Jack of Many Trades

Books, boundaries, and maybe a depth year

Originally posted: 2022-01-29

Remember I said I was going to limit myself and work on my TBR this year? Yeah, I'm still doing that. I've started a list specifically for things I want to read later, after I'm making progress on the TBR. I've decided that I won't completely refuse the ability to get new books because hard limits allow failure, and failure puts me off trying again, but I have what I think are very do-able goals. I have to be current on my one-book-a-week goal for the year, and at least two books have to have been deaccessioned for every one that comes in.

I just saw a Facebook post about a great restock at one of my favorite charity bookshops and had clicked through to make a shopping appointment before I remembered, oh yes, not doing that. It's hard because I follow the things I love, so there's no shortage of discussions of new books being put in front of me.

Working through books is a challenge for me because I will pick up so, so many books and read the blurb and think, yes, I want to know what happens next in that story. When I'm finding discounted books at the library sales or the bookshelf charity shop or ordering from better world books, it's really easy to buy the inexpensive book and add it to the stack for later. Except then I have a lot of stacks. If I pick them up and read the blurb again, trying to decide what I'm going to do with them, I tend to end up at the same place where I'm wanting to know what happens in the book. There's a good reason why Marie Kondo says not to open the book if you're decluttering, I guess.

I'm also historically bad at accepting the DNF. I'm easily distracted and I'll put a book down intending to come back to it later, or I'll be reading it but I'll also be reading like eight other things at the same time. I'm totally going to get back to that.


When I have infinite time, somehow.

I know even as I'm saying that how ridiculous it sounds, but actually doing it is hard! Limits, though, are helpful. A hard boundary means I don't have to make a decision on an individual basis, which is great for me. Decisions are hard and my impulse control isn't great and... I'm finding the limit to be more freeing than complete freedom was. Right now, books go on the list. All books go on the list. I don't shop, I don't decide what's a reasonable amount to be buying, nothing.

Because I'm finding it pretty helpful to have those limits, though, I found myself looking at limiting myself to using what I have in other areas as well. I'm swearing off stickers, because I have a TON of amazing stickers and I don't need more right now. Same for journals and notebooks. Probably the same for craft supplies, because again, I have plenty, unless I'm looking for a specific thing for a project. I'm also swearing off card decks, with probably an exception for things I design and get printed myself, for the same reason. (Currently I've got a playing card deck that's my calling card that I'm thinking about getting printed, except what use do I have for calling cards?) I've got some pre-orders hanging out there in the ether and that's fine but nothing else.

And while I was mulling about this I saw a couple of references to people doing a "depth year" and in particular I was hanging out on Mastodon and started following Olvr, who's been blogging about theirs for a month now. I've heard the phrase before but never read the original blog post or the follow up. The idea isn't earth-shattering, but I think it's the framing I needed to make it click what I am looking for. (And while I was looking for it, pretty hilariously, google led me to two places I must have seen it back in 2018, at Little Sea Witch and Wytch of the North. Apparently this is the year I'm drawn to all the old blog memes?)

It's a little bit like how there's always that sort of fantastical idea that there's the One Ancient Tome and if you just found it, magic would make perfect sense. Buying more tomes, either ancient or modern, isn't really the answer to that. I have plenty of tomes, and they have plenty of good ideas in them, but magic makes sense when I do it. (Also when I write about it, which helps me work it out, but that's also a kind of doing it.)

Or like I was doing one of those #100days challenges with watercolors and then I got excited that I was doing well so I bought some different, better paper and paints and almost immediately... stopped painting. I don't know if it's the pressure of using something "nice" or if it's complacency or what, but that kind of thing happens to me all the time. It's a running joke that if I buy something for $HOBBY I'll immediately stop doing $HOBBY. Clearly the solution SHOULD be to stop buying things for $HOBBY but that's been surprisingly hard.

It's also kind of like, okay, I got back into tarot last year, and I started learning lenormand, and that's awesome, but I also keep falling in love with decks and I feel like I spend a lot of time thinking about decks I don't have rather than the ones I do. The magpie card swapping is one thing - I really enjoy that when I do it, and it's also easy to step away from and pick back up again. But I want to really enjoy, and find more ways to regularly use, the decks I do own. More than that, I don't want decks I don't own taking up so much space in my head.

... That's really what all of this comes down to, isn't it? There's the ADHD-new-shiny reaction, which I have mostly relegated to thrift shopping but still isn't great. There's when I make rules, when I overthink whether or not I should or shouldn't buy this or that, and unhealthy attitudes around wanting things and buying things that I've been unpacking, slowly, so slowly. I can identify when I want something, and there've been a handful of times this year when I did go out and buy something just to stop the idea of it, of whether I wanted it or whether it was worth acquiring, from taking up space in my head, and letting myself do that instead of continuing to fight was an improvement.

Part of the reason I never quite clicked with the low-buy-no-buy-year idea is that a lot of them have rules that basically are meaningless to me; only buying secondhand is a big one but I already do most of my shopping secondhand. That's not a flex, that's just a habit. Denial isn't new, and intention is... complex. I'd like to be a more intentional person, but it's hard.

I've been making jokes lately about Sudden Onset Executive Function, where I am able to just... do something. It's probably because my meds are working? I like the way I feel on the meds enough that I'm taking my extended-release Adderall on the weekends even though I don't need to the way I need to take the Lexapro. I'm not perfect, the house isn't perfect, nothing's perfect but I am capable of seeing that a thing needs to be done and then doing it in a way that feels entirely foreign to me when I realize I've done it. I finished that tarot bag. I mended one of my favorite pairs of gloves, which has needed mending for years. I've been building a website. I've been painting sometimes, and actually finishing things. It's wild.

And now that I know what this looks like, I think maybe I'm ready to revisit some other things. Let's see if anything comes of it.