I started an experiment last spring with reading multiple books at once, and I have come to love it, but I’ve been needing to revise that practice lately. It turns out that when I’m stressed and busy — as I always am in the middle of a semester — I can’t handle it as well, and I feel the need to cut back. Danielle has a post on this topic, on wanting to cut back, and I’m agreeing here. I get even more stressed when I feel that I’m not reading in a particular book enough — those of you who are working on a book for months or years, how do you keep the momentum going?
Now I’ll be working on Proust for months and maybe years, but I’ll be doing that steadily. What’s harder for me to understand is reading in a book — especially a novel — only now and then so that the reading process extends for ages. I need to be making steady and regular progress. Without that, don’t you lose the thread of the story, forget characters, have to skim what came before? Or maybe that’s just me and my bad memory. I like having multiple books going, but I need to have time to read in all of them at least a couple times a week; otherwise I don’t really feel like I’m really reading.
So I finished the biography of Colette, and I’m not going to start another book until I finish something else. That leaves me with four books, one of which is a book of poems (Jane Kenyon’s Otherwise) which I don’t feel I need to read as quickly. And then there’s George Sand’s Indiana, which I will probably finish next, Fanny Burney’s Journals and Letters, and, of course, Proust.
As for riding — yesterday was my coldest ride yet at 47 degrees, and it started raining halfway through. Riding in the middle of the semester is even tougher than reading in the middle of it, but I’m determined to carve out some hours for both. Luckily, I don’t teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays until mid-afternoon, so I have some guaranteed daylight hours on those days. The challenge with riding in the winter is to fit it in before sunset (I won’t ride in the dark — too dangerous), and that makes the college teacher’s life perfect, with its flexible schedule. Unless, of course, I have meetings, which I did yesterday. Then I have to get on my bike even earlier to get home on time and then straggle into the meeting a minute or two late and with my hair still damp from my late-morning shower (because I refuse to use a hair dryer — what’s the point when the air will dry my hair for me?).
But you know what? I have priorities, and riding my bike is pretty high on the list. Don’t tell this to anybody at work, but when it comes to where I put most of my thoughts and energy, it’s not into work, it’s into my riding and my reading. That’s what keeps me sane, I think.