Reader’s Block

I can’t read any more.

I haven’t lost my ability to decode the squiggles on a piece of paper or computer screen, rather, I have lost interest in reading. And as a writer, that is worrying.

I started a book a couple of weeks ago, Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. It’s a fantasy built on the premise that Queen Victoria married Count Dracula after Albert died and is peopled by characters from classic literature of that time – John Seward, the Harkers, Sherlock Holmes, etc. – and on the surface ticks all the boxes for me.

Yet….I put it down after 150 pages, disinterested to read more.

Undeterred, I start another book I had on my Kindle for a while, Apostle Islands by Tommy Zurhellen. I read and loved the prequel to this book, Nazareth, North Dakota, and was so looking forward to the sequel.  Yet everything that made me love his first book leaves me cold in this one.

I must apologise to these writers and I am offering no criticism of their work. I am certain that it’s not them. Rather, something has changed for me and I’m not sure what.

The last book I read and loved was a proof copy of The Night Rainbow by Claire King, but even as I came to the final page – and when I review it, I will be giving it 5* – I felt something change in me.

Is it just that the types of books I used to love don’t do it for me any more? Do I not enjoy reading as a pastime?

I’ve been working on my own writing for a while and have purposefully not read anything in the same genre lest I should unconsciously plagiarise a more talented writer than myself. I’m hoping that it’s my own characters who are stopping me from reading about those belonging to other writers; that Sean, Fiona and Catnip Nardini are too impatient to have their story out there, and that once I’ve finished this book, I’ll be able to read fiction again with the fervour and enjoyment I did before.

Until then, it’s magazines and non-fiction only.

Has this ever happened to you?

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11 Comments

  1. Robin
    Nov 27, 2012

    You need a Los Angeles police procedural. Any one of Michael Connelly’s will do. But stay away from the short stories for now. You also need a holiday music CD. I suggest WhereforeArts.com presents This Time & Place, which is available on CDBaby. Trust me – my advice is good as gold and penicillin.

  2. ailsaabrahamwp
    Nov 27, 2012

    any widits on th eyes ………. I m getting kindle- exhausted .. lying in bed trying to read .. doesn’t work

  3. Les Fletcher
    Nov 27, 2012

    Yes. It has happened to me and my sister and many many friends. A crazy stage of life is what I call it. It can and likely will return but in the meantime don’t fret. There are plenty of other things to do that can be as rewarding in a different way.
    I do understand. I used to devour books and now take up to three weeks to read one. Currently, I have four books begging me to read them but… time calls me for other duties! And I too stayed away while I was writing my books but now feel comfortable to read and write 🙂

    Please fetch this message from your spam basket (from Inspiration Import? Thanks)

  4. Margot Kinberg
    Nov 27, 2012

    Nettie – Oh, it’s definitely happened to me. I think it’s actually pretty normal. I think that after a while, if one’s patient, it really does pass.

  5. Michelle Proulx
    Nov 27, 2012

    It could very well be that you’re engrossed in your own story and can’t focus on any others until you finished. But what about trying a new genre? When I got bored of fantasy (briefly! I’m back on fantasy now), I switched to sci-fi, then to YA, then to romance, etc. etc. Whichever way the wind takes you and your reading tastes, good luck!

  6. Rebecca Bradley
    Nov 28, 2012

    From reading your post, the comments and my own experience – I’ve put several books down halfway through recently – I don’t think it’s uncommon.

    I agree that maybe trying a different genre might be a good idea. Maybe one you wouldn’t even normally think of reading?

    One of the bits of advice I remember though, is to always read in the genre you’re writing in. And in Stephen Kings On Writing, he says not to worry about sounding a bit like those you read. Your own voice will come through. I write crime and I read it constantly. In fact I’ve switched from mainly American crime fiction to British, just to see what it is that’s different. I’m about ready to start querying again and I don’t think it’s hurt me reading in genre. In fact I’d say its helped. So don’t be worried about reading the stuff you want to read. Read what you want 🙂

  7. joskehan
    Nov 28, 2012

    Nettie I think we all get tired from our busy every day lives and it spills over to what we usually enjoy, whether that is reading, writing, walking, sewing, etc etc….it happened to me years ago but not with books – I used to make teddy bears, and very good teddy bears too if I may so myself…people wrote to me from all over Oz to ask for one of my bears to be made for them….every Christmas I was flat out in every waking hour after my full time work day, sewing, putting eyes in, embroidering noses, stuffing, dressing, bolting and screwing limbs (sounds weird doesn’t it?) and then one day I really had to force myself to make a very cute little girl bear who wore a gorgeous frilly little pink dress, with a straw hat decorated with pink roses to match…..once I had finished her and packed her off to her new owner, I knew she would be the last I would make willingly and happily. I filled all the existing orders and refused any new orders – I have never made another bear and I know I never will. Maybe the same thing will happen to you with the genre of books for reading, and maybe it will pass, but whatever or however the result, I feel these changes in us are meant to be. Big hugs. xxxx

  8. joskehan
    Nov 28, 2012

    Nettie, this happened to me years ago, but not with reading or writing. I used to make teddy bears and they were very good bears too and orders came to me from all over Oz…every Christmas my order book was full and I spent every spare hour after my full time work, sewing, putting in eyes, jointing, embroidering noses, sewing on ears, stuffing, dressing etc cute little and some big, bears. One Christmas I was making a very sweet little girl bear who wore a gorgeous pink dress and straw hat with flowers on it to match…very stylish! As I sewed her, i had the sudden feeling that she would be the last bear I would make willingly and happily. I filled the rest of my orders that year and took no new ones, and she was the last bear I have made. Whatever the result of your not being able to read a particular genre, I feel that these changes in us are meant to be….maybe it will pass and maybe it will be like my passion in bear making and disappear for good. Good luck and big hugs Nettie. xx

  9. Carolyn Hughes
    Nov 28, 2012

    You are not alone! I’ve been through this and at first felt guilty that I wasn’t finishing a book, but life is too short to be trying to do something your heart isn’t in! I agree with some of the others that it can be a phase that passes. I find when I’m in that ‘nothing is grabbing me’ mode that a reading classics are a good way back in.

  10. Abi Burlingham
    Dec 2, 2012

    Yep! Has been like this for me most of the year, Nettie. I read an amazing graphic novel earlier this year called ‘The House that Groaned’ and adored it. At the same time I was putting all my energy into writing ‘The Story Maker’. Now, I just can’t read. I keep picking up stuff and nothing is grabbing me. I have a TBR pile from last Christmas that is still there. I hope that the love of reading comes back to me, and to you too, Nettie xx

  11. Elaine-
    Feb 6, 2013

    oh my dog!!!!! i’ve had reader’s block for over 20 years, and i’ve basically tried not to think about it, so that my subconscious would relax and it would pass, but it has NEVER PASSED, and right now, i’m living alone, friends are back in home town, i’m disabled, addicted to the stupid internet coz i have nothing else to do, and the desire to get back to the world i grew up in, the world i was once happy in, (the book world) is sooooo tangible right now that it makes me want to break out in sobs…. i’m researching it on the net, but it doesn’t seem to last forever for anybody else and i have no idea what to do…. if you know of any help out there, anybody, for the love of all that’s good and holy, tell me about it!!!

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