only going to the cinema, because watching TV is always combined with blogging. And project-based leisure, for me, would probably have been writing fanfiction which has disappeared altogether. Who knew free time could be so complicated?!

While the dictionary definitions are very interesting, the general point is, I often feel guilty for doing things I enjoy, because they feel like a waste of time.  And that seems pretty ridiculous to me – it’s my time to waste after all!  Yet when I decided I wanted to seize back my time a little, I found myself justifying it.  Fanfiction isn’t a waste of time because it’s relaxing, completing a challenge forces my mind to think flexibly in terms of plot which might help with my desire to continue my NaNoWriMo project, it gets me into a writing habit…Hey, maybe I could blog about it too!

…. These things are all true, but they’re not why I’m letting myself get back into fanfiction.  I’m letting myself get back into it because I want to, and if that means I don’t quite hit my reading goal for the year, or if playing some more games means slightly fewer blog posts then that’s okay.  Time management is great, but not all free time has to be productive – sometimes it’s okay to ‘waste’ your free time on catching up on a TV show you love, playing a video game, painting your nails or watching cat videos on YouTube.  Just because you could be using that time differently doesn’t at all mean you have to. Sometimes I want to do something unproductive with my free time, and eventually my brain will just have to learn that that’s okay too.

“I am not particularly interested in
saving time; I prefer to enjoy it.”
Eduardo Galeano

Do you ever feel guilty about wasting your free time?  Any hobbies that have fallen by the wayside you dream of picking back up?

How do you count collections and volumes as part of your reading challenge?

I’ve talked before about the dilemma of whether or not to count graphic novels and audiobooks as part of my reading challenge, but recently I’ve come across another slightly tricky dilemma: how do you count something which contains potentially more than one book?

For example:
Graphic novels/Comics in trade paperback form: eg Infinity Volume 1 contains Infinity #1-3, Avengers #18-20, New Avengers 9-10. Theoretically, this could either be one book on your Goodreads challenge, or 8, depending on how you count them.
Collections of multiple books in one volume: eg This edition contains all three Lord of The Rings books – is that one book or three for challenge purposes?

This isn’t something I’ve given a lot of thought to before, since it’s only really come up with graphic novels for me so far. I read graphic novels almost exclusively in trade paperback form, and that’s the way I count them – it means I can track my progress on Goodreads properly, and I only have to have one edition on my goodreads shelves.  Counting them this way also means each is a bit longer, and a single 200 page book alters my numbers of books read/average pagecount a lot less than reading 7 or 8 short books of only 25 pages or so, so my reading challenge doesn’t get artificially inflated.

For the first time though, I’m considering a book which runs the other way around: the Definitive Sherlock Holmes collection narrated by Stephen Fry contains 71 hours of listening time, more than 1500 pages, 9 separate books. Given my average book length of 365 pages, to read all of these in one audiobook and just count it as a single book would be a big setback for my goodreads challenge.  I’m not sure what the alternative would be though – to list each volume separately on goodreads as I get to them? Which of course isn’t TRULY an accurate reflection because the edition I’ve read won’t be the one listed on goodreads.  But otherwise, with a goal of 75 books, reading 9 and counting it as 1 is pretty much ensuring I won’t hit my goal.  I’m currently thinking of listing them as separate books, because otherwise I’m worried I’ll never want to start the book – 71 hours of audiobook is a pretty intimidating prospect, especially without a nice inspiring boost to my challenge as a result.  It feels like cheating on the one hand, but on the other – it’s my challenge, and if it’s the difference between reading the books or not, surely the option that makes me want to pick them up is the right one?!

How do you count multi-book editions?

Why I DO count graphic novels, manga & audiobooks towards my Goodreads Challenge

I’ve never really read many graphic novels or manga, and although I knew I really wanted to get into reading more of both, one thing that put me off a little was my goodreads challenge (I know, now that I’m writing this it feels a bit silly to me too!).  I’ve seen a lot of debate over whether graphic novels and manga – and to a lesser extent audiobooks – should count towards a GR challenge or not, and it was something I’ve been debating with myself over the last couple of months as I read more of them.

Things I considered in my should-I-count-them-debate:

  • I can read a manga volume or graphic novel in a couple of hours, whereas a full length book can take me a day or more of uninterrupted reading time to finish
  • Audiobooks take me longer to read than a novel – probably about twice as long
  • I don’t read many novellas, but on the rare occasion I do, I count them without even thinking about it
  • As well as using my GR challenge to motivate myself, I also love goodreads to keep track of series, what I’ve been reading etc – while I could do that outside of GR in order to skip certain types of books counting towards the challenge, I don’t really want to track in multiple places
  • The books I read vary hugely in length – in 2015, my shortest book was a 60 page novella, and the longest was 994 pages.
  • A play also takes me less time to read than a novel but I wouldn’t think twice about counting one of those
  • Reading isn’t work, it’s fun, so why shouldn’t I read whatever I want?!

I spent a long time (way too long!), considering various stats to consider how I could ‘balance out’ the graphic novels/manga in terms of my reading challenge…

Graphic novels/manga are (often) shorter than a novel, which means potentially I could read more books per year but less pages overall.  Looking back at my previous 4 years on goodreads, my average book length ranged from 324 to 427 and looking at other GR friends’ stats, there’s a lot of variation, from <200 pages to >400, but I remember reading on twitter (I think in a tweet from Joe Hill) that the number of pages read per day = (approximately) the number of books you’ll read in a year: i.e. if you read 50 pages per day, you’d read 50 pages in a year.  For that to work out you’d need an average book length of 365 pages – an average length I’ve hit or exceeded for three of my four years tracking on Goodreads so that seems like a reasonable goal!  As of writing, I’ve read a total of 86 books, 15 of which have been manga/graphic novels (17%).  The average length for the books I’ve read still comes out to 376 pages so from that side of things, all looks good!

On the other hand, the year in which I read the most pages per day, my average book length was the lowest (324 pages), so reading shorter books seems to mean I do more reading overall, so I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t average out at over 365 pages per book!  Instead, I’ll just be reading what I want and trying to read 36,500 pages by the end of the year, because that means I’ll have read 100 pages per day.  As I said above, reading is supposed to be fun – while I love nerding out about the stats, and I’m a total sucker for a challenge, I don’t want either to dictate what I do or don’t read, and as long as I feel like I’m reading as much as I reasonably can I’ll be happy!

[Discussion]: Does format affect what you read?

Since I started blogging, I’ve gone from being a print-only reader, to someone who reads pretty equal amounts of print and ebooks, and about 10% audiobooks.  Recently I’ve started thinking about format affects what I’m reading, and for me, there are definitely genres I’m more or less likely to read in particular formats.  So, here’s how format seems to affect things for me…

Audiobooks

I’ve only really been experimenting with audiobooks since about October last year, so I haven’t quite figured out particular genres that work for me.  My biggest audiobook revelation though, has been that fantasy, my favourite genre normally, doesn’t seem to work for me on audio! I hate not being able to look at the maps, and to visualise how names or places are spelt, so I’ve not yet listened to one audiobook fantasy successfully.  I also think romance would just make me feel awkward!

I think audiobooks would be perfect for re-reading though, and I’m definitely thinking of giving it a go with both Game of Thrones and Harry Potter.  I think Harry Potter could work well because people rave about Stephen Fry’s narration and because it wouldn’t take too much concentration, but would keep me interested – perfect for a long drive on my own!  I’ve been thinking of giving A Game of Thrones a go to motivate me to exercise – although I’ve read the books, it’s been a long time since I read the first one, so I should be able to keep up without feeling bored.  Of course, having said that, the audiobooks are really long, so I might just get frustrated!

Recent audiobooks: Not a drop to drink, Steelheart, Firefight

Ebooks

My poor kindle recently died and has just been replaced by a Paperwhite, which is exciting (reading this makes me realise just how much a non-bookworm would disagree…). I was convinced I’d never be a real e-book convert, but I have to admit, they make life so much easier for blogging.  NetGalley, Edelweiss, the ability to download a sequel at 2am because I just can’t wait…

On my kindle, I’m most likely to be reading either a review copy (which is very probably YA) or an adult romance, because I can read those without judgement 😉 Occasionally I’ll read something I’ve been thinking of buying in print, but that came up on a kindle deal, such as Jodi Picoult’s Leaving Time recently. I’m least likely to be reading a huge adult fantasy, because the progress bar makes me depressed, and I just find completing a long book without having held the weight so much less satisfying!

Recent ebooks: Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke, Leaving Time, Shadow Study

Print

Paperbacks, more often than not, are something off my own shelves, which means they could be anything really!  I don’t really have a genre I wouldn’t read in paperback, but fantasy chunksters are definitely most likely to be found in this format.

Recent paperbacks: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, The Cuckoo’s Calling, The Name of the Wind

Hardbacks are a bit like pine martens: I know they exist, but they’re very rarely seen.  I much prefer paperbacks to hardbacks, so it’s rare for me to end up reading a hardback.  No particular genre differences here, but it’s likely to be either a review copy or something I found on a deal in a second-hand shop that was too tempting to resist, despite the format.

Recent hardbacks: Day Four, a review copy, but I had to go all the way back to December last year to find the hardback before that, Silverblind, which was also a review copy.

Do you read (or avoid) particular genres in particular formats or is it just me?!

[Geek Girl Musings] Thoughts on Scribd

Having now experimented with both Audible and Scribd for a few months, I thought people might be interested in how I got on.  I’m starting with Scribd just because there’s a lot more feedback around on Audible.

What’s the deal with Scribd?:

  • A subscription reading service that costs $8.99 a month (about £6.05)
  • Unlimited audioooks and ebooks
  • You don’t own the books but borrow them – in practicality, this doesn’t bother me at all.

The Good:

The value: At £6.12 a month for as many audiobooks and ebooks as I wanted, the price is absolutely fantastic, and was definitely a deciding factor for me.  Audible’s £7.99 for one book just can’t compete here.

The Selection: Whilst not quite as good as Audible, I found plenty I wanted to read and listen to (mostly YA).  A few that jumped out at me were Not a Drop To Drink, A Thousand Pieces of Me, Life by Committee, Dorothy Must Die, The Raven Boys & Beauty Queens.  There’s a greater choice of ebooks and I soon found Wild, The September Girls, Partials, Ten Tiny Breaths & The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer.

The Less Good:

Download speeds: this was a big issue for me.  I read ebooks on my laptop on the website, so I can’t comment on the download speeds for those, but for audiobooks I really struggled.   I tried different devices, different wifi networks – nothing seemed to change the fact that audiobooks took literally hours to download.

Disappearing books: On at least three occasions I had a downloaded audiobook disappear on me on my way to uni.  I’d be listening along happily and then everything would just stop.  I’d then try to listen to it again and it would have disappeared from my device.  I have no idea why this happened – maybe books expire after a certain amount of time? I only ever had one book downloaded at a time so I know that wasn’t the issue.  Whatever the reason, I found it very frustrating, and it got to the point where everytime there was a pause between chapters I’d be wondering ‘is it going to stop?’.

Problems with my bank: For some bizarre reason, because the payments are charged in dollars, every single month after I’m charged, my bank has been cancelling my card on suspicion of fraud! I have to then phone them, confirm that I did indeed make the payment and wait for my card to be reinstated.  This is obviously not in any way Scribd’s fault, but it’s been an annoying niggle for me.

The Verdict: To be decided

For me, as much as I absolutely wanted to love Scribd, I found it didn’t quite deliver.  The audiobook selection was great, but I had issues with the logistics of them, and I have plenty of ebooks on my kindle already, so while those were a nice bonus, they aren’t enough to keep my subscription active alone.  For now, I’ve paused my membership and let Scribd’s support team know about the disappearing audiobooks.  They’ve been great, responding within a couple of hours, and we’re working through a few potential fixes.  If it turns out there’s a fix, I’ll be more than happy to keep my membership active, but if not, it’s looking likely that I’ll have to cancel.  I’ll be sure to update and let you know!