Reader’s block doesn’t get the respect that writer’s block does. People (especially writers and artists) can sympathize with writer’s block because a writer is creating something, and creating something can be difficult. Reader’s block gets less sympathy because all a reader needs to do to read is read. Complaining about reader’s block is like being the kid with all the toys in his room griping about being bored.
Reader’s block can be frustrating and deserves to be taken (just a little) seriously. Yes, reading is more passive than writing, but it still takes mental activity. Reading requires concentration and a willingness to get through difficult exposition/narration (hopefully with a payoff).
“Block” can happen with even the most passive of activities. I’ve gotten television watching block. The symptom for that is mindless flipping of channels. I’ve gotten video game block. The symptom for that is intentionally ending games early by getting myself killed (in gruesome, violent ways if possible). I’ve even gotten “music block,” when I change radio stations and playlists until I eventually give up.
I’ve never gotten “football watching block.”
But reader’s block is the worst because reading is the activity (that I can write about) that I enjoy the most (except maybe watching football, but nobody wants to read what I write about watching football). It doesn’t make sense that I can get bored with books when there are so many good books out there. There are enough good books out there that nobody (who really knows how to read) should get reader’s block.
Complaining about reader’s block doesn’t cure reader’s block. But there are several methods that can.
1. STOP READING.
Yeah, I know that writers are always supposed to read (especially when they’re not writing), but rules are made to be broken (every once in a while and only if nobody gets hurt). This doesn’t mean that a reader should stop reading altogether. Reading comic books, blogs, cereal boxes, or closed captioning on television counts as reading.
And if a reader does stop reading altogether, nobody cares. Last summer I went on vacation and deliberately did not read or write anything. I was told I was a much more pleasant person to be around when I wasn’t trying to read and write. There was no pressure put on me to start reading and writing again.
2. READ CLASSIC LITERATURE.
Readers who aren’t into classic lit should choose a short book. The Great Gatsby is great for reader’s block. Les Miserables might be a disaster.
Moby Dick? Haha! Moby Dick.
Classics that have gotten me out of reader’s block:
Frankenstein- by Mary Shelley
The Great Gatsby- by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ulysses- by James Joyce (Okay, I’m kidding!)
3. READ A BOOK YOU KNOW YOU’LL DISLIKE.
Make sure it’s short. If you choose a long book, that’s okay too because you really don’t have to finish it.
Books that I knew I’d dislike that got me out of reader’s block:
Gorilla Beach by Snookie- supposedly written by somebody else.
I really don’t like admitting that I actually read a few pages of that.
4. READ A BOOK YOU’VE READ BEFORE.
This is risky. Sometimes staying in a comfort zone is what causes the rut in the first place. Reading a familiar book may only prolong the reader’s block. Or it may kick-start a reader’s enthusiasm for reading.
Favorites that have temporarily cured my reader’s block:
Marathon Man- by William Goldman
The Godfather- by Mario Puzo
The Thin Man- by Dashiell Hammet
5. DO A LOT OF WRITING.
This might seem like bad advice. If a reader can’t muster enough energy to read, how can the reader find the enthusiasm to write? Sometimes writing can get the brain going. And if it doesn’t, then maybe the reader will get so frustrated by writing that reading will become an easy alternative.
I had reader’s block when I started writing “Long Story” for Dysfunctional Literacy. It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve been eagerly reading ever since. I’m not sure what the cause-effect relationship is, but writing may have influenced my enthusiasm to read. Or maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.
Thankfully, I don’t have reader’s block right now. Not having reader’s block is a great time to write about having reader’s block. Next time I have reader’s block, maybe I’ll come back and read my own solutions. Or I might not… because I’ll have reader’s block and won’t feel like reading it.
It’s not cool when I get reader’s block on my own stuff.
For more about reader’s block and what NOT to do about it, read 5 Bad Reasons to Read a Book .