A recent epiphany: there’s no point worrying about things you think you ought to do.
If it’s worth doing, do it. If it’s worth doing, but not just yet, then find a place for it where you’ll be reminded in the future – a list you’ll review, a calendar – and move on to the next thing. If it’s not worth doing, if you care less about it than you’d like to, forget it. (This approach heavily influenced by Getting Things Done.)
For years I’ve felt like I should read more books by women, but somehow this feeling has never grown into action. It’s not just sexism. I don’t explicitly think, “that’s by a woman, I won’t read it”. It’s more that most of the books I’m excited to read are by men. Some of that might be an assumption that the writer will have a better handle on my concerns, but it’s largely marketing and living in a society which still treats the experiences of one half of the population as universal and voices from the other as niche.
So I’ve tried to shape this vague guilty thing – read more books by women – into something I can get on with. For the past couple of months I’ve been alternating between male and female writers, and it’s been great. This affirmative action has ensured I pay attention to writers and books that otherwise wouldn’t have quite elbowed their way into my hands – Toni Morrison, Hilary Mantel, Charlotte Brontë, Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter… I always knew these were great writers, it’s just that now I’m having the pleasure of reading them.
But my pile of unread books doesn’t have many women left. Any recommendations of interesting female writers? I’ll take fiction, non-fiction, poetry… Educate me!