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Rediscovering Reading

October 5, 2010

For the past two years I’ve had reader’s block. That is to say that whenever I could carve out a little time to read, something in my head would get in the way.

The block would manifest in many ways. Sometimes I’d convince myself that there were more important things to take care of than the indulgence of reading. Sometimes I simply couldn’t concentrate. Sometimes I couldn’t sit still. And over the last two years I’ve started and abandoned at least 100 books.

I’ve never met a writer who didn’t read extensively, and prior to the last 2 years I was a voracious reader. And my reading drought has certainly affected my writing. I’ve never written less than I have over the past 2 years.

But about a month ago, as part of a bit of research, I picked up a reference book from my shelf (one of the many Complete Idiot’s Guides I own). And I read it from cover to cover. Since then I’ve been tearing through a succession of CIGs, science-based non-fiction, and reference books on math, science and mythology.

And in the midst of all this, I’ve managed to squeeze in a couple books of fiction. I’ve even set aside a half-hour each day (minimum) for myself to keep up the recovery.

Am I saying that my block is over? No, I won’t tempt fate that way. But I’m keeping my page-turning fingers crossed.

  1. October 5, 2010 12:04 pm

    I’ve gone through periods like this too. One of the things I tried, and found that I liked, was audiobooks. I still buy one each month, throw it on my ipod and listen/read while driving or working etc. I still read the old fashioned way too, but the audiobook is a nice supplement and helps get me back in the reading groove.

  2. October 5, 2010 9:47 pm

    Don’t know why, but I’ve never stopped reading. I’d rather read than watch TV or pretty much anything else. Except writing. I agree with you though–they are tied together for me too. When I read more, I write more.

    Nice column.

  3. October 5, 2010 9:58 pm

    Now I know I’m not nuts. I’ve gone through these spells and put it down to stress and all the chaos that sometimes visits. I’m working my way out of another one, just as you are.
    Thanks for the post!

  4. October 7, 2010 7:22 am

    I’ve been in and out of droughts myself, sort of in a reading drought now, but still am reading. I get in a rut, don’t know what I want to read. My writing is also affected by my reading, in the past few months I haven’t written much of anything.

  5. Callisto permalink
    October 8, 2010 2:31 pm

    I’ve gone through periods where my reading decreased and writing increased -but not the level of productiveness, where I’d lose objectivity (and enter the illogical zone of being reluctant to edit/delete sentences). It’s an individual balance, but I agree that reading is significant.
    In terms of writing blocks though. I have lately viewed them in an alternative way. Rather than being about not producing content, they can also manifest in a lot of content that is not purposeful (may deviate from basic narrative formats etc.) Sometimes writers may write extensively, but their writing loses its focus. That too can be a block, albeit a different type of block where writers simply produce content that isn’t really publishable (in the sense of it hitting all the pivotal narrative spots: one dimensional viewpoints, characters, etc).
    I must say though, that the standard advice given to writers, to just read, isn’t sufficient. Writers do need to read read about the kind of writing that they want to succeed in. If it is fiction, then they need to know about narrative/literary theory and the essential elements that work in various narratives. If they are oriented toward non-fiction, then they are better off reading about narrative styles that are suited to non-fiction techniques. Focusing the reading is more time efficient.

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