Something terrible has happened to me lately: I’ve lost my avidness for reading, for reaching for a book as soon as I sit or lie down. It has been about two months, and I have been waiting for the book craze to return. I noticed it when I was late getting three books back to the library, after reading only one of them. Thinking a brief funk had struck me, I checked out another three. However, much to my surprise, I have not read even eighty-five pages yet.
I reasoned that perhaps I’ve just been too busy since before Thanksgiving to read during the day and, consequently, too tired at night. It never crossed my mind that I would ever not want to read, that books could stop being a staple of my brain’s diet. What was wrong with me? Had I contracted a new mental illness – reader’s block? After checking online, I discovered I was not alone in experiencing this terrible malady.
A few people have tried to define it in urbandictionary, but it’s so much more personal than that. At least for me. Books and reading have been an integral part of my life since age nine, when I became aware of what literary imagination was and where it could take me. Until I discovered writing four years later, reading was all I cared about. If I hadn’t become a competitive swimmer, I might have grown roots in my reading chair.
Although writing may have been my therapy through bad times, books were my escape, my only escape. Each time I survived and thrived, reading morphed into utter pleasure and excitement. Books went everywhere with me and were a total necessity whenever waiting was required. I moved boxes and boxes of them from house to house to house and traversed continents with them. So why, when, and how did I suddenly become so disinterested in reading? And what, for heaven’s sake, is the cure?
I checked out several posts, such as Geoff Dyer’s workinprogress and Alise Write’s getting-readers-block, for reassurance that this blasted block could be busted. Through Stuart Jefferies (guardian.co.uk/books) and the interviewees of guardian.books/2008 I learned it is not unusual for bookworms to become afflicted. Also, Bev Hankins at myreadersblock and Jessa Crisipin of bookslut offered some helpful suggestions for restoring one’s bookiness.
Upon further pondering of my plight, I considered that perhaps one major cause for straying from my reading path might be authors who have obviously acquired creative writing degrees in the past few years. Despite their names and locations, they all seem to write alike. So much so that their identities, unfortunately, have become irrelevant. To analogize: Like most of the singers on “The Voice,” etc., they sound alike by mimicking others. But what is the point in not standing out or setting themselves apart? The purpose of instruction is to learn how to fine tune your work and to make it appealing to readers. The purpose of writing fiction is to entertain, stimulate, thrill, and/or satisfy readers by using your own voice to create something remarkable from the norm.
Therefore, what these newer writers seem to have lost track of is their individuality, their raw talent. To me, their have-to-write mojo has been educated out of them. While they may produce good books with interesting plots, their narratives and descriptions spoil the reader’s pleasure by coming across as competitions or as if they are still trying to please their professors and obtain high marks with too much ingenuity. They tend to describe every little thing in an overly striving way to impress the reader with their metaphoric and similic observations, even if it isn’t relative to the story. Their constantly turning sentences into paragraphs is distracting and makes me skip ahead to the meat of the matter, which I doubt was their intent. It has me questioning if minimal word use has become archaic, for too often in the past six months, Why didn’t he/she just say this or that? or Give me a break! kept popping into my head, which is a shame.
Words need to flow. Writing needs to seem effortless. Reading definitely needs to be enjoyable and engaging to the quality that the reader wishes the book would not end. But for these things to happen, I believe, writers and readers need to be true to themselves and follow their instincts.
Right now, my instinct is telling me to give this reader’s block a little more time. It’s not the end of the world. It may even be good for me. Maybe it will go away by itself during an upcoming road trip. Maybe by rereading one or two fascinating books, I’ll drive it away sooner.
P.S.: I would really enjoy hearing from you about loss of literary appetite.