Mess It Up

by Jennifer Miller on March 7, 2011

in Personal Effectiveness

Do you love to read? Me too. This love manifests itself in the way I treat my books—with caution, being careful never to spill coffee on them or in any other way soil them. Sure, I use highlighters and in a pinch, I’ll dog-ear a page or two. But overall—my books are to be treasured and maintained, so that they can be savored a second or third time when the mood strikes. It’s how I’ve always treated my books and it works for me.

Then today I read a post by Todd Schnick, author of the blog Intrepid. He’s made a list of “10 Things to Mess Up Every Day.” Guess what’s on the number one spot— books! He and I have been going back and forth on Twitter, discussing the merits of “messing up” your books. His main point: use them. What good are they, sitting on a shelf? I agree with this wholeheartedly. But still. . .coffee stains? I confess it makes me shudder.

This Twitter exchange has me wondering—am I “respecting” my books too much?  In my quest to keep them in good working condition, am I missing opportunities to fully use what they have to offer? I’m not really a neat freak (well, OK, maybe about my books), so it is interesting to reflect upon why I go to such lengths to keep the pages clean.

And, another point of reflection—what else am I missing in the name of not wanting to “mess it up”?

I bet my list is long. Is yours?

With this post, I took Todd’s advice. His #4 item to “mess up” is one’s writing. He says, “Blast out the words. Your book. Your memoir. Your blog. Your moleskine. Don’t worry about the Pulitzer. Just get writing. Let it flow. Who cares about the stinkin’ grammar…”

How’d I do, Todd?

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Todd Schnick March 7, 2011 at 9:54 am

outstanding! i am very proud of us!

and a heartfelt thanks for the kind mention…

Jennifer V. Miller March 7, 2011 at 10:35 am


Thanks for providing great inspiration for Monday morning. I’ve got my coffee cup in hand, ready to seize the day. And, who knows– maybe mess some things up!

Leigh Steere March 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Jennifer, I’m with you. Clean books. If I want to mark something, I use a post-it note. My husband, on the other hand, folds down page corners, writes in the margins, underlines stuff (without a ruler), and yes–I occasionally find crumbs lurking in the pages. This is an ongoing discussion between us. Others’ markings in a book are distracting. I want to process the content myself before hearing/reading someone else’s comments. And then there’s the aesthetic element. I like it when books look brand new.

Jennifer V. Miller March 7, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Funny! No doubt we all have some areas in which an app would be useful.

As I was writing this post, I did wonder how a transition to Kindle/ipad would affect my “issue”. For now, it’s a moot point. . .I’m still firmly a “book in my hands” kinda person.

Jennifer March 7, 2011 at 2:35 pm


Welcome to The People Equation!

Isn’t it funny how our preferences show up in the oddest places? Up until today, I had no idea that I had Clean Book Syndrome 🙂

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