Friday, March 13, 2009

Reader's block: there is such a thing

Really, Nate? Barbara Walters? Really?

We've all heard of writer's block and mental block. There's another kind that refers to the feeling when you just can't find the will to pick up a book much less finish it -- the reader's block. Based on experience, reader's block is actually quite common among those who read books frequently. If you find that you can't decide on what to read next, then you have reader's block. If you can only manage to read a few pages of your books, you have reader's block too. If you buy books not to read them but to display them in your shelf, you don't have reader's block; you're just a capitalist.

Unlike writer's block, reader's block doesn't go away if you do drugs, have sex indiscriminately, and wallow in self-pity. And unless you review books for a living, reader's block is really no big deal. It has no drastic effect on your income, which could not be said if you're a writer suffering from writer's block. Nevertheless, there are quite a few things that you can do to combat reader's block.

Try to vary your reading preferences, or at least read works of other authors. We all have our favorite authors and we usually fall into the trap of sticking to them. I know people who read only the Twilight books over and over again. A friend prefers to read no one else except Grisham. A girl in the office will read anything by Nicholas Sparks and nothing else. If you find yourself feeling unsatisfied with the latest work of your favorite authors, why not check out other authors writing in the same genre. Stephen King may be the most-famous horror novelist, but that doesn't mean he's the best in the field. When you don't have the stamina to pick up another King novel, sample the works of Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Poppy Z. Brite.

Read the books you find enjoyable. Don't pick up Aravind Adiga's The White Tiger simply because it won the Booker. Adiga's brutal treatment of the subject of societal class in modern-day India may come off as a bit shocking and insensitive. Everyone these days reads Palahniuk, Murakami, Coehlo, and Kinsella, but that doesn't mean that you have to read them if you're not fond of gore, improbable scenarios, self-help and inspirational themes, and shopping. Of course, sometimes you do need to experiment. Pick up a book whose genre, author, and topic you're not too familiar about. Perhaps you would find that one enjoyable.

Skip the books for now and read magazines. Books can really be text heavy and sometimes it takes willpower to finish them. Magazines, on the other hand, have lighter material. The articles are short and you can choose the sections that you'd like to read. Magazines provide that much needed distraction. Also, you may come across book reviews in these magazines, which would entice you to read that particular book. Magazines, however, are way too pricey for my taste. I just hang out in cafes and read their several months-old magazines.

Read poems, non-fiction, graphic novels, business books, and cookbooks. Most of us read novels and reading novels can exact a toll on our senses. We just can't suspend our disbelief every time we pick up a work of fiction. Freakonomics is a highly enjoyable read. I usually give it away as gifts, and I haven't received a negative feedback yet. Poetry collections are perfect reads during lunch time.

If all else fails, just stop reading altogether for the mean time. The reader's block usually last for a few days and after which time, you're ready to hit your books again.


Tipsy Traveler said...

Thanks for these tips Peter! I love reading so much that I am feeling incomplete without reading. I did make an effort to read The Outcast today, and hooray, I managed 50 pages! It is a pity, because the writing is good, but my mind just can't seem to stay still enough to let a word float in...sigh.

PS: Manila must be nice...:D. It's next on my travel list.