Your Challenge, Should You Choose to Accept It…

How many of you have already given up on your New Year’s resolutions? I have. I won’t even tell you what they were. I don’t think I’ve ever managed to keep a resolution past January.I’m trying something different this year—challenges. Not the one-off kind that go viral on the Internet like eating cinnamon, mimicking a mannequin, or pouring ice water over your head. I signed up for challenges that involve a year-long commitment. Challenges are more specific task oriented than resolutions and I’m a task-oriented person. If you accept the challenge, you agree to do something—read, cook, sew, draw—every day or week or month for a year. You keep track of your progress on your calendar or with a checklist or with social media posts. I signed up for a daily challenge, 1 Year of Stitches.  You embroider one or more stitches and post a picture to Instagram or Twitter every day for a year. I’ve kept up pretty well, so far. I missed a couple of days but I doubled up the day after and I’m still on track. One stitch doesn’t take much time. I also signed up for two reading challenges. I pledged to read thirteen books this year for the Goodreads challenge. I set the bar low—one book a month plus one—but I don’t read as fast as I used to and challenges are more fun if you have a real hope of completing them. And if I read more than thirteen I get bonus bragging rights. I decided to push myself by signing up for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. Book Riot goes beyond challenging you to read a certain number of books by year’s end. They select categories and you read a book that fits into each. You win a thirty percent discount at the Book Riot store if you succeed. All of the categories are creative, some are tricky—read a book set within one hundred miles of your location, read a book about books, read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. One book can satisfy multiple categories, though. A book published between 1900 and 1950 about a war set more than 5000 miles from your location would fulfill three. If I complete the Book Riot challenge, I also complete the Goodreads challenge so I can achieve two goals at once. I probably (definitely) could have found enough books in my TBR pile for both reading challenges. But, to up the excitement and to discover some books I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen for myself, I subscribed to two book-a-month programs. One, run by Bas Bleu Booksellers, offered me a choice of mysteries, general fiction, or biographies and memoirs. I chose mysteries. The other, run by Heywood Hill bookstore, in London, offered nearly a dozen options. I went with the 12-month paperback subscription. I have no idea what genres my books will be in, only that they were selected by my personal bookseller (seriously, she even sent me her card) based on what she thought I’d like after I had a reading consultation (by email since we’re on different continents). I received my first book, The Trouble with Goats and Sheep, a couple of days ago, adorably wrapped in brown paper and ribbon.  My goal for participating in reading challenges and book subscriptions this year is to stretch my reading horizons and, by doing so, become a better writer.Have you accepted any challenges for 2017? How do you plan to expand your creative horizons this year? 

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