Monday 27th April 2020 and day 35 of the Coronavirus lockdown.
You may have found that during this tumultuous period of our lives, where there is a pandemic raging beyond our doors and we are locked down inside our homes, allowed out for little but the essential, that your attention is in pieces. And this means you are having problems reading even when this has been your go-to comforter in times past. Whether you have only a small amount of time on your hands because of the new experience of home-schooling or lots of time on your hands because you are locked-in alone, you are anxious because the books that once bought you joy are no longer filling that ache that is deep inside you.
First of all, relax. This is only natural. Nearly everyone I have spoken with who is an avid reader is having similar problems. Our brains are full of the virus, of our families and friends, scrolling through news feeds and twitter feeds, looking for the tiniest morsel of new information. Even if we are ready to explode with information overload. We have so much going on it’s not surprising that we can’t switch off properly to sit down and enjoy a little light entertainment. Yes, you might be able to watch Netflix, but you aren’t engaging with it in the same way as you are with a book, and that is one clue as to how you might bring yourself out of this reading funk you have been dragged into.
Like I said, the first thing to do is to forgive yourself for not being able to read. It’s all perfectly “normal”. As far as that word fits our current climate. There’s really not a lot about the world that is normal right now, but however you are reacting to it, is.
So, how are we going to approach this reading dry spell, this anxiety, this brain freeze when you open a book?
The first clue was when I mentioned Netflix. Television is easier because you’re not particularly engaging with it. You sit in front of it and soak it in, rather than asking your brain to interpret the symbols on the page for you. What do we have in the reading world that is similar to this?
I love audiobooks and have been able to continue listening to audiobooks throughout the pandemic. Maybe not initially, when all I wanted was information. But now we’re in a routine, I’m happily listening again. You can get a free trial to Audible to see if you like audiobooks. Plus, you can get free audiobooks through an app like BorrowBox (explained in my post HERE) It’s linked to your library so authors still get their cut.
Try a different genre.
Whenever I’m in a reading slump I swap genre and find I can easily start reading again. Maybe you need something a little more lighthearted like women’s fiction, chic lit, or maybe you need something a little less real, like sci-fi or fantasy – I love a bit of sci-fi. Usually, more contemporary type, set in a world I recognise. Try something different and then go back to the books you love and I’m sure this will help. It refreshes the palate.
Only allow yourself to read in small bursts. Don’t put pressure on yourself. Like I set my timer when I’m writing for fifteen minutes because it’s easier for my health, do that with your reading. Only allow yourself fifteen minutes. Promise yourself you’ll stop whenever the timer goes off. You never know, it may be you end up leaving on a cliffhanger and you will be desperate to go back. But make sure you do actually stop with the timer or this won’t work.
The last possible thing to try is to stop reading altogether. Just stop for a week. Don’t pick up a book at all. Take the pressure off completely. It’s not like the books are going anywhere. You need a break. You need to focus on you. Take that time then come back and try one of the above suggestions. If it doesn’t work. Stop for longer. No one is going to ridicule you if you can’t read a book. In all that is happening, what is important is that you put your facemask on first – take care of yourself – then you can also take care of whoever else is in your house with you.
There are no hard and fast rules right now. Please take care of yourself. If a book helps, I’m all for it. If not. Then I’m all for that as well. Be safe x
Margot Kinberg says
This is really good advice, Rebecca. There’s no doubt that things are not the same, and it’s all unsettling. Little wonder a lot of people are having trouble concentrating on reading.
Rebecca Bradley says
Thanks, Margot. I’m gradually getting my reading mojo back but it’s been a slow process using my own tips to help it along.
I agree with Margot. Excellent advice here!
If it’s okay to add another tip, I’d say that I’ve had a lot of luck with reading stories and novellas during this pandemic as opposed to full-length novels. There’s something about only committing to 5, 20, or 100 pages that makes it a lot easier to start something new.
Rebecca Bradley says
That’s a great tip, thanks!