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The Filter

I don't know about you, but I feel constantly bombarded with information these days. My email inbox is full of marketing emails and newsletters and I have a whole separate inbox for the alerts from blogs I read. Then there are my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds. And of course the podcasts I subscribe to. My stomach churns at the idea of using Snapchat or Pinterest (more than I do) because how could I possibly keep up?

I keep hearing about people taking tech vacations and getting rid of their social media accounts. That's fine for some, but I am more of a moderation person -- I don't like giving anything up completely because I feel like it's just throwing the baby out with the bath water. I like to at least see what's going on, even if I don't have to get fully involved. The truth is that a big part of life is separating the noise from the important information.

So I am getting better at filtering.

And choosing. One way that I'm making more of an effort on this front is to make sure that I actively choose longer articles I want to read, as well as books and podcasts that provide deeper analysis on topics. There's a real danger these days of knowing what's going on, without actually understanding anything.

That's why I'm happy to see some newspapers embracing the subscription model again as a way to help pay their journalists to do deeper investigation and write commentary, as well as report the news. (For full disclosure, I certainly have a personal stake in it. My living -- and the Hub's for that matter -- has always come from subscription news and information services, relying on people paying to have access to news, data and analysis.)

Many creatives provide some content for free, but it's marketing for how they really make their money, so I always make it a point to buy their books when they appeal and have even taken a course or two. And although I didn't like it at first, as I thought it was a bit of a cop out (why not just charge?), I'm growing much more interested in the concept of patronage. I listen to a podcast that is mostly funded through Patreon and the Guardian's constant plea for monetary support has not fallen on deaf ears.

In all aspects of life, there's always going to be a lot of noise, and these days I have to keep reminding myself that it's important to try to turn down the volume and make sure I also seek out what I want to read and listen to.

Getting to "The End"

Last time on the blog I asked readers if they always finish books they are reading or if they put them down if they're not enjoying them enough. I was surprised at the results of my mini-survey. I know it's not a statistically significant sample, but of the seven people who responded, five said they always finish the book.

Maybe my survey just says more about the people who read my blog. But I am very happy to take their advice.

Their reasons? They wanted to know the ending. They wanted to give the book a decent chance even if they didn't like it at first, and by then they were too invested to not want to finish.

"A finished book is not a waste of time but a notch on your belt that you can be proud of," said one. "Unfinished books look at me like dirty laundry or naked light bulbs needing shades."

 Another one added, "I'm no quitter!"

And the two that said they didn't always finish, one at least peaked at the last 30 pages or so to find out the ending.

I guess the question to ask myself is: why I am reading that book in the first place?

I've been a member of a book club now for 13 years. And although the reasons for belonging are numerous, one is that it forces me to read books I wouldn't always pick up. There have been so many books over the years that I have loved in spite of myself -- and many of them seem to fall into the science fiction category. For some reason I don't think I like science fiction, but apparently I do (those that spring to mind are Isaac Asimov short stories, Ender's Game, Ready Player One and The Martian).

And sometimes when I haven't finished the book by the meeting -- and I am notorious for finishing books on the tube on the way there (hey journalists need deadlines to get anything done!) -- I do finish reading it after the meeting. Particularly after I have heard everyone talking about it. I don't even mind spoilers. I find I'm never reading a book to find out how it ends. It's almost not important to me. Instead it's all about the reading experience,which is potentially why I do find it difficult to finish a book I'm not enjoying.

But as an aspiring long-form writer, I need to be reading a lot more than I am.

So I'm prepared to do an experiment on myself in 2017. I'm going to try reading all books I start to the end, no matter what. Also because if it's a book I want to read I'm clearly reading it for a reason.

At the moment I am reading three. And if you want to see what I am reading, you can find me on Goodreads -- under "Taron". You can be sure it's me by the photo where I am accompanied by a large plate of mozzarella sticks. (Although do let me know if I should be posting my short reviews on the blog as well.)

Book group meets this Tuesday and I'm only 48% of the way through the book. Looks like it's going to be a busy reading weekend for me.

Photo credit: allbooks via photopin (license)

The Three Rs

The expression the three Rs -- reading, writing and arithmetic -- which any American would know, was (according to Wikipedia) coined first by a member of parliament in Britain back in the late 1700s or early 1800s.

Of course it was, considering its irony.

It's almost my three-month anniversary in my new job (on Valentine's Day, funny enough, and I do love my new job). I've certainly been doing a lot of of the three Rs in this new role, as well as a few other "Rs" as well, like Relationship management and eating more in Restaurants.

So much of this job is familiar to me, including the building I work in, and some of the people I work with, that it's deceptive. On some days I feel like I don't have a new position at all and on others I feel exhausted, confused and that there's so much work ahead. When I told the Hub I was approaching the three-month mark he said, "Really, that's all?"

I took this as a good sign, meaning that I don't appear to be having any sort of breakdown, at least from the outside.

And I'm not.

But I did ask a friend, who started a new role in her company relatively recently, how long it would take before it was less all-consuming. She said after three months I'd be less bone tired for sure. And after six, I'd have enough of a clue that normal service could resume.

I'm starting to look forward to "normal service". Particularly on the personal reading and writing front. I haven't been doing enough of either, although I'm trying to give myself a break. I've been doing some, and that's got to be good enough for now.

But along that vein, I wanted to take the opportunity to ask you lovely readers your opinion on something: as time is a precious commodity do you tend to finish every book you read until the end? Or do you allow yourself to stop reading books?

I tend towards the latter and put down books I don't like or can't get into and I wonder if this is the right approach for an aspiring author. It is a decisive question and I'm interested in how everyone approaches it. And while you think about it (and hopefully comment), I've finally, finally got two free hours ahead of me to work on the novel, so I better hop to it.

A New Mindful Year

I recently received a reader question: I've been meaning to ask if there is a book or two (or podcast?) that you recommend on the topics of meditation/mindfulness? I know there are tons out there, just curious which ones you liked.

Oh boy, what a good question, I thought. All the answers are somewhere on my blog, but you'd have to go and look. So (of course) I've done the work for you. 

The first book I always recommend to people is Richard Carlson's Stop Thinking, Start Living. I am looking at my bookshelf now and I actually have two copies there as I lent it to so many people that I bought a second copy to keep for reference. Recently someone gave one back to me. (If anyone wants to borrow one let me know.)

His more popular, digestible books are the Don't Sweat The Small Stuff series. The first one I ever read was Don't Sweat The Small Stuff at Work, given to me by my aunt when I was having a terrible time at work. But I think that Stop Thinking, Start Living gives such a good base for the concept of mindfulness that it's a really good one to start with. He's very intellectual but also knows how to explain what can be at first a very foreign concept in a simple, understandable way.

I also really like Eckhardt Tolle's A New Earth. (Read my blog post about it here.) Tolle also wrote the Power of Now, but I like A New Earth slightly better. Although there's a really weird chapter near the end about pain-bodies. It's kind of out there. Just saying. 

The thing about mindfulness, however, is that although I did a lot of reading on it, I felt that putting it into practice was almost impossible until I started meditating regularly. Because our thoughts (created by the ego) are so strong that unless you "practice" seeing them for what they are, it's really hard. 

My favorite book on meditation is 10% Happier by Dan Harris. (Blog post link here.) I think I like it so much because it's also a memoir and he has a good story to tell. He recommends quite a few authors in there too, which is good. I read Mark Epstein's Going on Being: Buddhism and the Way of Change, which I thought was a refreshing look at Buddhism from the perspective of a Westerner trained as a Freudian psychoanalyst. 

In terms of podcasts, I would also highly recommend Dan Harris' podcast of the same name: 10% Happier.

Thanks Elizabeth for the question! Hope my answer is helpful. 

Never hesitate to ask me a question on facebook, twitter or at mindbodyandscroll[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Photo credit: Buddha statue in meditation pose, robe, blue, concrete, Lake City Way, Seattle, Washington, USA via photopin (license)

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