Experiment: No Novel November

Baby penguin
Credit: flickr / Joe Branco

There was a period, thankfully a brief one, when I was spending $100 a week on Kindle Books. I know, shocking. I was reading them too, mostly novels.

I’ve since started tracking my expenditure on books more – limiting myself to a $100 a month budget, which was helping me not purchase quite so many non-fiction books. I’d previously been buying them at about 2x the rate I was reading them, which after 3 years had added up to a 10-20 book backlog. This made me a bit more mindful, and I started using my wish list more, and only buying those non-fiction books I had an immediate need to read. This was also encouraging me to re-read novels I’d loved. It’s better to re-read a good book, than read a terrible new book.

And then I took some time off, went to Bali (where I had a pretty poor internet connection) and read… erm.. about 15 novels. In 10 days. And started having these weird ideas about moving to the countryside. I’d also spent so much time and energy consuming other people’s work, that I completely lacked creativity to create my own. And finally, I didn’t want to look back at my precious time off and say, well what did I do? I read a bunch of novels.

So with some encouragement from a friend (reaction: “You think about moving to the countryside? You ARE reading too many novels”) I decided to – quietly – ban myself from reading novels for the month. In the end, because I started on Australian time, I finished when November ended in Australia, not 11 hours later in Europe.

And it was not as hard as I thought it would be, despite the number of flights (including some long haul, and a lengthy wait in Bangkok) – easier I think because I had overdosed on novels already, and I was relaxed, and didn’t have as much need for my usual methods of “relaxing” – one of which is ingesting novels, whole. Often 2-3 over a weekend.

I watched a little more TV on my iPad, mostly on planes, but not that much more. I actually bought two magazines, which I really enjoyed and required less sneakiness during take-off and landing, although I think reading too many magazines has it’s own set of problems. I think I probably read slightly more online.

I did start to feel more creative, and I wrote a lot. And I read a lot of non-fiction, about 8 books over the course of the month. This made a significant dent in my backlog of non-fiction!

Overall, I found it really helpful. I would definitely do it again, although a couple of days before the end of the month I got excited and pre-emptively bought 7 new novels to read in December, so there was no danger of the experiment being extended!

Sometimes it’s easier to have a blanket ban than try and moderate. So if there’s something that is distracting and being done to excess, maybe a month off is the answer. It’s at most 31 days, so how bad can it be?

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