Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at Jana's blog That Artsy Reader Girl
Since this week is a freebie week for Top Ten Tuesday, I want to discuss a topic that is on my mind. I have mentioned it multiple times throughout this year and it strikes fear in every librarian's and avid reader's heart--READING SLUMPS. As a avid reader, it is frustrating to me to go through blocks of time without being able or finding myself willing to get lost in a book. With that, comes even another two word phrase: READER GUILT. If you are not interested in the discussion and just want the list, feel free to scroll down over the first section to get to the list. :)
Reading slumps are natural--perhaps they are caused by a book hangover or a unlucky streak of bad books. Perhaps it is life causes: reading seems like too much work because of your schedule or because things are chaotic at work. I do recognize all these are valid reasons. Every avid reader goes through blocks of time when their reading slows down. Given the current pandemic, from what I have assessed through Twitter scrolling, Instagram scrolling, and BookTube, it seems that I am not alone in battling reading slumps--those of us avid readers prior to the pandemic seem to be struggling this year. I have seen the opposite happen with some who were not avid readers prior to the pandemic: they have discovered reading and are loving the escapism it is providing during this time we should be doing our part by staying home as much as we can. Rachael from Rachael Fryman (follow her BookTube channel if you have not already done so) and I have been chatting about these circumstances and she and I both agree this seems to be the commonality we are both seeing withing our reading worlds.
I feel a whole other level to my reading slumps and that is READER GUILT. Reader guilt stems from my career as a school librarian (or teacher librarian or library media specialist--whichever you like to be called or call your certified professional running your school library). While I know there are some that feel you can be a librarian in general and not be an avid reader, I find it is hard to do my job efficiently and to the best of my abilities without reading. I need to have vast knowledge bank of books to turn to when I am working with my students and teachers. I want to be able to do a quick 30 second to one minute booktalk about a book to "sell" it to the students, and to do this it is helpful to have read them first. I also have readers that have to be aware of content concerns. I try to be very open about content concerns as I read them because while it may not necessarily be something that bothers me or a trigger for me personally, I am respectful that some do have preferences or sensitivities different from my own. I want to be able to guide those students as needed.
I also experience reader guilt when I am reading books that are not applicable to my profession. With them not being relevant to my job, I can experience guilt that I am taking time away from books I could be reading that I can recommend to my students. However, I try (and sometimes that is a struggle) to remember that I am a person too and I need to be able to decompress and escape away and by reading something that does not fit my job, it can be relaxing. Along with this reader guilt could come in the form of being embarrassed by what you are reading--whether in public or because of your reading choices. In regards to feeling reader guilt over your choices or because you are worried about what you are reading--let that go. Honestly, most people are not paying attention to what you are reading. And even if they are--it is better to read what you enjoy than not at all.
What do I do to get myself back into a reading mood? Here are some tips I find that have worked for me to get out of a reading slump or survive the reader guilt of not reading:
Top Ten Tips I Use When I Find Myself in a Reading Slump:
Tip 1: Make it a goal to read or listen to a book everyday or something that makes sense for you. There are days when I have not wanted to read--stressed, migraine, whatever other reason--but I know I have this is a goal this year. Thus far, I am perfect--I have read or listened to a book everyday--all 204 of them as I write this. There are days I only can get a few pages read, it is better than nothing! There are literally a few days I have only managed 15-30 pages, but it is still reading. I think that there is a misconception that if we are not giving hours or hundreds of pages completed, than we are not really reading. To me this is not the case. Reading is reading, the point is that you are picking up a book in some format and reading. If everyday does not seem feasible, try every other day or read for three days each week. Setting a MANAGEABLE goal but one that challenges you might motivate you if you like setting and meeting goals or checking items off a list.
Tip 2: Schedule it into your day. I find that even with the pandemic, I have been crazy busy. Even with not going into school, I was up working earlier and longer than (most) of the days I was physically in school. While working at home I have been doing the shuffle many of us know about with balancing family, home, and work needs. It has been crazy! What I find is if I look at my calendar, I can find a time to schedule in time to read. I might not go as far as putting it on my calendar (usually I do not), but some might find if you put it on your calendar for a specific block of time for say 30 minutes after dinner or lunch, you will be more inclined to give yourself permission to read.
Tip 3: Listen to an audiobook. I have found that during the pandemic there are more times than usual that I have not been able to read because I cannot sit still or I cannot quiet my mind enough to want to read. This is when I turn to an audiobook. I will put one on and go for a long (or short) walk, work in the gardens, clean the house, do dishes, laundry, organize photos, or whatever I can do that does not need stellar focus. If my scrapbooking stuff was not packed up, this would be an ideal time to be working on them but all my stuff is packed up due to redoing our basement. Even if you are not a usual consumer of audiobooks, you might find that you like them if you find the right style. I LOVE audiobooks and am working on a post giving you my favorite audiobooks.
Tip 4: Return to your comfort zone. We all have comfort genres or books that we find ourselves eager to read or love overall. I say these are like my candy books--those that are easily consumed to my personal reading tastes. For me, I usually turn young adult contemporary or romance fiction or adult romance. They are usually quick reads for me and if picked with my tastes in mind, usually are sure bets. I go in spurts with both these genres--I can get burned on them if I read too many in a row.
Tip 6: Change up the format. This one may be like what is she talking about. If you tend to read prose novels, then maybe you need to change it up and try a different format. Try an audiobook, a nonfiction with gorgeous photographs, a novel-in-verse, an epistolary book, or a graphic novel. Just like working out, if you change the routine you do it may shock your body into responding more than it has been (that dreaded plateau).
Tip 7: Switch up the genre. This goes against what I said above in reading from your comfort zone, but as I mentioned, sometimes you can get bogged down by reading the same genre over and over. By switching up the subgenre or even to an entirely different genre, perhaps this will be enough to peek your interest. That is the biggest thing--trying to find something that will peek your fickle reading self at the moment. If I have been reading a lot of realistic contemporary I will try a dystopian, science fiction, paranormal book. Likewise, if I read too many of the latter choices, I get in a funky reading mood and will change it up to a mystery, contemporary, or romance.
Tip 8: Find "found" time. I have found that time only gets crazier and we will always have something that might take more precedence over reading. On days like this, I look for those "found" moments I can eek out to read. Perhaps I am standing in line at the grocery store so I will have an audiobook on me. I have to go up to my specialist doctor monthly for treatments, so I would listen to an audiobook during my drive and have a book to read as well. If I am waiting for an appointment out in my car (instead of inside now), I have a book with me so I can put down my phone and resist the mindless scrolling through social media. It may not seem like much but if you find three 10 minute blocks of time over the course of the day, suddenly you have read 30 minutes and however many pages that you would not have been able to do otherwise. So I suggest you think about when you have time in your schedule when you are (mindlessly) scrolling through your phone or waiting for something to start or your turn?
Tip 9: Think of it as a treat--and have an actual treat in your favorite reading spot. I find that if I treat reading as a treat--something to look forward to, then I am more inclined mentally to want to read. Sometimes I even treat myself while I am reading with a favorite snack or glass of wine or cider. I also find I can treat myself by reading in my favorite reading spot--out on my screened porch. And if I need even more of an incentive, I will combine my favorite spot with my favorite treat AND my favorite drink too. :) Perhaps the next time you are in a slump or experience reader's guilt, try sitting down with your favorite treat in your favorite reading spot.
Tip 10: Give yourself time. Lastly, recognize that sometime it is just not the best time to read or listen to a book. It is alright! Give yourself permission to walk away. What I usually try to do though is to make sure I try again later after I have done something else such as listen to music or a podcast while walking/gardening/cleaning, after writing, or working that maybe I will find that I am ready to settle down.
So there you have it. These are the nine tips I use to work myself out of a reading slump and to get over the reader guilt I feel (more times than I care to admit). What about you? What do you do to get out of a reading slump? Do you experience reader guilt?