I had a bit of an epiphany on Thursday while taking a time management class through work. I went in expecting to learn some new system for organizing one's time and tasks, but instead spent the day analyzing my approach to time to try to figure out why I often waste it.
Among other things, I realized that I'm often task-oriented to a fault. I get so caught up in crossing items off my to-do list at work or meeting my daily word count quota in my manuscript that I lose sight of the big picture--e.g. that focus on word count can distract me from thinking about why I'm writing a scene and how it fits into the story as a whole.
One small manifestation of this tendency is that lately I've allowed reading, which has been a joy and a way to relax for me for as long as I can remember, to become a source of stress. It all started a few years ago when I began tracking the number of books I read a year--innocuously enough, to allow myself to participate in end-of-year discussions on one of the reader boards I used to follow. But it quickly turned into a competition with myself. Can I beat last year's total? Can I read over 100 books per year, EVERY year? Lately practically every book I've opened has felt like homework. And not just any homework, high school lit class assigned reading. Over half of which I either loathed or was bored silly by. And I finally, finally realized just how silly and neurotic I've been, to turn my favorite activity into work.
So I'm still going to diary my books, but I'm no longer going to number them. If on 12/31 I really want to know how many books I read in '08, I can always go back and count them. And I'm going to lose my obsession with new-to-me books. There's nothing wrong with re-reading, and nothing wrong with talking about what I re-read.