“If you really want to be a good presenter, you need to practice speaking naked.”
Reactions in the room varied. A few people laughed nervously. Others shuffled in their seats. Some people looked at each other with that ‘did I hear that right??’ look. They were not quite saying it out loud but clearly more than one member of my team thought I’d gone crazy. I wanted them to stand in front of a room of people and deliver a presentation while not wearing any clothes????
Not what I meant at all. By speaking naked what I meant was they needed to know how to address a group without the aid of Powerpoint slides. They were a crutch upon which people (and not just my team members) relied on far too often.
What does this all have to do with reading you are by now no doubt pondering.
By reading naked I do not mean lying about on my chaise longue or languishing in a sheltered bower as if I were in a Rubens painting.
Nope. I mean reading without the aid of reading lists, prompts and challenges.
Let me rewind a little to explain.
A few weeks ago, as is traditional at this time of the year, I began to think about my 2018 reading goals. What did I want to accomplish in the next 12 months?
I had lots of ideas of my own initially.
One goal could be to finish my Classics Club list. Another to read x number of novels by authors in countries other than UK and USA. Or how about reading x number of novels in translation.
There was equally no shortage of ideas coming through on my reader feed. HeavenAli’s #ReadingMuriel2018 readalong of Muriel Spark was enticing. Simon from Stuckinabook had an even bigger challenge to offer with his Century of Reading project. No doubt about it that the Nonfiction Reading Challenge hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey would give me a much needed nudge to read all the non-fiction books languishing on my bookshelves. And then later in the year there would be 20BooksofSummer, Reading Ireland Month; Japanese Lit Challenge, German Lit month etc etc etc.
But I kept pontificating. Changing my mind. Deciding on a goal one day and then scrubbing it out the next. I offloaded on my nearest and dearest expecting/hoping for sympathy. Not one jot came my way. Instead I got a challenge: why was it so critical for me to have a goal at all? Hadn’t I left all that behind me when I stopped working? Who would care anyway?
It took a few days for that little seed to germinate. But germinate and grow it did. Maybe I could take a gap year from goals and challenges and targets?. Could 2018 be a year of free wheeling reading; reading whatever I felt like at that particular moment?
The more I thought about it the more I warmed to the idea. Since I started blogging I’ve had projects and targets and challenges to guide my reading – and very few of them were accomplished successfully. Some people thrive on goals and objectives and do brilliantly at keeping to resolutions. In most areas of my life these work well for me too. But when it comes to reading I’m a dud. Fact is, I’ve realised, that I enjoy making lists of books to read but the minute the list is finalised, I go off the idea of reading the books I’ve chosen. A list makes me feel hemmed in somewhat.
I am therefore declaring 2018 to be the Year of Naked Reading.
I will keep the ongoing projects I’ve been working on for a few years now like the Booker Prize Project (there is no way I am abandoning that right at the last moment) or my World Literature project. I’m also going to start a new one – the Year of my Life reading project initiated by Cafe Society. But I won’t use those projects to drive my reading. Nor When I am ready for the next book I’ll just look around the book shelves and pick out what takes my fancy. With some 220 plus books I own but haven’t read, I will have plenty of choice. I’m going to try and restrain myself so I don’t purchase zillions of new books but won’t be setting any targets or imposing numeric constraints.
So here’s to the beginning of a rudderless, free wheeling 2018.
Anyone care to join me??