Overcoming Reader’s Block

When I was little, my parents traveled around the country (Nigeria), shuttling between the North and South. Because they had to travel with a little kid, me, they would sometimes break up the journey into days. So, if we were to travel, say from Jos to Port Harcourt (a twelve-hour trip), we would take the first leg, from Jos to Kaduna the first day, and the second from Kaduna to PH the next day.

Most of these journeys I made with my mom. I don’t know if I got bored quickly, but my mom (a trained Sunday school teacher) decided to make each trip the most comfortable and exciting she could for me. She would have my game pad, some food, and a book for me to read.

In many of the Northern cities we frequented, Jos, Abuja, Kaduna, Minna, and Zaria, among others, they had this Christian bookshop chain called Challenge Bookshop, owned by the ECWA church. All the staff at these bookshops knew me, I tell you, and they would always be on the lookout for new children’s books for me. The earliest one in my house is dated to when I was four.

This is how I came into two of my most pleasurable hobbies- reading and traveling.

Ah, welcome ma, Peace! How are you? How was school? There was one book I kept for you…” and off we would hurry to the kids’ session, my mom leaving me to my thing. 

At the beginning of each road trip, my mom reminded me that the reward for finishing each book was a new book. So, I would spend the hours gobbling up each story.

In both my primary and secondary schools, I read all the novels in my school library (I even had the gold stars to prove it). At home, my family members began to notice my love for books and started gifting me books; my tiny library grew, and the books matured. By the time the traveling slowed, I was already hooked.

Now, I read when I’m happy, bored, or sad, uninspired or bursting with ideas, when I’m lonely or surrounded by people. If I had a book with me, I could go an entire day without eating or sleeping, just wrapped up in the world of my current read (my mom, of course, had a problem with this, but if you ask me, it was her fault in the first place). 

I share this so that you understand when I say that reader’s block is the worst thing that can happen to me

Many people are familiar with writer’s block, of course, but I’ve met even avid readers who aren’t familiar with it either because they hadn’t noticed when it happened to them or because they don’t believe it’s a thing (lucky you).

But I am sure every reader would remember those time stretches when you did not feel the urge to pick up a new book or finish an old one. These are signs you have reader’s block. It can happen for many reasons, maybe you are in a funk generally, or you finished a really good book or series and are reluctant to let go (because nothing can possibly beat the awesomeness you just read), or maybe you are just too busy.

Whatever the case, you know that if you stay in this phase long enough, you get frustrated (sometimes, I even get anxious and depressed), and getting back on that (metaphorical) horse is the most feasible solution. 

How can you get your reading mojo back? 

I’ll share some tips that have worked for me and some of my friends.

Give yourself a break

Take a break from beating yourself up or feeling sorry that you can’t seem to want to read a new book or finish the one you’re reading. These things happen, and like with other forms of grief, the earlier you accept that it’s happening, the sooner you can overcome it.

Do something else you love, listen to music, watch a good movie, go out of your house (seriously!), visit with friends, do something exciting. When you are excited and content, it becomes easy to return to reading. 

Switch format

Each reader has preferred book formats, some like the good ol’ hard copy, while others love their e-copies.

When experiencing reader’s block, you might find that switching from hardcopy to softcopy, or vice versa, can change your mental orientation and help you enjoy reading better. 

Dump that book

Many times, you are reading a book that is all wrong for you, and it is weighing you down. If you are like me, who doesn’t like leaving a book halfway, this might be hard, but darling, you have to dump it.

If you are someone who can read multiple books at once (definitely not me), pair your current (tiring) read with something that will keep you happy. Pick up something more your speed. You can return to the boring book later when you are in better spirits. 

Visit your TBR (To-Be-Read) pile

You know that thing is already longer than the Nile, yet you’re constantly adding to it. You picked those books for a reason; revisit their synopses, and begin working on shortening your list!

If you don’t have one, you must be new to the reading habit (welcome, child!). You can find new books by joining a reading community. It can be online or physical – I would suggest Goodreads or Readerly.

Ask the bookish community

There is an entire world of readers out there. Trust me; if you can’t find something new and exciting to read, it is because you aren’t looking hard enough. Talk to your reading community.

Ask friends who know the kinds of books you love to suggest a book. If you don’t have the answer, someone else does.  

Try some audiobook magic 

If your reason for not reading is because you don’t have time anymore, then audiobooks are here to save the day.

You can listen to them while working out, driving, or doing other routine tasks. You save time, and your job is much more enjoyable. 

Do you have other things that work for you? Let’s talk about it in the comments.  

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