I often see readers complaining about how they always have to finish a book once they’ve started it, no matter what. I get it. That used to be me… but not anymore.
(I suddenly feel like I’m in an infomercial…)
So what changed? I just decided… enough was enough. I didn’t like being a slave to my book. It didn’t help that I’m also a monogamous reader, so I couldn’t just switch to a different book when I wasn’t feeling the first. In fact, do readers who read more than one book at a time even have this problem? I would think that, even if you never officially “gave up” on a book, it could sit there with a bookmark partway through for all eternity, no?
At any rate, whatever type of reader you are, if you find yourself wondering how you can conquer MAF (Must Always Finish), it starts with one simple statement…
“It’s not the right book for me right now.”
The first time I said this to myself, I actually meant it. I was reading The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells. I’d wanted to try the “father of science fiction,” but this was my first attempt at reading something from the 19th century since high school, and I just could not get into it. Granted, it was only published in 1898, but in my mind it was those few years that were the problem. So, I set it aside for another day, and told myself that for now, I’d stick to books written after 1900… a guideline I’ve stuck with ever since. But I fully intend to return to it someday.
After that, it was still a long time before I used that excuse again. This time, it was on a real chunkster of a book, and it had taken me nearly a week to get through 200 pages… and not for lack of time to read. I skimmed ahead a bit to make sure I wasn’t quitting just before it was about to get good, but I just couldn’t handle the idea of spending a month on one book that wasn’t holding my interest before I could move onto something else.
Again, this might not have been an issue if I could read more than one book at a time. But I knew that, if I ever did return to it someday, I’d have to start from the beginning anyway. I don’t even like reading a new book in a series without re-visiting the books that came before; how could I be expected to jump into the middle of a book?
So, with another “just not right now,” that was my second DNF… you might say it was my first true DNF, although I still wasn’t calling it that. I did suspect that “right now” might turn into “forever,” but I just didn’t let myself think about that.
Finally, after several 1- and 2-star books over the years – each one slowly chipping away at my “maybe it will get better” defense – there was one that I just really wanted to throw across the room… and that was my breaking point.
That’s when I realized that “not the right book for me right now” could mean anything. I don’t have to have a specific reason (too old… too long…) other than just not wanting to have to finish this book before I can move onto my next.
After that, it became much easier… and while I’m fully aware that in most of these cases, I’ll never return to the book that I set aside (and I do call them DNF’s without hesitation), there’s nothing that says I can’t. The book will always be there if I decide I’m ready for it.
So, for everyone out there who envies those of us who seem to DNF without a second thought (I can tell you, at least for me, it’s not quite as simple as that; there are many second and third and fourth thoughts involved), this is the secret to my success:
- It’s not the right book for me right now
- The book will always be there
That’s it. That, and practice.
I recently came across a blog post on Oh, Chrys – Why I Continue Reading Books I Do Not Like Much – which was partially the catalyst for writing this post (though it’s one that’s been in my mind for some time). Christine is actually the first blogger I’ve come across who’s happier as a MAF-er. It’s not that she can’t DNF (in her post she says that she used to) but that she chooses not to… and that’s what works for her.
But I’ve seen so many comments from bloggers whose MAF status doesn’t work for them… and that’s who this post is for. Have faith and be strong – you can make it to the other side!
Do you DNF?