One of the unexpected aspects of spending most of our time at home practicing social distancing has been a genuine struggle to focus and do things that we used to do. I’ve been feeling distracted and find it hard to concentrate, let alone finish a book like I used to. Basically, I’ve been in one giant reading slump for a while and from chatting with several fellow readers who are experiencing similar changes in their lives, I am not the only one.
It goes without saying but this isn’t a “normal” reading slump. Everyone processes change, stress, and uncertainty differently and changes in your regular reading habits can be part of that process. Personally, not feeling like reading felt very strange to me. Books are usually my go-to comforts when things are stressful, and especially now that things are particularly stressful, I wanted to want to read, but many times simply…didn’t. The process of readjusting and finding my reading groove has been a gradual and non-linear one. There are still plenty of days when I still don’t feel like reading. There is no magic bullet to overcome a slump, let alone one like this, but these are some of the small things I’ve tried to rekindle my enthusiasm for reading.
If you don’t feel like reading. Don’t.
This is honestly the biggest tip. There is nothing worse than forcing yourself to slog through something that doesn’t grab your attention. Feel like watching TV instead? Go for it. Really into podcasts or puzzles instead? That’s great! You aren’t any less of a reader if you don’t feel like reading right now or haven’t been reading as much as you normally do. Really, it’s okay to take a break. Reading should be something that is fun, not homework.
Read what you want.
If you do decide to pick something up, go for something you like. It can be a particular trope or genre that you love and know will get you hooked. Basically, I recommend picking up your bookish equivalent of comfort food. Now is probably not the time to pick up that 500-word classic on your bucket list that you have been putting off for forever. At least not for me. I prefer indulging in all of my tried-and-true tropes. Give me all the friends to lovers, marriage of convenience, there’s only one bed in the hotel set in the Scottish Highlands please!
Read Short stories/ Novellas/Graphic novels.
Short stories, novellas and graphic novels have been my go-to in these stressful times when I find my attention span is much shorter than what it used to be. Reading shorter stories and graphic novels still gives me the gratification of enjoying and finishing a good story just in more manageable pieces. When you’ve picked up and put down a couple of books and felt discouraged, finishing an entire story can be a great reading ego boost.
There’s nothing like a buddy read to get you hyped up about reading. Picking a book that you and a friend are both excited about and reading it together can be a great way to build up excitement for reading. It is also a great way to be social and keep in touch with friends virtually and catch up with each other during social distancing. Buddy reading books and discussing them with friends has become one of the things I look forward to the most the
Try being a Reading polygamist.
I am generally a book monogamist, that is, I tend to just read one book at a time and have always wondered how people who juggle a stack of books can manage to do it. However, recently I have found that engaging in book polygamy (poly-reading?) has actually helped me quite a bit. I find that my attention span is a lot shorter and my interests seem to jump from one topic to another. Having several different books that I am reading at the same time lets me follow these whims without feeling like I need to finish one book first.
One of the side effects of working from home, that I didn’t consider, is that I now spend a lot more time online and looking at screens. After a long day my eyes can definitely feel a little tired and the thought of picking up an e-reader or even a paperback can seem less appealing. Enter audio books. Audio books are perfect for when you need to take a break from your screen but still want to enjoy a good book. You listen to them on a walk, while cooking or doing puzzles. Basically, audio books are the perfect way to still read books when you don’t feel like reading.
I want to be clear; I’m not saying you should push yourself to read when you don’t feel like it. There are still plenty of days when I don’t feel like reading, or I just read a few pages and put the book down even if I am loving it and that’s okay. Reading should first and foremost be something to enjoy. There can be some pressure to feel like you need to be ultra-productive or be reading more than usual, which can be hard to let go of so please don’t forget to be kind to yourself. You can make reading work for you, however that might look like, and does not make you any less of a reader.