5 Ways to Beat Reader’s Block

Don’t you just hate it when you just can’t choose what to read next? It’s not like you’re short of awesome titles to get stuck into, your TBR pile is so big that it deserves its own location pin on Google Maps. But no matter what you do, you just can’t settle down into a new world. Even when you know that you’d usually love this kind of book or that author.

I am also no stranger to the occasional bout of reader’s block, even though I love reading and can often go for days lost in a fantasy world. I’d go as far to say that it’s completely normal, but it is also undeniably frustrating, so here are 5 ways that I use to get over reader’s block.

5 ways to beat reader's block

1 Switch up the genres

So, you’re a fantasy kind of person? If it doesn’t have at least one mythical creature in it, then it’s not a real book, right? Or you only read contemporary fiction, or romance, or mysteries? If you’re finding that your usual cup of tea is just failing the taste test, then you might be suffering from a case of having a bit too much of the same good thing. So, try out something different, give yourself a mini-break from your usual book-type and hunt down something new. Think of it as going on holiday but knowing that you’ll still love that feeling of coming home to your own bed, even if you’ve had a wonderful adventure.

I’d advise that if you do this, start with a well-known, well-reviewed book, in your new genre. Nothing kills genre expectations like terrible writing. For example, if you think you might like to jump into urban fantasy, you might want to start with the excellent ‘Rivers of London’ series.

2 Use your reading ears

I love the smell of a good paperback, the weight of it in my hands, the satisfying feeling of folding over a corner, putting a bookmark in to mark my page. But sometimes our lives just don’t lend themselves to sitting around with good light sources and fresh eyes that haven’t been staring at a screen all day. Reading words takes an energy that you may have exhausted through the course of daily life, or perhaps it requires time that you do not have, so why not try using your ears instead?

Audiobooks are having an explosive revolution with Amazon’s Audible leading the charge, especially with its integrated whisper sync switching feature so you can choose to read or listen to the book depending on your mood. Gone are the days where the audiobooks existed only for the blind reader niche. Now we have thousands of professionally narrated, beautiful books at our earphone tips.

This is a particularly great option if you think your reading block is driven by not having enough time to settle down, or a physical limitation like eyestrain. An audiobook just requires you to listen so you could get on with that never-ending list of chores, going on the daily lunchtime walk you swore you’d start doing, or commuting to your job, whilst indulging in something you love.

3 Acknowledge that it might be a ‘you problem’

One of my worst reading blocks happened when I was 22 and it persisted for nearly a year. I had so many DNFs that I thought there must be something wrong with ‘books these days’. When I finally figured out that this was a ‘me’ problem, it was like I’d just opened the door of my stale mental reading room to be hit in the face with a blast of fresh air. My issue wasn’t that the quality of YA books, a staple of my reading diet, had decreased. It was that I had grown beyond them. The reason yet another 16-year-old self-discovery wasn’t working for me was because I was 22, a professional adult, with real responsibilities, and a long-term, long-distance relationship to manage. Those themes of growing independence and fledgeling romances just didn’t resonate with me anymore. So instead, I went on a search specifically for books with older characters, ones who were dealing with the trials and tribulations of being a young responsible adult, trying to get a handle on life.

Take a look at your usual reads, the kind of books you gravitate towards out of habit, and ask yourself, are these really you? Do you still resonate with these themes? Do these kinds of stories still give you role models for your daily reality? If the answer is no, then start hunting for something that resonates.

4 The Non-Fiction pallet cleanser

I love fiction, but there is a special place in my heart for non-fiction too. There’s just so much out there! Practically every niche will have a non-fiction book written in it. From famous biographies to the analysis of the human brain, to current affairs or the history of magic. The choice is outstanding and there is bound to be something to interest you.

I personally love using non-fiction as a ‘spacer’ between fiction series, and they’re my secret weapon in getting over a ‘book hangover’. For the most part I don’t need to invest energy in creating the world of a non-fiction book, as I will usually understand its basis already.

Non-fiction books are still stories in their own right. There’s a dusty old stereotype that they’re just densely packed facts all in a row, but the best non-fiction writers have perfected the art of turning factual events into the beats of a story.

Something you may want to consider is that non-fiction can be particularly good in audio form, especially when the author and narrator are the same person. You may find that you like listening to non-fiction, even if you don’t enjoy listening to fiction.

5 Get some headspace

OK so this one is a bit counter intuitive, but if you really can’t settle down to read then maybe you just need to take a break? I know, crazy right? Take a break from something you love? But the thing is that your brain is just really great at normalising things, even the things that we love.

When you do something, or get something, that brings you joy for the first time, you get a high from all the happy little chemicals in your brain. But the effect doesn’t last. Surprisingly quickly your brain goes from OH-MY-GOSH-MY-NEW-WHATEVER -IS-EPIC to ‘meh’.

This shouldn’t be news to you. It will have happened countless times throughout your life and probably explains that box of stuff in your bedroom which you never use but still can’t throw out. It can happen to readers too, so sometimes the best thing to do is to take a step back. Find a new hobby, create some headspace, and come back to reading in a month or so. You can’t force yourself to actively love something all the time, it’s just not how our brains work, so be kind to yourself and trust that you WILL start reading again, you just need a bit of time.

Over my life so far, I’ve found the tips I’ve given above to be useful in my hunt for the next good book. I hope they help you too, or at least give you hope you will be able to move on from this reading dry spell. Happy book hunting!

Disclaimer: these tips are generated from my own personal experience. I am neither a doctor nor a psychologist and so I want to take this opportunity to urge you to seek help if you feel that your ‘reader’s block’ is a symptom of something more medical.

Stick a pin in it

5 ways to beat reader's block

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