How to Conquer A Reading Block
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Written by: Anushka Mukherjee She works in media, is a writer and blogger nursing a constant need for more books, longer naps and solitude.
‘Voracious Reader’ – screams every single one of my social media bio, the hobbies section in my resume, a rehearsed answer to every nosy relative’s mumbled, “Beta, what do you do in your free time?” And all the while, I wonder how long I can keep up appearances, how long I can live this life of an imposter. Because the truth is – I’m the victim of frequent and long reading blocks. Much less of a voracious reader and much more of an angry, frustrated, nail-biting reader with diminishing perseverance. I’m sure it happens to the best of us, the best of voracious readers. I used to believe I was an exception for a while there. I believe you indulged in this fantasy too, at one point or the other. Up until a few years ago, when I had the privilege of free time and endless patience, I used to read whatever I could get my hands on, whichever cover seemed promising at my library, whichever title grabbed my attention. I can almost hear your sigh – we all had those days. It’s only natural for our priorities to change with the course of events in our lives. With a lot more studying and extracurricular, I started getting a lot less time to read at ease. The only time I did read was between classes and before bed – none of which did any justice to any of the poor books I read. And I get it – your work morning through evening, sometimes you have an early day tomorrow, sometimes you just do not have the right book. You see it lying on your nightstand, the top of your bookmark (a very prominent source of inducing not-reading-guilt) sneaking out though early sections of the book, and you think: tomorrow, for sure. Right then, you’re tired, you’re impatient, you’re feeling guilty and you’re hearing little pings coming from your phone. Tonight, a little Instagram stalking (or meme browsing, if you’re me) might just replace bedtime reading. And it’s not wrong – you shouldn’t read before bed if you’re too tired in the first place, reading block or no reading block. Lord knows you’re going to wake up tomorrow, no recollection of what you read, having folded the front cover in your sleep (the absolute worst thing to do), the bookmark lying far, far away in a desolate land. A morning of regrets. But we’ve grown up reading, haven’t we? We know, we know that lack of time, lack of interest, lack of patience can only stop us for so long.
If you’re anything like me, you need to read. To maintain sanity, to calm down, to have fun. Ever since I’ve been done with exams, I’ve had a lot of free time, but still been the a victim of a severe reading block. However, I was determined to get out of it, because what even is the point of a vacation if I can’t spend it reading in my pajamas all day long? This requires patience, determination, perseverance, passion. You can’t give up. You have to be driven. This is do or die. Do you want to fall into another reading block, watching new books being released and browsing nostalgically through bookstagram without reading these books yourself? DO YOU? No, siree, we do not. And that’s why I have a few words of wisdom, home grown remedies that helped me. I’m sure they’ll help you too.
READ LIGHT, NOT RIGHT
We’ve all been a victim of the classic ‘read right’ dilemma. When caught with a lowly Mills & Boons or, gasp – a Chetan Bhagat, many people often criticize our taste and we’re forced to ask ourselves – “Am I reading right? Should I even title myself as a reader if I’m reading this trash?” We’re ashamed to tell people what we’re reading. We’re ashamed to name a common, overrated author as a favourite one because that’ll just invite a snort. But remember: you read for pleasure, not to prove anything to anyone. This is the prime reason I’ve harsh criticiser of the goodread reading challenge as well. Please do not force yourself to rush through books to complete a challenge. Enjoy every page, gulp every word, make room in your heart and time in your lives for every character. They deserve it. Do not read something that is considered noble or intellectual or “right” (unless it is required reading for a class) just because it is so – read it because you think you’d enjoy it. Because you feel you’d come away from it learning something new. Because you’d understand something you didn’t before. But to fight your reading block, read something enjoyable. Something that’ll have you turning pages in a frenzy, force you carry your book with you to the dining table, kitchen, bathroom, something that’ll make you happy and remind you why you fell in love with reading in the first place. For me, that will always be sappy romantic young adult novels. Pick up your own Sappy Young Adult, or mythological fiction, or fantasy – and fall in love again.
Easy Peezy, lemon squeezy. If you’ve been reading (read: struggling) with a hardcover, switch to kindle. If you’ve been hopping book to book on your kindle, pick up an old paperback at the back of your bookshelf. If you’re anything like me and have been spending dazed nights finding fan fiction, do yourself a favour and buy a new book. Stroke the cover. Smell the fresh, new pages. Buy or make yourself a new bookmark. Treat your lady well. By which I mean, your book, of course. She deserves it, don’t you think? In short: make reading exciting. Build yourself new ways to come back to it. Go to a café to read, or a park. A new environment will only stimulate you to read more, read better, read passionately.
One of the things that makes you come back to reading is the prospect of analyzing it. Dissecting it. The prospect of bringing all the characters to life. Join online reading clubs or a real time one. Or pick a friend (read: sacrificial lamb) who loves you enough to go through this and ask him or her to read the same book as you so you can discuss it. Sometimes, the book is so amazing and you crave to talk about it to someone, and it often helps you love the book even more. If you’re short of friends who love reading (or short of friends in general, like me) you can try writing about the book (again, like me). Write reviews, fanfictions, letters to the author, character stories. Attaching yourself to books you like is a process of such love and fun. Not only does it get you into the book, but it gets you back into reading as well.
I’ve often seen people set deadlines for themselves, or fix rewards or punishments to enable better reading habits. Look, your book isn’t a bowl of food (though…that’s not a bad idea) and you’re not Pavlov. You can condition yourself to read better! If you feel annoyed with a book, if you just cannot read anymore – leave it. Grab another book, or come back to it. Forcing yourself to read through all the painful words can only aggravate your block. Just take a deep breath, put down the book, make yourself a cup of cold, cold coffee and watch television. Or do something else that’ll take your mind off of it. Don’t feel guilty, or angry or plain annoyed just because you can’t bring yourself to read. With conquering a reading block, there are no rules. No fixed punishments can negatively reinforce a love for reading. The only rule is to be patient. The best thing about a reading block is that if you’ve got it, it’s only because you love reading. A person who reads a book once in a while or reads only for class can never get a reading block – the state of not reading for him is just his perpetual state of existence.
So, if you’re suffering from a reading block, you definitely love reading. And if you love reading, you’ll come back to it no matter what. A reading block isn’t the end of it. Books are magic, you know it. You’ve grown up with this magic. With time and perhaps a little effort, you can come back to it. Feel the magic buzzing through your fingertips. Feel the magic of coming back to an old, loving friend.
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