Dear Literary Lady,
I used to love to read, but lately, I haven’t been able to get into the books on my reading list. I’m frustrated that I haven’t been able to finish any of them. I find myself easily distracted when I’m reading, and I end up playing with my phone, staring blankly at the TV, or doing absolutely nothing. What happened to me, and what should I do?
– P.D., Toledo, OH.
Before you pick up another book, I want you to stop and check in with yourself. Ask yourself if anything has been bothering you, if there’s anything in the back of your mind, if you’re stressed out about anything. Has anything happened lately? Is anything about to happen? How are you feeling?
Books can be many things to us—they can be fortifying, enlightening, comforting, and entertaining. They can help us relax, help us escape, help us empathize with others, and help us think. But sometimes, books are not enough. Sometimes, you don’t get what you need out of reading to deal constructively with actual, difficult issues in your life.
So before you tackle your reading slump, I suggest tackling your situation as a whole and assessing what you truly need. What is happening that your favorite activity cannot solve? Do you need to take care of yourself? Do you need to take action in some way? Do you need to connect with people in your life? Do you need to get something off your chest? Those are all things that even the best book ever written cannot do for you. Sure, a great book can lead you to water, but it cannot make you drink.
As wonderful as books are, they ask things of us. They ask for our undivided attention, our brainpower, our emotions, and our time. Sometimes, you just don’t have any of that to spare. That’s when you start to feel like you’re just not “into” a book and reading an entire novel becomes too difficult to sustain.
If any of this strikes a chord with you, my advice is to set aside your ambitious reading list for a bit. Don’t get hung up on finishing one novel after another. Don’t worry about checking another book off your list. Don’t get frustrated with yourself for not making it to the last page.
Instead, find ways to take care of yourself. You can even do so in ways that intersect with your love of literature. Try writing for yourself. Hang out with friends and talk about books. Go to the bookstore with friends and just browse together. Find quotes and poems that speak to how you feel. Focus on your story, and not someone else’s, just for a little while. You’ll go back to books soon enough, and you’ll enjoy them even more.
Love and paperbacks,