Lectures

How (Not) to Prepare for a Book Lecture

I started preparing for my book lecture. My brain didn't quite function as well as I hoped.

I’ve got a problem. And of course it’s a bookish one. In about nine months time, I have to give a lecture for a book club, about a book by Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker. It is a dream come true, but it also frightens me to death. Because how do I know I’m doing it right? Am I doing enough? Am I taking it too seriously? Here’s how my brain works while reading this specific book. Read on!

Usually, my brain works pretty well. That’s why my first reading of the book was fairly straightforward. It is called De Kapperszoon (The Hairdresser’s Son in English), and is about Simon, a hairdresser (surprising, right?) who lives in Amsterdam, and is still coping with his father’s untimely death in the 1977 Tenerife airport disaster. But did he really die? And is Simon really the main character?

Enter my Book-Loving Brain. While reading the book, I kept wondering about the themes in it, but didn’t spend too much time on analysing everything just yet. I enjoyed De Kapperszoon, because it was well written, the characters were realistic, and the plot was interesting. It took me a couple of days to finish it, and afterwards, I simply started reading another book.

Eventually, my Chaotic Brain took over. Having finished three other books, I decided to return to De Kapperszoon. This time, I came prepared. I had bought a ton of sticky notes, so I would be able to remember important quotes. I analysed the novel while reading it, and found some great themes and events that would be perfect for my lecture. The problem is, my mind started to think every single sentence was interesting and should therefore be subjected to close scrutiny. There were sticky notes everwhere, and it soon seemed I was analysing a porcupine rather than a book. Eventually, I started rearranging my notes and lost track of what the colours stood for.

I usually try to ignore it, but this is when my Perfectionist Brain started screaming for attention. “Look at this mess, Elke!” it shouted, “how will you ever be able to make sense of this?” I calmly told it that it would be a piece of cake. My brain wasn’t comforted, however. It told me that it would only be nine months until I had to deliver the perfect lecture. And so far, I wouldn’t have anything, apart from a ton of sticky notes added randomly to pages. I couldn’t turn this part of my brain off anymore. I started panicking.

Unfortunately, Elke and panic don’t go well together. It triggers something bad: Procrastination Brain. I stop sleeping, I start eating unhealthy food, and I bury myself in anything that isn’t the thing I should be working on. I downloaded a new game on my phone and played it for hours. I watched tennis on tv. I read some more books that had nothing to do with De Kapperszoon, and wrote a couple of blogs on them. I didn’t know what to do, how to start, and I was convinced I would never, ever be able to finish my lecture, because I hadn’t done anything yet. There was only one thing that could possibly help: the Book-Loving Brain I had activated earlier.

My Bibliophile Brain is my safe space. Whenever I feel particularly insecure, I switch it on and hide myself in books. Somehow, reading about the struggles of fictional characters makes me feel better. Also, I had obtained two more Gerbrand Bakker novels, and reading them would lead me back to my neglected lecture. I first read The Twin (Boven is het Stil), his debut novel which won many literary awards, which calmed me down, and I even managed to use some of it for my lecture.

I think I’ve convinced my Perfectionist Brain, because I feel a bit calmer. Writing this blog has given me some new insights in this book (welcome back, Chaotic Brain, I’m so happy you decided to look up Gerbrand Bakker online, found his blog (I follow him now, and of course I hope that somehow he will follow me, too), read some of his posts, and copied them to our Bakker-themed word document), and that pleases me. I must admit – sorry, Perfectionist Brain! – that I haven’t actually started writing the lecture yet, but hey, I’ve got nine months left.

Nine more months of books, chaos, perfectionism, and procrastination. I don’t see any problem.

What do you do when you feel stressed? How do you stop procrastinating? Have you ever read any books by Gerbrand Bakker – or any Dutch books, for that matter? Please let me know in the comments! Also, don’t forget to follow me for more book-related posts!

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