Overcoming Readers Block

Reader’s Block: a term used to describe the period of time when no book can maintain your attention.

We’ve all experienced it at some point; the times when you just can’t focus on a book or nothing interests you, so you turn to the easy lifestyle of TV. There’s nothing wrong with TV, of course, and it is a respectable and impressive medium of entertainment and story-telling. But nothing quite beats the feeling of turning the final page of a book and closing it with a triumphant sense of victory and accomplishment, am I right?

Like many others studying English in higher education, I have been forced to read compulsory books so that I can analyse them and apply literary theories to them. For someone who used to adore reading fiction, like myself, this was traumatising. It was fascinating to learn and discover how in-depth studies of literature work, but it completely extinguished the love for reading that I had. I wouldn’t say that I binge watched television as a result, but I certainly started to watch more of it and read less.

As my dissertation was submitted and I realised that I no longer had to read books for analytical purposes, I thought about my long lost love of reading and wondered how I could get it back; indeed, if it would ever come back. In my final year of university I had tried picking books up for enjoyment, and I just couldn’t get past the first chapter! My desperation to read again even led me to forums on the web and to seek advice online about how to overcome my readers block. But the methods I found online were quite different to my approach. I started off by reading auto biographies, as they are fairly easy to read and not too demanding on the brain. Not to mention that they were written by some of my favourite celebrity figures. I read several of these, including: Billy, James Corden, Lee Evans, Brendan O’Carroll, Mack the Life.

I found reading non-fiction from some of my favourite celebrity figures was really enjoyable, and it gave me the opportunity to learn more about people I had been inspired by in the past. Once I had a few of those under my belt, I felt like I had a level of momentum with reading, and that allowed me to pick up my first fictional book in years. I started off small, with some short stories, before reading the original Mrs Browne collection, some early James Patterson, a bit of Roddy Doyle and David Moody’s apocalyptic series, Hater.

I think the key tactic to overcoming a bout of readers block is to pick something you enjoy; something that you don’t feel compelled to read. Another part of the stigma of being an English student is the expectation to read dense classics such as Dickens and Austen. The novels by these authors are classics in their own right, but times change and expectations of novels and writing styles change also. Instead of reading a dense novel to satisfy an unnecessary expectation, I read comedy and real life accounts. The more of these books that I finished and shelved, the more confidence I gained with reading, and doing so for fun. I dabbed my hand in different genres such as crime, comedy and horror. All of a sudden I was getting through one, sometimes two books a week.

Now I can safely say that I am an active reader again, and with the lack of coursework and university commitments in my life, I can fit some leisurely reading in to my day as well as TV commitments. The Walking Dead is back on TV, and I am working my way through Six Feet Under and 30 Rock. Currently I am finding time at least once a week to get through chunks of Me and Mine, by Anna May Mangan, and I am happy with this leisurely arrangement.

Have you been affected by reader’s block recently and found a way to overcome it? If so, let me know in the comments section below! I’d love to hear of any different methods!


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