Come on, own up, we all have that shelf of shame. The one full of ‘must-reads’ and £1 classics from the charity shop that sit perpetually gathering dust. Everybody talks about writer’s block, but it’s just as easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to reading.
For those that don’t have to read, it’s easy to make excuses and put it off when there are no deadlines and no obvious consequences if you have a dry spell for a month or two.
However, from asking around, and very much from personal experience, the main cause for reader’s block seems to be the pressure of being required to read. Whether for university/college or for work, it can suck the enjoyment out of reading and even the greatest prose can become a chore to get through.
The solution? Downsize and diversify:
How to reinvigorate your literary metabolism
Short stories. Hefty novels can be intimidating, if you find yourself longing for the end of the chapter rather than anticipating it, then try something shorter. It’s always good to go back to basics and opt for the tried-and-tested: head to ClassicShorts.
There’s no such thing as listener’s block. Listen to a short story from newyorker.com‘s archives, Charles D’Ambrosio’s The Point wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
Poetry. Literature in it’s most easily digestible form. Try Brian Turner’s ‘At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center‘ or look at Carol Rumen’s poem of the week.
Read the news. Anything that gets you in to reading regularly is a good thing. Pick up the i for 20p. If nothing else the depressing reality will drive you to discover a more amiable fictional one.
Go digital. We don’t go anywhere without smartphones anymore. Take your books with you: If you don’t own a dedicated ereader then a lot of classics are free on Kindle/Google Play Books etc. (Interestingly, I’ve seen nooks sell for under £30 recently…) For more smartphone apps check out my Writer’s Toolbox page.
Things worth remembering
It’s okay to not like something. Don’t finish something out of obligation; if you don’t like it, ditch it.
Stop making excuses and find the time. Read on the train, read on the toilet, read while you wait for the dentist.
Be realistic. If you’re feeling guilty because you haven’t read in a while, don’t try to kick-start with War and Peace or Ulysses.
And most importantly, when you hit the literary wall: downsize and diversify.