Seven weeks ago I started a journey I never wanted to go on – my doctor found a lump (which turned out to be three) in my breast. I’m about the same age my mom was (early thirties) when she was first diagnosed with cancer (non-smoker’s lung) and it’s been my greatest fear (other than untimely death of family members) for my entire life to be diagnosed with cancer in my early thirties.
Needless to say, I’ve been freaking out for the past two months going through scans and specialists and eventually a biopsy. Thanks to the ongoing world pandemic, this process took an interminable amount of time, again, nearly two months. THANKFULLY, the lumps are benign but I now get to add one more thing to my extensive collection of things-to-worry-about as I have to continue to have tests and scans to monitor them.
Diary of a Bookseller #21
But Sarah, you may be wondering, what on EARTH does this have to do with books and reading? Well, I don’t know about you, dear reader and fellow book lover, but for me, when I am worried, I cannot focus on a book. Once again, I read next to nothing in late March and April, just like last year. One of these years I’ll read in the spring again. I hope. Assuming there’s not another global pandemic or a cancer scare. But when one enters a reading slump, one must find a way out and I’d like to share what I have found to be tried and true methods of breaking out of such a slump. I’ve shared them with my coworkers too and they’ve vouched for them, so hopefully they’ll work for you too!
Shorten Your Expectations
When I can’t bring myself to read a physical book or if I find myself falling asleep while trying to read, I’ll switch to something shorter – short stories, a novella, book of poetry, essay collection, a nonfiction audiobook, or podcast!
Sometimes it’s not just the thought of not focusing on a book, but the feeling that I’ll never finish it, even a moderate length book. When that feeling over takes me, I’ll switch to something shorter – I love a good essay collection or humor collection. A lot of celebrity memoirs are typically essay collections and bonus, most will make me laugh!
I’m not a big short story, poetry, or novella reader, but this one I took from one of my friends – she usually carries a short story collection with her in case she finds herself waiting somewhere or wanting a bite-size bit of reading. Often times the stories and poems aren’t interconnected so you can just read as much or as little as you want and not worry that you’re missing out on something by not finishing it!
Audiobooks and podcasts are my typical go-to when I’m in a slump and sometimes I’ll listen to something I’ve previously read, or start a nonfiction audiobook or podcast. I’ve just recently gotten on the podcast train and I have to say, the typical hour long length is the perfect amount of time for me to focus, or fall asleep. I pretty much can’t fall asleep without listening to something anymore.
Embrace the blurb reading! This can take one of two forms – my coworker, our children’s buyer at the store, is a very good speed reader – she lightly reads entire books, but mostly middle grade and young adult titles. For me as the adult buyer, I do 50 page samples. This works better with nonfiction, you read the first 50, middle 50 and last 50 pages and then hopefully, if your interest is peaked, you read the whole thing, and if not, you’ve still had a fairly enjoyable low stress reading experience.
For me, the last weekend of every month is “blurb weekend” as it’s the weekend before the Indie Next deadline for each month. I take the above approach for any nonfiction, and then for fiction, I read either the first 50 pages or 25% of a book, whichever is longer, and then I’ve read enough to write a blurb for the publishers, but also it helps me set my TBR for the rest of the month and then I go back and finish the ones I want to and I let myself let go of the ones that I won’t.
Shuffle Up Genres
If you usually read WWII historical fiction but the last few have left you hollow and unfeeling (I had this happen many years ago), try a new or different genre! When I was going through a slump last year, I realized I’d been reading almost exclusively nonfiction for three years – I was tired of it and needed something new. So I switched to historical fiction and read so many books in single sittings in just a few weeks. Most of my friends like this suggestion best when they ask my advice for getting out of their slumps.
I am not a big re-reader – I’m very much of the opinion that since there are THOUSANDS of new books that come out every year that I can read and get excited about, why would I go back and read something I’ve already experienced? But there is a time when I think it is actually a really good idea to re-read and that is when you need to break a slump.
I advise not picking your favorite book here – then you risk a book hangover in addition to a slump. This is also where changing the format and listening to a book you enjoyed reading but never listened to might help. Additionally, if there is a book that you enjoyed and read maybe in one sitting that you don’t remember as well as you would like it would be a great candidate for a re-read!
In addition to avoiding re-reading your favorite book, I advise staying away from any book that holds any sort of special value/memory to you – a favorite book from your childhood or adolescence might not stand up to your current expectations or values.
If you’re having difficultly reading, it might be time to break out the notebook and try writing something! If you have a current project you’ve been working on, it could be the perfect time to pivot into trying to finish it up. It can also be very cathartic to write if, for instance, your slump was triggered by a health situation like mine, or mental health struggle. Writing in a journal or writing a letter to a loved one can be extremely cathartic.
I hope that if you’re going through a reading slump, it won’t last long and that some of these methods will help! Let me know if you try any or if there are any tried and true methods of breaking a slump that you rely on!