10 things I learned in 2018

This year I’ve enjoyed regularly posting what I learned—from the serious to the silly—every month. Today I’m sharing a few noteworthy things I learned in 2018, especially those things that I’m still using, telling friends about, and hearing about from you on a regular basis!

1. Camping is a lot like going to the beach.

File under: things I never expected to say. This year we planned to camp more as a family. We scheduled our trips when we could fit them in, not with any strategy in mind. But it felt like we ended up heading into the woods (with zero cell reception) during times when I really needed a break from the internet. 

I approached these camping trips with reluctance, but I ended up loving them. The lack of showers wasn’t my favorite part, but the lack of internet might have been. It felt so great to be someplace where the only activity options were to hike, cook, sit, and read. I read as much camping as I usually do at the beach, and I did not expect that. But I like it.

2. How to keep a finicky plant alive.

Last year I bought my first fiddle leaf fig right before New Year’s … and then I had to learn how not to kill it. I came close. It took time to learn how to water it, and then I did battle with spider mites. But thanks to help from my local plant shop and one extremely knowledgeable and patient blog reader (and author) it’s now doing great. (Maybe not as well as it was when it was happily living outdoors this summer, but great by winter standards.)

2018 was my year of the houseplant, and I learned so much about keeping my fiddle and many easier plants alive this year.

3. Audiobook listenership is way up

If it seems like everyone around you is listening to audiobooks these days, it’s not just you—audiobook sales are up more than 40% over this time last year. That’s a huge difference!

I’m a big fan of the format, and it’s nice to see so many readers embracing what I still am tempted to call books on tape.

If you’re an audio convert, or long-time fan: I just shared my favorite listening experiences of 2018, and we have great audiobook content here on the blog. If you have to pick one post, I’d go with 10 audiobooks so good you’ll want to fold another load of laundry, finish washing the dishes, or just sit in the driveway for 5 more minutes.

4. Bookstores have their own personalities

We always visit bookstores when we travel, and then this fall I headed out on book tour, so this year I visited a ton of independent bookstores. Visiting all these stores one after another highlighted how different they are—in staff, in selection, in vibe. (Pictured above: Monkey and Dog Books in Fort Worth, an utterly delightful book tour stop.)

I learned that the thing I most appreciate in a bookstore is bookish enthusiasm. Hard to define, but you know it when you feel it, and some stores were crackling with it.

5. Your hair knows when you’re stressed.

I went to see my regular stylist for a trim near the end of this fall’s book tour adventures. Halfway through my cut, she asked, “Have you been under a lot of stress lately? I can see it in your hair.”

Book tour was great, but good things are stressful, too, and I wasn’t sure whether I should feel appalled or validated that my body was registering that this was an unusual season for me.

(I told this story to an author friend, who said, “My stylist said the same thing to me!” That felt validating.)

6. What works for you may or may not work for me. 

I’ve noticed this about significant things, like getting my rhythms and routines right. Some practices that seem to work for everyone else have not worked for me this year, and it took me a while to realize it. I’ve also noticed it about the small things, like when the new-to-me winter hair relief shampoo with thousands of five-star reviews destroyed my hair.

7. I learn a ton when I travel.

I’ve been posting about what I learned at the end of every month this year. This year I noticed that I always accumulate a long list of things I learned when I travel: new experiences lead to new people, new ideas, new discoveries. 

8. I hate going; I like being there.

Speaking of travel: I traveled a lot this year, and as my stylist noticed, it was stressful. Being off routine is always hard; I also hate to fly and am not keen on road trips. (Confined spaces aren’t my thing.)

It’s helped me to see that once I’m there—wherever there is—I enjoy being there. (New people, new places, new experiences!) That makes it easier to tolerate the getting there.

9. I can fit 8 days’ worth of stuff in a carry-on. 

This is decidedly prosaic, but travel is less stressful if you’re nimble, and that means packing light. At first I thought I could squeeze a week’s worth of summer clothes in one bag, because the season’s clothes are thinner and take up less space. But then I managed to do it in cold weather, too. (Thank you, packing cubes.)

At a book festival recently, one author told me she packed for twenty-one days in a carry-on for her own book tour. She’s going to need to give me lessons before I’m ready for that, but for now I’m happy with my eight days.

10. Don’t discount the simple stuff.

I started the year with my annual physical, and one of my top concerns is always mental health. My doctor started by urging me to do two things that couldn’t be simpler—or, according to her, more important for long-term health: take a walk every day, and drink plenty of water. 

I’m prone to think complicated problems demand complicated solutions (and my doctor had a few ideas on that front), but it’s a mistake to discount simple solutions.

What did YOU learn in 2018?

P.S. 10 things I learned in 2017, and 10 things I learned on book tour.


Leave A Comment
  1. Abby says:

    Ah! I was at Monkey & Dog! That was such a fun evening!

    One thing I learned (from your podcast!) was how to manage my holds in the Libby app. I did not know that I could suspend holds. No longer do I have ALL the books dropping in my Kindle that I’ve been waiting on forever, more than I can read in the time I have them. I also learned how to extend the borrow time to 21 days. These two things (Plus the fact that Libby tells you how many weeks it will be till you get your book) have completely transformed my reading life. I can plot out my books for the next few weeks/months without them piling on and overwhelming me. Now my problem is borrowing physical books (something I have started this year again) and forgetting to cancel the requests when they drop in my Libby app as an audiobook or ebook first.

  2. Susan Craig says:

    I learned that a tragedy brings unexpected blessings. And I learned that there are more good people in the world than bad. Can’t wait for 2019.

      • Janean says:

        Um, TOTALLY worse! Now I have to worry about INVISIBLE spiders? ??‍♀️ I abandoned peace lilies because they get those little white bugs. ? I think I’ve concluded that I prefer all nature on the other side of the window. I do worry though that this says something bad about me…like people who don’t like animals. I secretly suspect there’s something wrong with them. But I do have a dog, so ??‍♀️

  3. Amber says:

    This year I learned how hard marriage (/life?) can really get. And that’s with no tragedies or real hardship—just lots of change and navigating new things. I learned too that counseling is less about gleaning wisdom from a stranger and more about prioritizing and making space for yourself.

  4. Sue says:

    I’m just so glad to hear that someone else also still says (or wants to) “books on tape”!
    From the pictures, are you one of the people who takes the jackets off books? I take them off while I read them, so I won’t bend or mess them up, but then I put them back on when I put it on the shelf. Which I think defeats the purpose of protecting the book while you read, but how effective was that ever going to be, anyway? I want the cover to be pristine.

  5. Kate Steele says:

    going to have to practice the 8 days in a carry-on; definitely not there!

    I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2017 so this has definitely been a year of learning how to let go, how to focus on me, my physical AND mental health. I have learned how to say no and let things go that don’t work, help or sustain me.

    I have tried to be very intentional in letting stress go. Everytime I went to a Dr, they would say my BP was high throughout – well, no SH** Sherlock!!

  6. Elise says:

    I was a huge fan of audiobooks when I was a teenager – when they actually were books on tape. As an adult, and especially as a parent with so many bids for my attention, I find it harder to concentrate on audiobooks. But one thing I have learned this year is that audio is great for re-reading old favorites. If my attention wanders for a minute, I haven’t lost the story. There is also something very comforting about hearing a familiar story read aloud. During the holiday season, I have found it delightful and soothing to listen to Anne of the Island, A Christmas Carol, and The Wind in the Willows – all old friends, and fun to revisit.

  7. Jeanine says:

    Would *love* to read a post about your favorite book stores around the country. We love to travel and have a few cities we visit repeatedly. It would be great to have a list to save for future travel, and to see if any of our favorites match up! (Old Fox Books in Annapolis, MD, Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, MN.)

  8. Jennifer Anderson says:

    I like those simple solutions from your dr. Enjoy your posts and reading recommendations always. And I am a HUGE audiobook fan. Otherwise, I’d never have time to read since my hands usually have to be busy with something. Just sitting and reading is a rare occurrence the past few years, but I am thankful for another way to enjoy good books!

  9. Lisa says:

    I learned that even though I may try….I really can’t do everything. I’ve learned to say no. I’ve learned to take my time and slow down. I’ve learned that eventually, laundry will get done and house cleaned(because I won’t stand for it otherwise!) I’ve learned I need my me time and I use it!

  10. Claudia says:

    I’m currently reading your book “Reading People” and learning so much from it. A lot of ahh’s and realizations but also things helping me grow and in making life-changing decisions. Thank you!
    Also learned the joy of audio books. I always thought it’s cheating until I came across The Read-Aloud Revival podcast and learned that it’s ok and that audio books too count.
    PS. Got to visit your town Louisville, KY this year for an extended weekend with my daughters when my younger one ran at the Youth XC Coaches National Championship. Beautiful town from what we saw and sooo quiet compared to noisy and ever-busy east-coast cities like Philadelphia.
    I’ve also started a book journal and was shocked when I asked for them at B&N and the sales personnel didn’t even know what they were. Frustrated by what’s available I made my own, like you.
    Happy New Year!

  11. Marcia says:

    I am currently reading “The Diary of a Bookseller” by Shaun Bythell. He bought a second-hand bookstore in Wigtown, Scotland. Thought you would find it funny and interesting.

  12. Leanne Penny says:

    Spending the morning reading up on some intentional and proactive ideas to approach the new year. And Hey I’m a day BEFORE New Years eve this year so… great for me!
    So I’m a pessimist and my first thought is to tell you that nothing worked for me in 2018, but that can’t be true.

    So here are a few

    1) Pet the Cat- we have a loud cat who isn’t going anywhere anytime. He thinks I’m his mom ( I think) and the second I get up he meows and follows me, Sometimes he just wanders the house meowing. I think he wants to wake the kids up. For years 7 years I’ve shushed him and bemoaned the cat. SHUT UP! Now I sit and pet the Cat, I find something I can so seated (if I can) and pet him. He’s quit and I get a purring cat on me, which honestly I would still prefer not to have, but I guess this boils down to if you can’t beat them join them?
    Yes he’s on me right now purring like a small machine.

    2) Go to the office- this is a lot like your leave the house one, I love to putter around the house especially when it’s empty but while it’s THE BEST it’s not productive and it leaves me scrambling last minute at other times.

    3) Do the worst stuff first- When I do the most unpleasant thing on my to-do list first, I can do everything else with a sense of relief that it’s not that thing. That thing for be is usually bathroom cleaning and animal cleanup – so basically all this poo and pee….

  13. I feel like 2018 taught me a lot of hard life lessons. The ones that come to mind are: (1) sometimes hard work will go unnoticed, but that doesn’t mean give up; (2) there are times where you will need to create your own opportunities; (3) sometimes the simplest things are the best; and (4) nature is almost always the best medicine.

  14. Donna says:

    Great job on #9: fitting 8 days’ worth of stuff in a carry-on! I get that Packing Cubes are HOW you pack, I’d love for you to do a post showing us WHAT you pack for 8 days. I think it would be a good challenge for me to consider next time I’m packing to fly somewhere.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.