Around the beginning of 2016, something awful happened. I stopped reading.
I wasn’t sure why, but I couldn’t pick up a book anymore. I’ve been an avid reader my whole life and it was pretty startling to realise that three months, four months, six months had gone by without me opening a new book.
In retrospect, there were lots of reasons why. At the time, I was on a particularly difficult job which took up all my mental energy. And at the end of 2015, we had a tragedy in the family which completely shattered me.
But those weren’t the only reasons. My approach to reading had changed. I’d turned reading into a chore. And when you’ve got tv shows, computer games, Youtube, etc, none of which requires any energy, you find reading slips down the list.
I’m glad to say I’ve turned things around this year and I’m back to my old self. But in the process, I hit on these five tips to pull yourself out of a reading slump.
- If you’re not enjoying the book, STOP READING IT. I don’t know why this one was so hard for me to grasp. I forced myself to read and scolded myself for not enjoying it. The fact is, not every published book is going to be a work of art. Or maybe it’s not the book for this moment in your life. Would a nineteen-year-old get as much out of Bridget Jones’s Diary as a thirty-year-old? Of course not. Put it down, start something new.
- It’s okay to have reading homework, but don’t sacrifice reading for pleasure. I was reading the classics and ‘how to write’ books in order to broaden my understanding of literature. Basically, I was giving myself homework. But I sacrificed the fun books I really wanted to read and that turned reading into a chore. Which ties into my next point.
- Have more than one book on the go. Again, I don’t know why, but I’d always avoided reading multiple books at once. I’d read one, finish it and start the next. But as I say, reading homework turns reading into a chore unless you’re also reading for fun.
- Try reading short stories. There has been a trend lately, especially in fantasy, towards the massive epic novel. I’m a huge fan of them, but honestly, if you’re trying to hack your way through one book at a time, it can be overwhelming. Sometimes you get bored or over saturated in that world and you need a break. If that’s the case, try short stories, or even smaller novels. It’ll kick start your reading again if you can experience a complete story over a couple of days, rather than fighting your way through the same one for weeks.
- Branch out of your usual genre. I’ve always read a lot of fantasy and didn’t see the need to read much else. But I was wrong. To be a writer, you have to read across a board spectrum of genres, whether you intend to write them or not. You’ll develop your understanding of writing immensely and who knows, you’ll probably stumble across your new favourite book in a genre you’d never before considered.
Have you ever been in a reading slump? How did you get out of it? What are you reading at the moment? Let us know!