Friday, April 24, 2015

Reader Ramble: How I Deal with a Reading Slump

There are seasons in life when I have so much time and motivation that I'm able to average a book every day or two.  I always feel so accomplished as I see my TBR shelf shrink, and I love to be able to spend an entire day lounging about with a book.

However, there are other times in life when I can't find it within myself to read.  Either I can't find the focus or I'm lacking the energy.  Or sometimes I'm just too busy to dedicate hours to leisure reading.  This has been true for me for the past six months or so, and I've developed a few strategies to help me through these reading slumps.

  1. Know thyself.

    By this I mean that it's important to identify why you're reading has fallen off.  Are you too busy?  Are you distracted by something else?  Are you being lazy?  Once I know why I'm not reading, I can figure out how to encourage and motivate myself.

  2. Have realistic expectations.

    Nothing can kill a spirit quite like having unrealistic expectations.  This is true in life and in reading.  You have to take an honest look at your situation and assess what you can reasonably expect of yourself.  You may have been able to average two books a week freshman year, but now you're a senior, so things have to slow down.  Or maybe you're newly married or have a baby or a new job.  Whatever it is, we all have to adapt as our lives change.  Our reading habits are not excluded.

  3. Make a change.

    I used to be unable to leave a book unread.  I would push through it, forcing myself.  This was especially true if the book in question was a classic or literary fiction.  Now, however, I realize that I am a mood-reader, and sometimes when I am not enjoying a book, it's not because it's bad; it just doesn't fit my mood in the moment.

    So, if you're not into what you're reading, don't force it.  Lay it aside for another day, and pick up something else.  Perhaps even try a new genre because you may be tired of reading the same things.

  4. Have a "snack".

    Recently, I have come to see the merit in easy reads.  Of course, I will always be a proponent of weighty reads with important messages and themes.  But, currently, I often lack the energy to focus on a good piece of literary fiction or dense classic.  Yet, I want to stay in the habit of reading.  Therefore, I've started "snacking" on YA, emotional contemporaries, and comics.  Sometimes we just need to pick up an easy book, even if it doesn't have much literary substance.

  5. Visit old favorites.

    If I'm not interested in reading, many times picking up a book I already know that I love but haven't read in awhile will help get me out of my funk.  Currently, I am rereading the Harry Potter series, which has helped motivate me during this time of disinterest.  Whether it's a childhood favorite or a book you just read a few months ago, rereading stories that excite us but also don't carry the pressure a new book does can be refreshing.

  6. Change locations.

    Most of my reading is done in the comfort of my bed.  Sometimes, though, this can prove detrimental because I become more prone to napping, or I think of something in the house that needs to be done, so I go do that chore, which becomes ten more.  Before I know it, hours have passed, and I have only read a few pages.  During those times, I take my current book on a field trip to a cafe, the beach, a park, or anywhere else I will be able to concentrate better.

  7. Put away your phone.

    For the longest time, I refused to get a phone with data so that I couldn't be distracted by it.  A few months ago, however, I found that I needed one for the work that I do.  Though it's designed to help me be more productive, I have found that it more often serves as a distraction.  Not only can people get ahold of me through various different channels, but there is also Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, gaming, and all of the different apps.  Once I realized how quickly an hour could be wasted staring at my phone, I started shutting off my wifi and data, and filtering incoming calls any time I wanted to be productive.  You can do this simply by putting your phone on blocking or airplane mode.  Or, if you have little willpower, you can download applications that forcibly shut-off your connectivity for a preset amount of time.  It may seem drastic, but it helps significantly.

  8. Participate in a buddy/group read.

    Growing up, my best friend and I would read the same book at the same time over the phone.  Then we would hear each other's exclamations in real time and be able to discuss plot points or characters.  Though the real-time approach may be unrealistic, taking a solo read and turning it into a group activity can greatly enhance any book.  Readers can motivate each other and hold each other accountable.  And discussions really bring a book to life.  Anyone who loves to read loves to talk about what they are reading with others, and it's the best experience when we can bounce ideas, opinions, and questions off each other while simultaneously experiencing the same book.

  9. Pick up a collection of short stories.

    When I'm feeling lethargic when it comes to reading, instant gratification can serve me well.  Therefore, I recommend turning to short stories.  Not only do they give that feeling of accomplishment and closure that comes with finishing a complete story, but they demand little commitment.  Grab one by a favorite author or an anthology of authors both known and unknown to you.

  10. Don't force it.

    At the end of the day, reading is supposed to be enjoyable, not something to slog through.  Forced reading is for school, not leisure time.  So, when I've tried everything and nothing is working, I listen to myself.  Though it's hard because my pride says, "I'm a reader.  Books are always enjoyable, and I never get burnt out," sometimes I have to allow myself to set down the hardback and pick up the remote.  Or the game controller.  Or my phone.  Or whatever.  Being an adult already comes with enough demands and obligations without me making a monthly book quota another one.  So, lately, when I'm too tired and too disinterested, I turn to Korean television.  This is just another season, and pretty soon I'll be recharged and ready to pick up that book on my headboard.
Those are my recommendations for dealing with a reading slump.    How do you pull yourself out of a book ditch?  Share strategies in the comments below.

I've also recently posted ten spring book recommendations.


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Happy reading!