You Need to do A Reading Study

Have you ever done a reading study? Recently, I listened to the Mysterious Goings On podcast that featured the Constant Reader and his journey re-reading Stephen King’s bibliography. The idea intrigued me. I’ve often re-read books I’ve enjoyed. Some of them many times. And of course, I’ve read complete series. But I don’t recall ever reading a single author’s entire catalog. The voice in my head said, you need to do a reading study.

Line Drawing of a Girl Reading Book while sitting on a stack of books probably by the same author, You Need to do a Reading study, too.

What is a Reading Study?

That’s the fun part. You get to design your own. How? There are no rules. But here are some questions and suggestions to help you get started.

What’s Your Purpose?

For the Constant Reader, his deep love of Stephen King’s books motivated him. Which author do you read most often? Or choose an author you’ve never read before.

If you’re a writer, you may want to figure out how an author created the world, or the characters, or how the writer makes us readers believe it all. Many things go into writing a powerful story. Perhaps you want to read an author with a unique writing style. Or a strong voice. 

But what if you’re a reader and not a writer? What would be your purpose? 

Thing is, as a grownup, you get to choose. You may read for pure enjoyment. Maybe you want to learn about writing stories. You can challenge yourself with a new-to-you author. Or a different genre. Re-reading a series you read as a child can be enlightening. You’ll see the story with fresh eyes. Will it still delight you? (Read my take on one of my childhood favorites.)

Your Author Choice

Photograph of a bookstore's bookshelf filled with crime fiction books, you need to to do a reading study--which author or books will you choose?

Will you choose an author who writes in only one genre? Or is an author who writes in multiple genres more to your taste? Male or Female? An award-winner of an unknown? Do you want to read full-length novels or short stories or both? Perhaps you want to explore a different culture from your own.

Instead of doing a single author, do a single subject like I did in my Going to Mars Word-by-Word series. The books were written by different authors during different decades but all of them involved going to or living on Mars.

Choose Your Method

Are you going to only read ebooks? Will you start with the author’s oldest book and work forward in time? There are no rules. You can choose to read the books in a random order.

Record Your Reactions

No, you don’t have to do a book report. You don’t have to do anything at all. But writing a few notes about the book may help you enjoy the process more and remember it better.

You can follow a format like I did in my Going to Mars: Word-by-Word series of posts or my Story Time Reviews posts. Or the spreadsheet photographed below.

A screenshot of a spreadsheet for a reading study with columns for date read, title, copyright date, genre, characters, setting, story problem, and reactions to the beginning the ending, a star rating, and a column for additional comments or connections between books.

Write about what you liked or didn’t like. List the characters or write a summary of the book. What you record depends in part on your purpose for reading the books.

One thing to consider recording is your immediate reaction to the first lines or pages of the story. And then, your immediate reaction to the end of the story.

It might be fun to rate the books as the Constant Reader does in the podcast. (He chooses his top ten favorite books by Stephen King.) 

It’s entirely up to you.

Make if Fun

girl reading by flashlight under a blanket--you need to do a reading study and have fun doing it

If you are re-reading an author or a series, consider listening to the audiobook version. Or watch the movie (if there is one). Only read print books? Try an ebook version.

If it stops being fun—stop. You’re not getting graded or paid. If you’re not enjoying it or learning something, stop. Try a different author or a different book.

You Need to Do a Reading Study

Why do you need to do a reading study? It’s another way to enhance your reading pleasure. Will it take a while? Sure, depending on your reading speed and the books’ availability. I read fast but have little time for pleasure reading. Still, I’ll going to start a reading study on all the Octavia Butler books I can get my hands on. How about you? Have you read all of a single author’s books before? Does it sound like something you might enjoy doing?

More than an Inventor for Mothers

Today we celebrate a woman who invented a practical and helpful device for moms and babies, the Boater. But Marion Donovan was more than an inventor for mothers.

Circa 1950s image of two babies in a wooden playpen wearing nothing but cloth diapers and no way to stay dry--Marion Donovan saw a need but she was more than an inventor for mothers
Babies in cloth diapers
FOTO:FORTEPAN / UVATERV, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Born with the Right Genes

Her father and uncle were inventors, so it’s no surprise that Marion Donovan also becomes an inventor. Born in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1917, Marion’s first invention was a tooth powder to improve dental hygiene. She created it while in elementary school.

She attended Rosemont College in Pennsylvania and in 1939 received her B.A. In English.

A Frustrated Mother

Photo of diapers hanging on the laundry line outside--Marion Donovan saw a need but she was more than an inventor for mothers
C. K. Klose, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A post-World War II homemaker, Marion Donovan was frustrated. Her youngest was still in diapers. Cloth diapers required frequent changing and bathing of the baby and laundry sheets and other clothing. 

Rubber baby pants were available. Yes, rubber. They were supposed to keep the moisture of wastes contained inside the diaper and the pants. Seepage was common. And the rubber and elastic legs pinched the baby’s skin. And, well, the rubber didn’t allow the baby’s bottom to dry. Chafing and diaper rashes caused terrible discomfort for the baby. The problem was so severe, doctors urged parents not to use rubber pants.

Marion sewed something different for her baby. Legend has it she started with a piece of her bathroom shower curtain.

The Boater

She spent three years perfecting her design. To get the right sizes, she measured her baby, her neighbors’ babies, and babies at Bellevue Hospital. 

Marion used nylon instead of rubber and snaps instead of diaper pins. She created waterproof baby pants that didn’t cause rashes. She called it the boater. According to, she thought it looked like a boat.

Designed to hold the diaper inside the waterproof covering, it kept babies and sheets dry more often. A row of three snaps above the leg allowed parents to adjust the covering for the baby’s growth.

Manufacturing the Boater

No manufacturer at the time would consider her invention. 

I went to all the big names that you could think of and they said, ‘we don’t need it—no woman has asked us for that…

Marion Donovan

Marion filed for a patent and partnered with a lingerie manufacturer. 

Her product did not cause rashes. Soon doctors and baby care manuals recommended the Boater.

In 1949, the Boater went on sale at Saks Fifth Avenue. It was an immediate success.

Patent Granted, Next Project Please

Granted a patent in 1951, she sold her company and patents for $1,000,000.

Next, she designed a fully disposable diaper to insert in the Boater. Paper manufacturers didn’t see the market for it. 

In 1961, Victor Mills drew upon Donovan’s invention to create Pampers®.

image of pampers diapers which were derived from Marion Donovan's patented paper diapers

Marion didn’t limit herself to mother’s concerns in her inventions, the men of her time pigeon-holed her. They said she created women’s “essentials.”

She invented many useful things like a facial tissue box, a towel dispenser, closet organizer, and more. She filed and received 20 patents in her lifetime. Read more about Marion on the Smithsonian website where her family donated her papers.

At 41 she earned a degree in architecture from Yale. She designed her own house in Connecticut.

Marion Donovan died at 81 in 1998. Few people know of her. Yet many of us use her inventions or improved variations of her inventions.

More than an Inventor for Mothers

She saw a need for her own child and helped millions of children and families. Some people will debate the need for disposable diapers, but comfortable, waterproof diapers were necessary for babies and parents. 

For those of you who wonder, this is not a political statement. No matter which party or person is in the White House or the Congress—we were all babies. Most of us have benefited from this woman’s inventions.

Marion Donovan was more than an inventor for mothers and so much more. Did you enjoy learning about this strong woman? Please let me know in the comments below.

Creativity and You Don’t Have to be Perfect

Are you paralyzed by the idea of using your creativity? At some point, everyone is…the blank page, the first stroke of the brush, the first cut of the paper, the first taste…afraid. Maybe you’re afraid to start. Could be you’re afraid to finish. Take a deep breath and remember, creativity, and you don’t have to be perfect. It’s about more than creating a perfect product, to paraphrase a Miley Cyrus song, it’s about the ride.

Image of a large sculpture of a face and neck with lots of cracks-because creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Perfectionism Leads to Poor Self-Esteem

“Perfectionism is a self-destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: “If I look perfect, live perfectly, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame.”

Brene Brown

Fear drives a perfectionist by the fear of shame and judgment and blame. Yet, it’s a self-fulling destiny. Perfect is unattainable. So when you cannot reach perfection, you berate yourself before someone else can.

cartoon of a woman yelling. Creativity and you don't have to be perfect

Shaming yourself is easy.

  • See, I knew I couldn’t do it. 
  • I knew it; I don’t deserve this.
  • Look at how bad that looks. Why did I ever think I could do this? I can’t do anything.
  • Self-shaming is contagious. Once we start, we find fault in everything we do. 
  • So and so did it perfectly, I can never measure up. Might as well not try.

Shaming is so easy you can shame others, too. Laughing at or pointing out the other’s mistakes makes you feel better for a moment. Because you’re not the one experiencing the pain.

Protect Yourself from Perfect

A child draws and tells stories and makes with abandon.  We look at their imperfect creation and praise them for the beautiful thing they did. Why do we do that? Are we lying? No, we are praising them for trying. Encouraging them to keep trying.

You need praise, too. You are courageous for trying. Tell yourself, look at what you did! Good job! Look at you go!

Remind yourself that perfect only comes after a lot of work. Yes, on rare occasions, a singer or artist or chef comes along with nearly perfect abilities from the get-go. But you know what? They question themselves, too.

If friends or family devalue your work, remind yourself that you did a courageous thing. You tried. And that you’re courageous enough, you’ll try again.

You can break the perfectionist habit. Psychcentral offers ten ways to break perfectionism, celebrating your mistake is one of them. That’s right. Celebrate. Thank yourself for having the courage to learn from your mistakes. You are wiser now that you were. 

A mistake should be your teacher, not your attacker. A mistake is a lesson, not a loss. It is a temporary, necessary detour, not a dead end.


Tell Your Inner Critic Off

If you’ve got a strong inner critic, tell her off. Who the heck is your inner critic to tell you you can’t do anything? Tell her I’m going to make this first attempt as crudely as I can and you can’t stop me anymore. Yeah, it’s bad, but I learned how to do it better. Inner critic, all you know how to do is say how bad something is—that’s not perfect. You’re not protecting me, you’re hurting me. Go away.

Journal. Take a walk and yell at your inner critic. Record what you want to say to your inner critic. 

Take a picture of your progress. And when your inner critic is making fun of you, pull out your early work and show that critic how brave you are and how far you’ve come.

Being Yourself is Perfect

Image of a road disappearing in the distance with Quote from Julia Cameron "Progress, not perfection,  is what we should be asking of ourselves."

There is no one else exactly like you, not even if you have identical siblings. Your creative process will enrich you. That’s the best reason in the world to try and fail. If you try and succeed, even the tiniest bit, then you enrich yourself and someone else. Maybe lots of others.

Creativity is about more than what you produce. It’s about the process. The process allows you to explore your feelings, your thoughts, your imagination. It allows you to connect with your inner person. The process makes your inner creative sing or dance or soar. It fills you with a sense of wonder and joy and completeness.

It’s the Ride

Striving for excellence is not the same as perfectionism. When you are reaching for excellence, you take pleasure in working toward high standards. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. Excellence is a way of leveling up, perpetually. It’s saying you want to master this level of skill. If you don’t master it, it’s okay. You’ll work some more. Because it’s the striving toward the goal. It’s the process of learning and improving that gives you a sense of satisfaction and pleasure. It’s the ride.

When you’re having a bad day, when the world is in flames and going down, give yourself the gift of imperfect creativity. You Don’t Have to be an Artist. Creativity and you don’t have to be perfect. Connect and the process will take you on a journey. It’s not about the creation, it’s the ride. In the comments below, let me know how you give yourself permission to enjoy the ride.