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Random Thoughts: Reader’s Block

Back in May, I wrote a post about Reviewer’s Block and how I hadn’t seen it talked about much online, but it was one of my fears as a reviewer. What if I were to read a book and have absolutely nothing to say? Or find that I have no way to frame my thoughts into anything coherent? While I’ve had a few instances since then where the words just didn’t come to me right away, I was fortunately able to eventually get those words out and write my reviews. (Knock on wood.)

Well, lately I’ve been thinking about something that I’ve seen being talked about on Twitter quite a bit, and that’s Readers Block. I’m not sure if that’s an actual term, but it is in the Urban Dictionary – I checked – so it’s legitimate enough. I’ve seen many reviewers talking about how they just can’t get into the books they’re reading, that they’ve had to set them aside. And I know this feeling all too well.

As reviewers we’re under pressure (mostly our own) to read a certain number of books each week, to meet those deadlines for promised reviews, to get that content up on our blogs. But there are days where either we just don’t feel like reading – yes, if you can actually believe it, it does really happen – and there are sometimes books we’re required to read that we just don’t feel like diving into at that moment.

Whether it’s the pressure of having to read a specific book by a certain date or whether we’re just not in the mood for that particular genre or story, it can build to such a level that we can’t get beyond the first sentence. Where we pick up that book, try to get absorbed as we always do, and find our eyes just skimming those words, causing us to become frustrated, and making things even more difficult for ourselves.

Sometimes we’re able to push past the block, whether it’s because our minds finally accept it rather than fight it, or because the story is just that good that we can’t help but tumble into the world that the author created. But sometimes no matter what we do, we pick up those few books at the top of our reading piles and can’t find a single one that captures our interest enough to push past this enormous obstacle.

While I am no expert, and I’m sure that the problem can be very much an individual one, I do have a few things I like to do to get past it. Because it has happened to me and as someone who is very much a “mood” reader I run into blocks all the time now that I’m blogging and reviewing. And I thought I’d share what works for me.

So, here’s what I like to do to get past the block and fall back in love with my reading pile:

1. Turn on the television.

While it’s the most wonderful thing to get absorbed in a story, sometimes you just need the story to play out in front of you with absolutely zero thought. Television is an amazing distraction. You may lose an entire night of reading, but that night off could be just what you need.

Spending the evening with Stefan and Damon Salvatore, heading to Bon Temps or watching a serial killer with a heart can really help distract me from the fact that I should be reading and I just don’t feel like it.

2. Write a non-review post.

Unless we’re super-bloggers we can’t read and review a book a day. I know I can’t. After nearly a year of blogging, sleep (or lack thereof) has become more of an issue and I’ve had to get four to six hours a night versus the three hours I’d been grabbing when I first started out.

The wonderful thing about our blogs is that we don’t have to post reviews every day. In fact, we don’t have to post daily at all. But if we are bloggers who want to have content up every single day, then we need to find other things to post than reviews.

Writing these posts also serves to focus my mind and get it off the fact that I’m not reading at the moment. And, when I am finished writing these posts I’m actually glad to get back to reading and get out of my head and into someone else’s creation. Hearing my own voice rattling around inside my head is exhausting.

3. Work on the blog.

When we are so focused on reading and reviewing we sometimes forget that we need to keep our blogs updated and interesting. If you just don’t feel like reading, take the time to update those sidebars – get rid of expired countdown widgets, blog tours that have ended, dead links or links to free samples that are no longer free.

If we’ve wanted to give our blog a new look, but felt that we just haven’t had the time because our reviews came first, well now’s the time. Instead of trying to force the issue, focus on something that is just as important – the site where those reviews are posted.

And if we find ourselves slipping in the number of books we read and review, then now’s the time to think up a possible new feature we’d like to add, to fill in for those days when we don’t have a review to post.

I spend probably too much time doing this. But I get obsessed with all things that visually disturb me on my site and so spend way too much time thinking about how I can change it. When I don’t feel like reading, tweaking my blog is one of the easiest ways to distract me from the fact that I should be reading.

4. Forget the reading pile.

If it’s just that you don’t feel like reading the books you should, take a moment and think about a book you’ve been dying to read. One that’s not required. One you have no obligation to read, but one you’ve set aside and really, really want to. Pick up that book instead.

Don’t feel guilty about the pile, because it will be there when this book is finished. But reading a book that you know you want to read, that you have the excitement for already and don’t need to drum up, can give you that passion again to read those other books.

Even making the decision to read the favored book and not write a review, just to read for pleasure, can also take the pressure off. Sure, you may decide to review it after the fact, but don’t go into the read expecting to. Knowing that you’re reading just for fun can change the whole experience and bring back that love of reading once more.

I have secretly gone off-pile several times, choosing to read books that I don’t even list as read until I actually read them again for review. I may be delayed with a few reviews, but those required reads get the benefit of me actually wanting to read them and enjoying them as I should, rather than feeling pressured and unhappy when I read them.

5. Stalk other blogs.

Book blogging is a community. If we don’t feel like reading books, then maybe reading other bloggers’ reviews or posts will help to distract us until we’re ready to read again. I know I love stalking blogs when I don’t feel like picking up a book.

Sometimes seeing someone’s enthusiasm for a book or an author can transfer to us and make us excited about reading again. I totally get caught up in the excitement someone has about a new book they’ve read and loved. I often find myself longing to read that book rather than the ones on the top of my pile just because of their enthusiasm. This is another reason why I go off-pile, as I mentioned above.

And sometimes we’ll see something another blogger has done on their site and it will give us ideas for us to use on our own blogs – a new meme, a team button, a widget. Then we can go back and work on our blogs and keep ourselves distracted from the pile, as was also mentioned above.

6. And finally, sometimes I just make myself step away from the book(s).

I try very hard to pretend that I am not a reviewer and that I don’t have deadlines. Sure, it is always in the back of my mind, but I can’t force myself to read if I am really not in the mood to. I close the door to my office and hide all books and eReaders from my sight.

I get outside, go for a walk, head to the beach, go shopping, see a movie, call a friend, clean my house, play Words With Friends. Whatever it takes to get my mind off my “work.”

And if I really can’t give up completely on my bloggy universe,  I’ll hang out on Twitter or Facebook, respond to comments, clean up my email – this very rarely happens – or stalk author blogs.

Eventually, I’ll get so sick of doing those other things that I can’t wait to get back to reading. I was a reader long before I was a blogger, as I’m sure most everyone who blogs is, and therefore the love of reading and the need to get back into a book will inevitably take over once again.

***

I really do find that doing one or more of these things helps me get over my reader’s block. Fortunately the blocks I’ve had were small and not insurmountable brick walls.

If you have any tips or things that work for you to break the block, I would love to hear them!

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