On Why I Don’t Always Finish Books and Movies

Prompted by: You Shall be my Son

It was Chris Brogan who said:

“Don’t settle. Don’t finish bad books. If you don’t like the menu, leave the restaurant…”

While I know this is a comment on life as a whole and not just books and menus, this is an idea that changed my life when I first heard it years and years ago. I’m not sure where I developed the sentiment that everything I picked up was some sort of non-negotiable task of completion. Everything from YA novels to hobby art projects had to be carried through to fruition, even if I was miserable along the way. Sometimes that looked like sitting through grueling 3 hour movie events that I had no interest in (looking at you, King Kong) and sometimes that meant returning to the same painting over and over and over again even though I had started to hate it four sessions ago.

But after stumbling across that quote from Brogan sometime in high school, it occurred to me that being miserable was a very poor use of time. Sure, there’s a lot to be said for perseverance and sticking with things, but why waste your precious time and energy on something that isn’t feeding you joy? So I dropped my philosophy of forced completion, and dropped some other things along with it. Goodbye, Moby Dick audio-book. So long, iconic sports movies. Farewell, loathed abstract painting-in-progress of two years.

Half of the beauty of the art world is that there’s something for everyone out there. It’s always worthwhile to try new things, but it’s not worthwhile to guilt yourself into continuing if you don’t like said thing. There’s no reason to read past the fifth chapter of a horror novel if it isn’t your style. There’s no reason to force yourself to continue watching a biopic if it’s putting you to sleep. Choose to invest your time in things that feed you— things that bring you joy and enrich your world. Don’t stay at the restaurant if you don’t like the menu.


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