Ah, the dreaded reading slump––weeks, months, years, with finished books nil-to-none, an estrangement from a beloved hobby, the sap of a once fruitful love of reading run dry…
It’s a miserable place to be, if you have books to finish and nothing left in you that wants to finish them, but I’m lucky enough to call this mostly a phenomenon of my past, owing to a simple but valuable realization: I am a reader who needs order.
I should acknowledge here that it’s often circumstances out of our control that put us in slump territory––school, jobs, life stress, and the like––but it’s also possible that your reading life is running counter to your needs in ways that you can fix. I used to read on a more sporadic, spontaneous basis, with long dry spells where my will to read would just dry up, but as soon as I dropped more planning into the equation, I got the consistency I craved.
Here, I share my preventative measures, with some modifications for the just-recovering reader:
1. Mix it Up!
It is my opinion that variety is the key to a self-renewing reading habit. I tend to overdo it on the fantasy, seeking out read-alike after read-alike in order to sate the desire a recent favorite spawned. After I started planning my reading, this tendency faded in favor of line-ups with a more even spread across genre and category (while emphasizing favorites, of course). A middle-grade fantasy is a light at the end of 500-page classic literature tunnel, and the classics keep the adventures from blurring together. Likewise, it becomes easier to appreciate each book on its own merit, rather than also needing it to stand out against all the similar books that came before it.
In a reading slump: read outside your usual. The novelty might be the very thing to draw you back in.
2. Limit Your Mileage
Reading a book in one sitting is a wonderful feeling––one I still engage in from time to time––but in my experience, it’s not conducive to consistency. And when your passion for reading occasionally fades, consistency is how you recover the spark. When I dislike a book, I don’t have to read more than 100 pages a day. When I love a book, I don’t let myself read more than 100 pages a day. Over the past couple years, it’s gotten progressively easier to meet that number, simply because treating reading like a muscle makes finishing a goal an act of muscle memory. Whatever the book, the end is always in sight, and it takes little more than the force of habit to get there.
In a reading slump: set a manageable goal, and meet it every day. I’d start with ten pages, or a chapter, and work up from there.
3. Keep Track
I’ll be perfectly honest: variety and habit are both incredibly useful, but the real gamechanger came in the form of a spreadsheet. I’d been reaching for and missing my Goodreads goal of 100 books in a year for a while at this point, but, suddenly, the reward of logging the titles myself (and ctrl+F-ing various symbols as a way to keep numbers on genre, publishing year, and page count, which aren’t exactly at your fingertips on Goodreads) made up the difference. For some, tracking books adds to the pressure, but my school-warped mind simply needs all those checks in a row, and feeling like I get “credit” for finishing books is a more powerful incentive, even, than closing that back cover.
In a reading slump: if you haven’t already, try a list or spreadsheet. (Star stickers are optional but encouraged.)
How do you feel? Have you clawed your way out of similar slumps with dissimilar methods? Are you a fellow spreadsheet-keeper? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. 💕