When Pleasure Becomes Difficult   6 comments

We’ve talked about writer’s block. Have you ever gotten reader’s block?

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Defining Terms

Image result for image of reader's block

I’d never heard of “reader’s block” before the question was asked, so, definitions are in order:

  • Readers Block is a phenomenon where a person cannot proceed with a book. They are frequently distracted from the book or after flipping a page realize that they have been reading individual words mechanically without processing and understanding the meaning of the text in their mind. It has been named in sync with Writer’s Block, where a writer suddenly loses interest in writing.
  • Reader’s Block
  • This can happen because:
  • a) You have no interest in the book.
  • b) The book is itself bad and not written to generate interest.
  • c) You are too tired and exhausted to read pretty much anything.

What is Common To Humankind

The answer is – yes. Pretty much everything other human beings have suffered, I have suffered also. I’ve said I don’t believe in writer’s block, but that’s because I’ve never allowed myself to be mugged by it. That doesn’t mean I’ve never experienced the processes behind it, but that I’ve taken control of them and used them to my advantage.

Reader’s block, however ….

I don’t know when I first experienced it, but I do know when I became aware of it for the first time.

In high school, a friend gave me a copy of The Hobbit. For a fantasy and science fiction geek reader, it was right up my alley and I eagerly sat down to read it. I read the first page. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until college when someone was raving about The Hobbit and I felt like I couldn’t claim to be a fantasy geek if I didn’t read it. I picked it up and I read maybe a page and a half. I set it down. I didn’t pick it up again until my daughter was a new reader and she begged me to read the story to her.

I read 10 pages to her that night and then she had to go to bed and I finished the book before morning, then read it aloud to her over several nights following.

The Hobbit starts with an info-dump and I struggled to get past it to the meat the story. It kept boring me and that boredom “blocked” me from the story. I didn’t have a teacher (how I got through the info-dump that starts The Tale of Two Cities) or my dad (who expected me to read all the classics) pushing me to keep reading and so, I didn’t — until a seven-year-old pushed me to do it and then I got past the hard part and found a lovely story.

Too Rich for My Blood

But I’ve also blocked on Conceived in Liberty by Murray Rothbard because it just is so historically dense. It’s hard to read big chunks of it because it’s so rich. Reading is an intellectual exercise, and not always an easy one. I’ve never encountered a book that demanded more than my intellect could handle, but I’ve definitely been humbled by an occasional struggle with how smart a writer might be. I am still reading Conceived. It’s just that I’ve learned to take it in small bites.

Life Happens While You’re Reading a Book

When my son was a baby and my daughter was an elementary schooler, time for reading became the constraint. Yeah, there were the frequent “Mommy, will you read this book for me?” moments, but the times to sit down and read a book for pleasure just wasn’t happening. There was about five years there when reading for pleasure was a forlorn hope and writing was squeezed into minutes between life events. I totally don’t regret not having much time to read during those years.

Try a New Genre

Sometimes there’s no explanation but that you’re tired of reading. Frankly, I’d been in a reading slump for a while this summer. I had several books to read and I wasn’t reading any of them. I felt badly about not cracking the spine on Brandon Sanderson’s Oathbringer after I’d longed to read it for over a year. Then a friend suggested something totally outside of my usual interest – a romance. I do occasionally enjoy mysteries or thrillers that have romantic elements, but pure romance where the focus is man meets woman and they fall in love, usually after disliking each other for a while — naw, not my style. I am a skeptic of Happily Ever After, especially for people who have nothing in common but sexual desire. But my friend suggested I read Ghosted because it involves a second-chance romance between a recovering alcoholic and his baby mama who is deeply angry at him. I could feel myself yawning even as I opened the Kindle file, but I truly enjoyed the story — probably because it was more true-to-life than most romances — and that got me back reading other books (almost entirely non-romances — still haven’t changed my opinion on the genre). I realized something from my foray into this genre. Several of the reviews for Ghosted mentioned it was long. For me 450 pages is nothing. I’m a fat fantasy reader. I guess that’s pretty long for a romance (which might be why I keep thinking “nobody falls in love that quickly”). But — wait, maybe that was why I was in a reading slump. Fat fantasies are a commitment. You start it and it will consumer your evenings for a while – days, sometimes weeks. And maybe that’s why I couldn’t start it. I felt overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. After I finished Ghosted, I still wasn’t ready to read Oathbringer.

Revisit an Old Favorite

Rereading an old favorite is one of the best ways to cure the book blahs. When you revisit an old favorite, you remember why you love to read, how a fictional character could resonate so deeply with you, what ingenious word-play exists in the world, and what diabolical drama a writer is capable of concocting. You can reignite your love of reading. After Ghosted got me reading again, I went through several old favorites that have been sitting on my shelves for years and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I then cracked open Oathbringer and finished it in about 10 days.

Downside

The downside of igniting your love of reading when you’re a writer is that you may be inspired to write your next novel. Or is that an upside? Hmmm?

6 responses to “When Pleasure Becomes Difficult

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  1. Yeah, sometimes we just cannot be bothered to continue with a book if it’s badly written, boring, or just in a genre we don’t like. I find my sales increase in the winter, and so perhaps others also have a reading slump in the summer. I do too, as there’s usually too many other things going on.

    Like

    • I have never had a reading device that works outside. It’s always too bright (or too cold when it’s actually dark enough to see the screen). And today, with so many people using e-readers and laptops, the concept of “beach read” has not to not work so well. So, yeah, summer slump. My best quarter is always the autumn quarter (October through December, although last year Jan through March wasn’t bad).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A lot of good ideas, I find a change of genre resets my brain, very often I can go back and finish something that I was blocked with.

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  3. I need to pick up more “brain books” to read- biographies, histories, etc., but I have such limited time to devote to them that it just doesn’t happen.

    Like

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