In psychology, the overjustification effect refers to the phenonmenon in which a person becomes less intrinsically motivated to do something after they begin receiving external rewards for doing that thing.
How does this relate to the state of my blog and my reading life and the relation between the two as characterized in my clickbait-y title? Well, in the couple of years since I started my blog, I’ve noticed a trend that has admittedly started to bother me.
The Shift in my Motivation for Reading
As a kid, reading for me was like breathing air. I devoured books like I needed them to survive. I read Magic Tree house installments by the dozen during our summer camp library trips. I surreptitiously turned on the light at night to have more time to read after my parents told me to go to bed. I took home stacks from the library 20 books deep. I read multiple books every day– why? Because I simply loved it.
I loved the *act* of reading. I loved how I could find myself totally and completely absorbed in my current book. I loved how I could be kept on the edge of my seat just by words on the page.
When I started my book blog, it was like rediscovering that old love, the one high school and life in general had sucked out of me. For a while, this pure passion for reading was what spurred me to continue voraciously flying through books.
But after a couple of months and years, something gradually began to shift.
The problem, ironically, was how much I loved blogging. I found myself looking forward to writing a review on my opinions of a book more than I looked forward to actually finishing the book. In a way, I was reading for content.
Of course I still loved to read, but I was slowly realizing that I was running into a real risk of commodifying my favorite hobby– of turning books into a means to an end that was different from enjoyment in it of itself.
Writing book reviews was fun, of course, but I didn’t want to turn into someone who read books just to say I’d read them. I wanted to return to the person I used to be, when I read purely because I loved the act of reading. That brings me to the next section of this post: why I’m quitting the Goodreads Reading Challenge.
Why I’m Quitting the Goodreads Reading Challenge
Every year since 2017, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. It’s a great way to keep yourself motivated to read more books, and I prided myself on surpassing my goal of 100 books a year in both 2020 and 2021. However, I recently made the decision to quit the Goodreads Reading Challenge and stop setting myself a specific reading goal in the form of “number of books read per year.” Here’s why:
1) The Goodreads Goal isn’t a useful way to actually measure how much you’re reading
I’ve slowly come to the realization that the Goodreads goal is a rather misleading statistic to use to measure reading progress. Because all books are not created equal. That person you feel stupid compared to, who’s read 200 books already this year– is their entire list made up of short stories, graphic novels, and YA books?
It doesn’t make sense to count a two-page short story as worth the same as a 800-page Stephen King novel or demanding classic. When you really think about it, the number of books you read per year is not actually a legitimate or reliable reflection of your reading progress. Books vary way too much in terms of length, density, and difficulty level.
2) The Goodreads Goal was causing me to read for a number
Let me just admit it: I like to see my number of books read in the year increase and bring me closer to fulfilling a goal. It makes me feel accomplished. But the problem arises when that’s one of my main justifications for reading.
It causes me to read for the purpose of FINISHING another book– not for enjoying another book. That’s why I’m going to start setting goals in terms of the time I spend reading each day, which will force me to focus on the pure act of reading, rather than how many books I’m finishing.
I’m planning to set my goal to “1 book” each year, as I’ve seen others do– so that I’ll still be able to see my yearly summary of books, but not feel the pressure to reach some sort of goal or become worried about the progress bar.
In conclusion, yes, this post was clickbait-y, but I’ve been doing quite a bit of reflection on my reading life and have felt the need to change the way I approach setting reading goals.
Do you feel that blogging has changed the way you read? How do you set reading goals? Let me know in the comments!
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