Why I’m Not Signing Up For Summer Reading Club This Year

Why I'm Not Signing Up For Summer Reading Club This Year via KLWightman.com
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Summer means watching the waves roll in at the beach, licking ice cream from your fingertips and sipping sun-kissed iced tea.

Ice cream cone at the beachMost importantly, it means summer reading clubs.

Last summer, I boasted about my commitment to summer reading clubs and how it didn’t take time away from my writing.

This summer, I’m telling you that I’m not signing up.

Don’t worry. I didn’t become a hater of reading in the last 365 days. And I didn’t change my opinion about summer reading clubs going hand-in-hand with writing projects.

What changed was my location.

Why I Love Summer Reading Clubs

Last summer, I lived in a summer reading club wonderland. All my friends signed up. Actually, it seemed like the whole town was in the race.

Books and books and books

We talked about how many books we’ve read over potluck dinners and dived into discussions about what we have read over card games.

After every five books read, I’d be entered into a raffle with high-stake prizes. And I got to take home a free book home just for signing up.

Since last summer, I was uprooted from that town and I moved 2,000 miles away.

Between moving old boxes, starting new jobs, learning new streets, shoveling new sidewalks and watching new plants grow—I was always reading.

And I was always visiting my local library. I dropped by weekly for new books and DVDs. Weekend excursions included exploring the other branches. All my friends were avid library readers and lunch breaks meant stopping by the downtown location.

Why I’m Not Signing Up For Summer Reading Club

As summertime rolled into my life, I took a peak at my library’s summer reading club. And I was severely disappointed.

Rusty carnival ride

For reading five books, you win $1 off at the library used bookstore. That’s right: I had the chance to win a coupon.

Comparing the two summer reading clubs side by side, this new club was like going to a rusted town fair after a weekend at Cedar Point.

As for my reading friends, they have all moved away from this city to grow their lives elsewhere. New adventures means new summer reading clubs that I can’t join.

So if the prize isn’t enticing and there isn’t any friendly competition within my social circles, then why even join?

My Summer Reading Club Substitution

Of course I love to read. I won’t stop reading because I don’t sign up for my local summer reading club.

I’ll just have to make my own competition.

If your local summer reading club doesn’t excite you—or doesn’t even exist—it doesn’t mean that the competition is over. It just means that you have to invent one worth joining.

Starting a summer reading club within your social group or your community isn’t too hard to do. All it takes is commitment, vision and a few phone calls to set it up.

As for me, I’m a pretty self-competitive person. For every five books, I’ll treat myself to a special dinner out.

And I’ll always update my Goodreads reading list.

Why (or why not) are you joining a summer reading club this year? Share your story below.

Should We Make an Appointment to Write?

Should We Make an Appointment to Write?
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Two days ago was my self-proclaimed Treat Yourself Day. I had it all planned out:

  • 9AM: Order a chai bomb at a new coffee shop and write a blog post
  • 11AM: Enjoy a full-body massage with my spa gift certificate
  • 12PM: Order a glass of wine at lunch
  • 1PM: Go shopping!
  • 5PM: Make (vegetarian) paella for dinner and watch a movie
Spa candles and towels

Credit: DeltaHotels.com

Most of the day went as planned. Except for the 9AM part. I pressed snooze so many times on my alarm clock that by the time I was up and ready to go for the day, I didn’t have enough time for that chai bomb or that blog post.

So I read a book instead before the massage. Not a bad alternative.

But I didn’t miss my massage appointment. And I was actually looking forward to my coffee shop time more than the spa experience.

So why did I make sure that I didn’t miss the massage? Because I had an appointment.

Our society holds appointments in high regard. We work hard at not missing them. We schedule them in advance. We feel guilty for pushing them back or cancelling.

But what about writing?

We often plan to write when it’s convenient in our schedule. We easily push it to the side when something somewhat important arises. We press snooze on our writing opportunities so much that we sleep through our chance to write.

Lightbulb

So then I had an epiphany: Why don’t we make writing appointments for ourselves?

We schedule a time in our calendars. We set reminders hours and days before it’s time to get the ball rolling. We have our writing equipment ready to go the night before—just like we do for an appointment.

 

The most important part: We need to reserve a room somewhere.

If we can’t hold ourselves accountable so that we make time to write, then we need to treat our writing time like an appointment.

Call to schedule a room (appointment) at your library or rent a small conference room at your local co-working space. Better yet, make it a weekly appointment so that you’re writing regularly.

The beauty of writing is that we can write at anytime and at anyplace. But if we’re not creating anything, then there’s no beauty nor writing.

Co-Working Space

Credit: workantile.com

Don’t worry, I’m not just talking the talk. I’ve looked into my local options and was surprised at the results. I can purchase a day pass at a nearby co-working space for $35 (with group lunches every Wednesday!). And my local library branch has free study rooms (although they’re first-come, first serve).

Once we are in the habit of making an appointment for our writing, then we can make our writing habit happen anywhere (and eventually at anytime). An appointment is the start of your writing time becoming a healthy habit.

Do you often skip out on your writing time? Share your experience below.

7 Simple Rules to Writing in Public

Writing in Public
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Admit it: you’re not a writer unless you’re seen writing in public. What’s just as bad as not being seen writing in public? Being that person in public who attracts the wrong kind of attention.

Get readers to notice your words, not your rude behavior, by following my 7 rules of writing in public etiquette:

Rule 1: Pick the Right Writing Spot

If you pick the wrong spot to write, your mood goes south and may affect your decision-making. Evaluate your possible public writing spots accordingly:

  • Does noise bother you? Or do you prefer background noise?
  • Where will you have sufficient writing space?
  • Where can you stay for an extended period of time?

Should you write at a sandwich shop? A library? A café? If you’re unsure, try a variety of public places and see where you can create the best writing workspace in public.

Rule 2: Pay Up

If you’re at a private business, chances are they’re selling food and drinks. Don’t take up their space to write in public if you’re not a paying customer. If you’re on a budget, ask for hot water and bring your own teabag, but make sure to leave a considerate tip.

Rule 3: Don’t Hog Space

You are one person writing. How much space do you really need? If you’re in a place that’s about to be hit by the lunch rush, choose a smaller table and offer your extra chair to larger groups. That way you’re writing in public with a clear conscience!

Rule 4: Be Quiet

Why are you making noise anyway? You’re supposed to be writing! So end your call, stop laughing at that chat message, and plug in your headphones (if you’re writing in public where the music is bad).

Rule 5: Your Belongings Are Your Responsibility

If your stuff gets stolen, it’s not the fault of the business or that customer you asked to watch your laptop while you went to the bathroom. If you have to leave your space, then pack up and bring your stuff with you–even if it means losing your spot. Don’t create a temptation for thieves.

Rule 6: Be Clean

Leave the workspace as clean as you found it. That means throwing away wrappers, wiping away liquid off the table surface, and pushing in chairs. You can even spend five seconds admiring how well you tidied up the workspace.

Rule 7: Write

How can you establish your writing in public rep if you’re playing around on your social networks? Turn off all distractions. You came here to write, so set a goal, a time to reach that goal, and start writing.

Think back to the last 5 people you saw making a nuisance in public. How were they not a good patron? Do you have the same bad habits? Writers have a great reputation as quiet and polite, so let’s maintain it!

What rules do you want to add? Share your rules below!

Library to Café: A Writer’s Workspace Migration

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The librarian called my house when I was five to tattletale on me.  Earlier that day, I was exploring the children’s section at the local library, listening to an audiocassette about counting in Spanish in the audiocassette-designated area. 

 

“Uno, dos, tres, cuatro, cinco, seis.”

 

I really got into it, bobbing my head and singing along out loud.  I think I even started dancing around the table, the headphone cord corkscrewing around my body.

 

“Siete, ocho, nueve, diez!”

 

So the librarian called right before dinner.  Apparently I was too loud, but I was let off with a warning for my noise violation and a pre-dinner parental scolding.

 

I’ve been a silent patron ever since.

 

This story always comes to mind whenever I step inside a library.  I think of it as children dash around bookshelves for their game of tag.  I think of it as an obnoxious ringtone blares from someone’s pocket or purse, when it takes the full duration of the piercing jingle for the owner to silence the cell phone.  I think of it as a mother bounces her screaming baby between the librarian help desk and the sign Silence Zone.

 

Whatever happened to the library being a quiet place?

 

Although I broke the rule once, I’ve appreciated silence at the library my whole life.  I valued the silence so that I could hear myself read silently, imagine the stories inside shelved books, and brainstorm my own story ideas with a paper and pen.

 

Even if that meant speaking in a whisper.

 

But the strictness of silence at the library is diminishing.  There may be signs suggesting silence and to turn off cell phones, but there is also holiday music playing, storytime in common areas, and patron voices laughing, crying, scolding, and shouting.

 

And librarians that don’t call your house.

 

After days of arriving at the library to write yet coming home defeated by the noise, I decided I needed a new out-of-the-house workspace.

 

So I went to a café.

 

It’s no secret why cafés are so popular for writers.  The building smells like coffee beans, chocolate, and cinnamon.  Phone volumes are turned to silent or vibrate, and calls are answered outside.  Jazz music plays just loud enough to get your writing juices flowing.  Voices aren’t a distraction, not even whispered conversations or those ordering a latté.  There are lots of windows bringing in natural light.  You don’t even get sideways glances when you hog a large table to spread out all your paper drafts and computer technology.

 

Plus you can buy a cup of caffeine.

 

Going to a café is my entertainment fix each week (probably because I don’t get out that much).  I am willing to spend $5 to sip a mocha, stretch out at a table, write until my fingers are sore, and show off just how serious of a writer I am to those passing by outside.

 

So what does the café have that the library doesn’t?

 

(It’s not the coffee.  More and more libraries are selling hot beverages, and most libraries tolerate patrons bringing in tightly sealed drinks.)

 

It’s the intimacy.

 

Café customers come in to get cozy with their book, their newspaper, their writing, their homework, their coffee, their friend.  What is said, read, or written is often private, and time spent at the café is precious bonding time.

 

That’s why libraries were once so appealing to me.  It seemed like every patron had a relationship with books and reading equal to my own.  People came in to browse, to read, to research—anything to strengthen the bond between book and human.

 

Perhaps now the patron relationship has altered.  Patrons come to the library to make book loan transactions, take a class, tutor a student, hear carolers sing.

 

The library is not a café.  It is a community house.

 

The library’s patron has shifted from the individual to the family.  An individual may read all day long, but a family has multiple wants–and reading is only one of them.  The library, wanting to stay funded, meets these multiple wants of their new client.

 

This isn’t the first time a business has evolved.  Bookstores now carry music and computer games.  Video rental stores shifted to online movie streaming.   Restaurants revise their menu to compete with that popular restaurant down the street.

 

It’s all about meeting client needs.

 

Since my current need is quiet time to write my novel-in-progress, I choose to spend my resources at a café where I know I’ll write a solid five pages in one sitting.  I return to the library from time to time at non-peak hours because I’m always curious to see what’s happening there.

 

Where librarians won’t tattletale on me anymore.