Monday, March 7, 2011

Reader's Block

I love books and I'm an avid reader.

But sometimes, shockingly, I don't want to read.

And not just for a day or two, but I've recently discovered, for weeks. "Who is this person?" I think, "This person who loves to read but right now cannot tolerate the idea of picking up a book and reading?"

These periods of time are growing, they are happening more frequently. It's not a good thing for a blog that is based on books, because this blog requires at the very least, the fuel of a reading life. Yes, there are many ideas I can discuss, but these ideas are unearthed so often through reading. I frame them through books I've read, that's why it's a book blog and not a life blog. And yet, I think it's this very blog that has created the problem.

And my moodiness. My inability to really nail down what I want from a book or a reading life. Do I just want to read the newest books or do I want to read the books people I respect and admire recommend, do I want to read light hearted books that make me laugh, or books that make me think and push me at all times to become another person?

And normally the answer to all of this would be yes, but this blog has thrown a barrier up. Not only because of things like review copies and blog tours, though they certainly are a bit of the problem, but also things like themed weeks and readalongs and challenges and the INSPYs. I can be fine for months working on this schedule and achieving these goals and enjoying the ride and then BAM!

I don't want to read whatever's next for me to read. I can't bear to hear about another book even though last week my appetite for book catalogs was INSATIABLE. I want to escape into a TV show during the time I would normally be reading or blogging or tweeting or whatever.

It's moodiness, it cannot be predicted and planned for and OH GUESS WHAT? This blog is not a job, it's a labor of love. It's something I do because I love it, but strangely it comes with all the attachments of a job, there's like a schedule and emails to worry about and it begs to be updated often, I must constantly attend to it. There's spam to delete and agreements to renew, etc, and on and on it goes.

Sometimes I think it's the way I've piled on too much reading. I am thirsty and desperate for the next sublime reading experience and yet so many books fail. There are many great books, but there are only a few that shake you to your core. The search is at times filled with joy and other times it feels like the most burdensome undertaking. The search is important, of course, because while a book may not have that spark or quick fire, it can also act as a poison, slowly working on your mind and heart over time. These books cannot be known at first glance or read, but they have their purpose.

So these past few weeks, I've been suffering from reader's block, blogger's block, writer's block, all of it. I did read a book cover to cover yesterday and loved it. It was everything a reading experience should be I wept through the pages, I thought about my own life and choices. But now I have no idea where to go next. It didn't break the hold of the block, it was like a temporary break. A glimpse back into what a reading life can be.

I concede that being a book blogger has ruined me as a reader. I no longer read for the sheer pleasure of it, I no longer read in a carefree way. There's a weight to every choice, an awareness to my reading life. I am aware, for example, that I am suffering from reader's block, when in the past I would not have even thought about it. Most of the time, I don't regret this. I love the friends I've made, the vast knowledge I've gained. I love the worlds that have been opened up to me through the pages of books I would have never discovered apart from this blog.

But sometimes, like these past few weeks, I feel the sting of regret.

Maybe this block is all a part of what Geoff Dyer talks about in his essay on reader's block,

In the same way, my declining ability to read is itself the product of having read a fair bit. If reading heightens your responses, shapes your idea of the world, gives you a sense of the purpose of life, then it is not surprising if, over time, reading should come to play a proportionately smaller role in the context of the myriad possibilities it has opened up. The more thoroughly we have absorbed its lessons, the less frequently we need to refer to the user’s manual. After a certain point subjective inwardness becomes self-rather than textually generated. Of course there is more to learn, more to read, but whereas, when I was a teenager, each new book represented an almost overwhelming addition to what I knew and felt, each new book now adds a smaller increment to the sum of knowledge.

I don't know I'm still quite young, I think, but the line that really resonated with me is in bold. Reading more and being more aware of my reading has certainly changed everything about who I am as a reader and how I read. Where once I felt desperate to read all the great books being recommended to me by others, now I feel only hopeful to somehow find the most noteworthy, and be able to love them for all they're worth.


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