reading life

AND HALT!: The Things That Get Us to STOP Reading

As book bloggers, bookworms, and book lovers, there are so many things that cause us to pick up a book (or twenty): a gorgeous cover, a new title from a beloved author, that next book in the series we adore, a novel that features our favorite trope or a nonfiction title about a favorite subject, a recommendation from a friend or fellow book blogger, a title with an upcoming in-theaters film, the list goes on and on.

But we all know far too well that there are just as many things that cause us to throw the brakes and our reading comes to a screeching halt, most of the time unwillingly, and today, I want to talk about all the reasons why we might put those books down.

(I’m cringing even thinking about it, to be honest.)

Let’s do this!

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PAIN

This comes first, because I’ve dealt with this this year, and it was the cause of my longest period of not reading. Right now, my diagnosis stands at degenerative disc disease, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, and spinal arthritis. There might be more, but digging for answers (and then the ensuing treatment for those answers) is prohibitively expensive here in the US, so right now, I’m letting it stand at that.

A massive chronic pain flareup, like the one I experienced in October this year, wreaks absolute havoc with reading time. On normal pain days (because there are no pain-free days!), reading helps me escape, but during an acute flare, the pain demands so much of my attention that trying to focus on anything is like trying to watch the television with a radio blasting behind you at full volume. Keeping your mind focused on the television- or your book- takes an exhausting amount of mental energy, a difficult feat when you’re already worn from being in pain all day.

So what’s a chronic pain sufferer to do? If you can stay awake for them, audiobooks might help here; I simply read a few chapters at a time, and then lost myself in a podcast until I fell asleep. Eventually the flare passes, but not having an end date in sight makes it tough…Hang in there, my fellow pain warriors!

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Real Life

This is probably the #1 reason that keeps us all from reading. Real life. School. Family. KIDS. Chores. Work. Places to go, people to see, things to do, all those obligations outside of the house that you just can’t weasel out of and end up spending the entire time there longing for your book and cozy reading chair.

These are rough times, my friends. While some situations can be audiobook-appropriate (work commutes, time spent maintaining the lawn or doing solo chores like running for groceries), if you’ve got small children that require constant supervision, you can’t always plug in and tune the world out. What’s a reader to do, beyond weeping in frustration?

Long stretches of uninterrupted reading time is obviously our ideal, but when life gets busy, the best you can do is to steal snatches of time here and there in order to get any reading done. Read on the kindle phone app while you’re waiting in line at the store. Read a paragraph here and there while you’re waiting for the noodles to boil during dinner prep. Read five minutes, a chapter, a PAGE, before you fall asleep at night.

(Read while you’re using the bathroom. Let’s just admit that that’s something we all do and there’s no shame. If Paul McCartney can play his guitar in there, we can get our reading on in there!)

This too shall pass-kind of the motto in regards to no-reading situations, amirite???- although never quickly enough for those who love nothing better than getting lost in a good book.

Social Media and Other Technological Timesucks

Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. YouTube. NETFLIX, for pete’s sake.

“I’ll just go on and check a few posts, scroll for a few minutes, watch one episode, search for one thing,” we say to ourselves, that book we’ve been dying to get to nestled by our side, just waiting for us to pick it up and dive right in. “No biggie. Just a few minutes.”

Five hours later, we’re arguing with a racist grandmother from Sheboygan.

Social media and the glory that is Netflix are awesome for so many reasons. Connecting with people who share our interests, listening to voices that have been marginalized in the past but can now be amplified if we choose to do so (and we should!), learning fascinating new things (and, uh, sometimes things that aren’t entirely useful but still interesting, because we’ve all fallen down a rabbit hole of searching for one particular thing, like a certain Harry Potter spell, and coming up for air two hours later on a website about, say, medieval tool usage and its affect on modern day pop music),that movie we missed with friends, there are so many reasons to enjoy the many websites and apps that allow us to forge new connections with each other.

But unfortunately, these sites are also a MAJOR time suck, and when reading time is already at a minimum, blowing forty minutes scrolling through Twitter is a LOT of that reading time down the tubes.

It’s hard to stash the social media and back away from binge watching, and everyone’s method will look different- turn off your phone? Leave it in another room? Read away from the computer?- but the constant pull we all feel towards keeping up-to-date every single second is something every reader needs to learn to deal with.

Books That Don’t Do It For Us

It happens to the best of us. We grab our next great read off the shelf, one that’s come highly recommended or that we’ve been anticipating for ages, only to find…it’s not great.

It might even be awful.

It’s a terrible feeling of disappointment, occasionally of anger, maybe even a little grief in there if the book came from the desk of a favorite author (and especially if that author has written something at odds with our sense of morality). Whatever the reason, putting down a book you’d hoped to enjoy often leaves us with conflicting emotions.

But there’s no shame in DNF-ing; we’re all readers who are strong in our opinions and what we love in our books, and if something isn’t working for us, it’s always okay to put that book down and move on to the next one.

And there’s always a next one!

Unless…

*cue ominous music*

…you find yourself in…

The Dreaded Reading Slump

We’ve all been there. We dive into our latest read, ready to get lost in its world, and…

MEH.

It’s not grabbing us, and we *know* it’s not the book, we can tell the writing is tight, the plot is fast-paced, so we try another book…and another…and another.

All MEH.

MEH, MEH, MEH.

Our brain has quit, our bookworm has burrowed deep into a tight cocoon, and our reading mojo is out the door, leaving us desolate, desperate, and grasping for something, anything to do to fill the hours previously taken up by our most favorite of all hobbies. We don’t even FEEL like reading right now, and it’s a feeling completely alien to us as readers. WHO EVEN ARE WE WITHOUT BOOKS???

So many blog posts and articles have been written (great ones, too!) on how to avoid or pull oneself out of a reading slump. I don’t know that there’s a one-size-fits-all remedy, and it may be that every slump is different and what works for this year’s slump may not work for next year’s. But reader friends, when you slump, you’re not alone, and you’re still part of this brilliant, beautiful community of book bloggers that we’ve all created (and that goes for being on posting hiatus as well!). We’re still here to support you, and who knows, maybe a fellow blogger’s post is what will strike a chord in you and get you excited about turning pages again!

And then there’s the scary one…

BOOK INTIMIDATION

Have you ever walked by a book on a shelf and wished you HAD read that…but you’re too intimidated to actually read it?

This happens a lot with hefty nonfiction tomes and novels of classic literature, things we feel we should read but worry we won’t be able to get through. Maybe we expect the book to be too dry or the style too difficult. Maybe we worry we’re not smart enough to ‘get’ it. Remember all those times in school when we learned that the blue curtains in a novel symbolized the author’s depression and weren’t just blue curtains because the author liked the color blue, and we all sat there going, “…seriously? They can’t just be blue curtains?” Experiences like these prime us for a lifetime of literary self-doubt, and instead of deciding that books can be read on multiple levels, we think, “Well, this stuff clearly isn’t for people like me,” and we turn tail and run. And in doing so, who knows what life-changing books we might be missing out on?

How many books do you have on your shelves right now that you’re scared of?

This is a problem I’ve been tackling in my own life for years. When my son was young, I used to read out loud to him while he played, like his own personal audiobook, except instead of solely reading Dr. Seuss and Margaret Wise Brown, I’d read Charles Dickens and Mary Shelley while he drove toy cars around the living room. He was five when he started interrupting me to ask what a word meant or why a character did something so foolish (this was during a reading of Great Expectations); don’t ever underestimate how much a child can absorb! Reading aloud helped me to get through a large number of classics that I never would’ve felt smart enough to read silently on my own, and in doing so, I greatly increased my reading confidence.

My daughter was a little too screechy for me to do this (and believe me, I tried!), so now that she’s in school and things are a little quieter here, I’m tackling some harder books, reading a single chapter or a small number of pages per day. Because when it comes down to it, these books, the ones that have us shaking our heads and going, “I don’t think I can…”

They’re just words. Words on paper.

And we’re not going to let words scare us, are we? We’re book bloggers and book lovers. We’re a pretty fiesty, determined bunch. It’s time to face those fears head on and tell them, “You know what? I can do this. Getting those huge books read slowly is still getting them read. TAKE THAT, BOOK INTIMIDATION!”

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Logic would hold that for people who love books so much, one might have to pry each and every book out of our cold, dead hands, but sometimes, our reader brains aren’t all that logical (case in point: how many of us have gleefully purchased a much longed-for book, only to have it collect dust on our shelves for years? *raises hand, waves it wildly*). There are times for all of us when our reading grinds to a complete stop, and while it’s often an uncomfortable situation, it’s absolutely normal.

We may be readers, but we’re a lot of other things, too, and that’s what makes us such an interesting bunch.

What stops you from reading???

9 thoughts on “AND HALT!: The Things That Get Us to STOP Reading

    1. Thank you! If I sat and thought about it too long, I could probably come up with a million more things that pull me away from the books…but I don’t have time, because I have too many books to read right now! 😀

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    1. I’ve heard other writers say the same thing, so you’re definitely not alone there. That’s okay, plenty of other options out there for you, fellow writer (although I haven’t been writing lately, bad me!)! Sorry to hear you’re also in the trenches with pain as well; it’s amazing how it affects every single aspect of your life, isn’t it? I’m having trouble walking right now due to a flare up of dyshidrotic eczema on my feet, which distracted me enough that I forgot to put my daughter’s lunch in her backpack the other day- which of course necessitated another trip home and more walking to the school. Sigh. Best wishes to you with your book, and I hope you also get some relief from the pain. ❤

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      1. I currently have a bad flare up of Tietze’s syndrome with bad pains around my chest area and it’s affecting a weak spot in my head/neck too. So I have a hard to focusing my sight. Letters dance on the paper and watching something with fast cuts or flashing lights gives me an even bigger headache. (and I still can’t do audio books…) It sucks majorly. I’m doing what I can to manage the pain, but it’s tough. I totally understand forgetting about something like your daughter’s lunch. I hope you don’t feel bad towards yourself for that. It’s the brain fog, not you. I hope you’ll feel better soon 💕

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    1. I’ve considered that- I’ve asked a few of my doctors if it’s something I need to be concerned about or should get further testing for. They’ve all said no, but I’m not entirely convinced (and two of my friends who have AS have also said my symptoms sound just like theirs). I waver back and forth on going for further testing, simply because it’s so expensive…

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  1. Great post!
    Regarding your pain problem, I suggest looking into Ankylosing Spondylitis, or Spondyloarthropathy. These auto immune issues always involve the SI joints, but often affects other joints as well.

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