Lately I find myself in a reading slump—which I HATE. I've started and abandoned four books in a row, and it's getting me down. Nothing is grabbing me, not even things that I'm pretty sure I would enjoy. I'm having trouble connecting to the characters, and I find that they irk me more than they invited empathy. I keep switching books, starting and stopping my reading one book after another. Plus, I'm easily distracted and find my brain would rather put down the book I'm trying to read and play with dragons in Dragonvale instead (which my whole family is playing together at this point—it's our dinnertime conversation. If anyone's listening in on us, we hope you like our dragon breeding tips).
It's miserable to be in a reading slump. I keep telling myself that it's normal, but when looking at my TBR pile makes me discouraged, it's a pretty miserable feeling.
Reading slumps are also—for me, anyway—self-fulfilling prophecies. I approach most books with the intention to enjoy them. I want to like what I'm reading, and I'm predisposed towards feeling positive about any book I pick up. So my feelings of discouragement diminish my high expectations and I become hesitant about picking up anything, worrying that if I haven't enjoyed the last 4 or 5 books, I won't enjoy the next one, either. And, since reading romance is my most-favoritest thing, I start to worry even more that the magic has worn off and I won't be able to enjoy it again.
Yes, clearly I overthink this—just a bit. I think my inner melodramatic 12-year-old-self is in charge of my reading worries sometimes. Sheesh.
However, I do have a strategy for slump busting, one that silences the melodrama and worry in my brain, and convinces it to take a break.
First, I have to recognize why I'm in a slump. Right now it's because I'm very busy and scattered, with a to-do list that's about 3 kilometers long, and my brain is really tired—likely too tired to do the imagining that reading a novel requires. When I start to feel like reading is more work than fun for my brain, I have to take a break or I'll only make it worse. Sometimes I even tell myself that I'm not permitted to review anything I pick up for the next 4 days, and must read for enjoyment only. Sometimes this works in reverse—I tell myself that I'm not going to review a book, then I end up with about 5000 words I want to say about it, and presto, slump is busted!
But if that doesn't work, I move on to my next step in slump busting.
I read something else.
I KNOW. SHOCKING, right?
I might switch sub-genres of romance, and try a book in a style I don't often read, like romantic adventure or a Harlequin Presents, or download a lineup of novellas, which also tend to soothe the reading slump tantrum.
Or, if I'm looking for something completely and utterly different, I read way outside the genre, or read something that's nonfiction. I made a folder of books on my e-reader that I titled "Slump Busters" and I'm going to experiment with how many I will read before I feel better.
Right now, it's a mix of fiction and nonfiction. I have a few magazine issues that focus on business, psychology, cooking and entertainment. Plus, I have The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, some books by Kajsa Ingemarsson translated into English, a few specialty cookbooks, and a few books on travel locations from travel guide Rick Steves. If my brain is tired, I try to feed it something charming and happy, or something entirely filled with facts and ideas. I also find, oddly, that I retain enormous amounts of detail from the books I read during a romance slump, particularly if the book is nonfiction.
So in a week or so, I'll either be brimming full of ideas of what to do if you travel to Spain, or ready to make a huge pot of braised something or other for dinner every night for a week. And then, I'll go back to romance. Much like actually traveling, for me, traveling outside my favorite genre makes me appreciate it more when I return (and I know I will, no matter what the melodrama 13 year old says).
What do you do for a reading slump? What books always break you out of it?
Sarah Wendell is the co-creator, editor and mastermind of the popular romance blog Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. She loves talking with romance readers, and hopes you'll share your new favorite romance reading recommendations. You can find her on Twitter @smartbitches, on Facebook, or on her couch, most likely with her eyeglasses turned toward a book.