According to the dictionary, the definition of irony is “a state of affairs that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often wryly amusing as a result.” If you look it up, you’ll find a picture of a bookworm in a reading slump. Has anything ever been more contradictory?!
It’s not a new phenomenon, but it’s one that’s poorly understood and often hard to combat.
“You’re stuck in a reading slump?” your non-bookish friend might say. “Why don’t you just read something?!” But it’s not that simple! Much like writer’s block makes a writer uninspired, reader’s block is the sudden appearance of a lack of desire to read anything. Telling someone to just read something to get over it is about as helpful as being told to cheer up when you’re in a bad mood.
So how do we get over a reading slump?
According to psychologist Paul Silvia, giving reader’s block a name makes it worse. Like a horror movie monster that becomes real when you think about it, giving a reading slump attention only makes it more real.
“Naming something gives it object power,” Silvia has said. “People can overthink themselves into deep dark corners.” Therefore, what you need to realise is that your reading slump is just a temporary situation, and not an underlying condition that will continue to affect you. Think of a slump as a common cold – annoying, but you know you’ll shake it pretty soon. You just have to ride it out until then.
In the meantime, there are a few things you can do to help!
Ask yourself why you’re reading
What makes you pick up a book? Is it because your friend keeps telling you that you’ve got to read this book she’s been raving about? Maybe it’s because you’ve got a Goodreads challenge and you don’t want to fall behind your target. Perhaps there’s a movie adaptation in cinemas that you want to read the book counterpart of before you see it.
These are all uninspiring reasons that take the joy out of reading! You have to read for you. Reading should be fun, not an obligation, a competition or a race. Remember the last time you read a book for you, and had that giddy feeling of not being able to put it down because you were so hooked. That’s what reading’s about. Remember that when you come to pick up a book, and don’t let it overface you!
Step out of your comfort zone
If you’re feeling uninspired or perhaps put off reading due to a disappointing book, try mixing it up a little. I usually read crime/thrillers or fantasy books, so when I need to shake a reading slump, I tend to go for a fluffy, contemporary style book that I wouldn’t normally give the time of day to. I recently read the To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before trilogy, and despite me turning my nose up at it before, I flew through all three and the light-heartedness acted as a palette cleanser between books.
I always find light, fluffy books work well for this because you don’t have to give them 110% of your attention – if you zone out for a paragraph or two, you’ll catch up pretty easily. That’s why this series rescued me when Stephen King’s It became a monster not even King was expecting – a 1,138 page, 445,134 word brick that was so intense my attention started to waver and my will to read it started to unravel! It’s okay to stop and have a breather if you’re not feeling a book mid-way through.
Try something short
Sometimes, looking at a chunky book can overface you and make a slump worse. A big book to a bookworm in a slump is a bit like signing up for a marathon when you’ve only ever run for the train! Start small – try some novellas, or perhaps a book of poetry or comment. It’s a great way to learn back-stories for characters in books you like, or to envelope yourself in the world around a character. Coffee table books full of gorgeous photos can also be quick reads which set your creative cogs whirring and ready to try something bigger afterwards.
Reread something you love
Reading doesn’t always have to be about adding books to your library. Sometimes, all you need is an old favourite! Books that evoke a sense of nostalgia or throw me back to a happy time always kick me out of a slump – Harry Potter really is magic! 😉
No matter how deep in the clutches of a slump you are, your bookworm instincts will find it hard not to feel a little bit like a kid in a candy store if you let loose in a book shop! Go into the store and let your instincts guide you – buying a new book could be just what you need to do to shake a slump.
Organise your TBR (to-be-read) pile
It’s likely that as an avid bookworm, you have hundreds of books sitting unread around your house. Why not go through them? You might find a book you forgot about that you really want to read, or come to terms with the fact you’re not going to read that book your friend recommended you three years ago. There’s no shame in having a clear-out; organised shelves can help clear a slump, as well as space for new books!
Picking up a book with a friend can inject some fun when you’re in a slump – set a chat time to discuss the chapter you’ve just read and let your enthusiasm come out! Chatting about plot twists or even just which characters you like can kick your brain back into reading gear.
Magazines and audio books
Reading doesn’t always have to be books. There’s so many other options! Try a magazine, some comment pieces online, or an audio book. Podcasts are great too, and there’s even theatrical ones available that are like movies for your ears! Thanks to the huge variety of formats we have available nowadays, reading doesn’t have to be physical, paper books.