Monday, 25 October 2010

Not Reading

Those who know me in a more personal capacity will have realised by now that I've been left pretty devastated by some news from the weekend.

I'm going through the usual not eating, not sleeping routine. What is more disturbing to me is I'm also struggling to read.

It is almost amusing that there have been times in recent weeks when I would have given anything for more time to myself to read - and now I don't want to.

Over the years reading has always been a massive source of comfort to me. It is what I turn to when I want to just forget the world and escape elsewhere. To not be able to do that leaves me feeling a little lost.

What I want to ask you, my readers, is: have there been times when you have lost the reading mojo? If it isn't too private, what caused it? How did you get it back?

P.S. I hope you can all understand that the blog might suffer for a few weeks. I hope to keep up posting, but, if there is less to read, I do hope you'll stick around and be back when I feel more capable.


  1. Oh no, I'm sorry to hear that you have had some bad news, Amanda. Sending you best wishes and big hugs through this time.

    With regards to reading - yes, I do lose my mojo sometimes. Sometimes when I am going through a bad time books are my salvation and I do nothing but read, read, read but then other times I can't bring myself to pick up a book;; nothing feels right or interests me.

    It passes though :o) Don't be too hard on yourself - take some time out and recover from your news and all your readers will still be here when you return.

    Boof x

  2. Oh, I go through not-reading phases all the time. Reading ennui is quite natural I think, and doesn't necessary require any specific trigger. I'll happily enjoy a new book, put it back on the shelf, then make false starts on half a dozen others before I get back into the rhythm of reading properly. It doesn't happen too often, but I can go several weeks sprinkled throughout a year being unable to decide, or feel comfortable with, my next read.

    I hope you can get your mojo back nice and quick.

  3. Hi Amanda, I'm really sorry to hear you've gotten bad news that has devastated you so.

    On the reading front I completely understand. Depression does have that effect on me and I often say that lack of reading and emotional decline go hand-in-hand for me.

    Within a year of moving here I stopped reading very much, occaissionally picking up a book only to get a few chapters and put it aside. Not necessarily because the books were bad, but because my heart was not in it. I was in a very bad place mentally. Struggling through depression and heavy boredom to the point where I couldn't concetrate on anything except the television. I spent a few years like that. It was very bad.

    The minute I decide I had enough of living like that and managed to pick up a pretty wonderful book or two in succession the flood gates re-opened. It also gave me my passion for writing back.

    I still go through bits of feeling low and not wanting to read or write much. So I competely understand where you are coming from. Take the pressure off yourself and let your emotions go through their cycle to get you through the hard times at the moment. The books will always be there for you.

  4. That happens to me from time to time as well. Even without anything extraordinaire happening. I might just be totally stressed out and the best thing would be to read...

    If it goes on for a while I usually trick myself into reading an old book that I love and know is easy, i.e. I don’t need to think I just read.

  5. I've definitely lost the reading mojo a couple of times. First when I first started university and had to read so many books for classes that regular reading just wasn't fun any more. Once I got used to the workload and learned to separate reading for classes from reading for pleasure, I gradually recaptured my mojo for reading.

    The other times it was due to stress or depression. What got me going again on the reading front, was rereading some of my favourite books.

  6. I have indeed. My teenage self would never have thought it possible. In many ways, I've only just found it back recently, after years of fasting.

    My biggest problems are two fold, though the second is parasitic on the other. The first is that trying to juggle my many and varied income earning jobs with my research and writing has been a vast draw on both my time and my energy over the last four years. When I get home from a hard day's working or studying, all I want to do is veg in front of the computer and do something that sucks in my mind, pushes out all taxing thought, and entertains me with minimal effort. I've always watched a lot of film and TV, but now I find myself working through great swathes of DVDs (usually TV shows, rather than films, as they are shorter and more easily digestable). People who've known me a while will be familliar with the Great Smallville Inhaling of 2010, along with the Lost binge of 2009, the Incredible Hulk mania of 2008, and the long M*A*S*H obsession of 2004-2007. In that time I have only really read a handful of books by tried and trusted authors, until recently, with the odd exception for things that really sounded like they'd be 100% up my alley, and came highly recommended.

    It's surprising to me, because books are my go-to comfort zone for complete absorption. But I think the thing is that reading does honestly take more brain power than watching, and unless a book is a)really good, and b) right up my alley, I won't get into it with ease, and I don't have the mental energy to expend on books that don't immediately grab me anymore.

    So that's the second thing, really: because I don't have time to spend on mediocre books, I'm not straying very far from my comfort zone, so I often only buy or borrow a book when a favourite author releases something new.

    As for getting your mojo back, I say: return to an old favourite (although not one you've read too recently). It'll engage you with minimum effort, and soothe you whilst you're getting back in the zone for accepting something new.

  7. Hi Amanda,
    there have been a number of times i've gone through not-reading, and while it's a real passion of mine there are times I am really not in the mood.

    I guess some of the time it's the stresses and strains that cause this for me, and the last time I went through what you must be going through now even though I had loads of time on my hands I just couldn't concentrate or relax enough to read for a while.

    I find that it's best to just let your emotions run their course, sometimes there are also other distractions that help instead of reading (for me this is usually videogames). Books will always be there when you return...

  8. That definitely happens when I'm too stressed. Reading, which should be comforting, isn't enough. But I find that going back to read something familiar normally helps, especially Terry Pratchett, Anne of Green Gables or Harry Potter (I know, I'm a grown woman, but it really helps!) And cake too. And slowly things start to look manageable. Hope you start feeling that soon.

  9. Sorry to hear you have troubles. Yes, large stressful situations can put a damper on reading. As a couple others have mentioned, sometimes reading an old favorite can be helpful. The reading comes back.

  10. Hi Amanda,

    I certainly experience reading fatigue every now and then. The trigger is usually stress, be it personal or work-related. I've had it last a few weeks, but sometimes it can stretch into a few months.

    The desire to read always came back naturally for me (I liken it to a switch turning on). My body and mind "felt" ready to start reading again. It's hard to explain, but that's how things work sometimes.

    I also agree with the above posts that it's good to go back to a book that you're fond of. It helps to stir up good vibes and makes you remember why you love reading in the first place.

    And don't worry about the blog. Take care of yourself, first and foremost! We'll still be around when you're ready to come back.

  11. To read properly - rather than skimming - takes effort, and involvement and concentration and, surprisingly when you think about it, energy. I don't think anyone can blame you if you're running low on all of them!

    There've been a couple of times I went without reading: while I was finishing my MA, and renovating a house at the same time - not only was I too exhausted to read by the end of the day, I simply didn't want to look at any more words. Ever. Thankfully, that was just a phase.

    When I've been suffering from depression, too, I've not read - and that goes for the times I was on medication and the times I wasn't. The simple fact was that I could no longer connect with what was going on in my own head - let alone in someone else's, like an author's.

    Don't sweat it: if books are important to you, they always will be. That never goes away. Sometimes you just need to take a break & recharge.

  12. Saw your news on facebook. Yes, I've had times when I didn't feel like reading (or doing anything) particularly when my marriage was falling apart. So I can relate. I think it just takes time. You have too much on your mind, but once the healing starts, you will get the desire to read again. I don't think you can force it. Hang in there . . .

  13. Hi Amanda. I'm really sorry you had bad news and you've lost the desire to read for now. I hope whatever it is that caused this goes away soon. Hang in there.

    I'm like you. I have always loved reading, I've always used reading to escape from the world and its problems. Books are my place of comfort, even disturbing ones. There have been a few times where I too lost my desire to read. I found out that half-hearted attempts to continue reading were pointless because the words were just meaningless. Depression does that to me, my worst time when when I found out my first IVF attempt failed. I couldn't pick up a book for 2-3 weeks until the pain stopped being too overpowering. It got better with time.

  14. Sorry to hear that you're having problems.

    2008 was my worst reading year for a while. My two remaining grandparents were both in hospital for extended periods, in different parts of the country, and both later died. Travelling several time per week to visit each of them, plus being at university on a highly involved course, took it's toll for ages. I've only recently got my reading mojo back because university then took over my life!

  15. I never stop reading entirely, but every so often I'll spend a month or two just reading comics. A 500pp collection of sixties Superman is my idea of heaven, but it always leaves me craving something a bit more substantial.

  16. Big hugs coming your way!

    I had some bad reading times when my mom passed away in 2006. I couldn't concentrate on anything. It took me a while to start reading again (regularly). At that point in time I didn't want to be in my head..and reading was a quiet activity that allowed that to happen. During that time I was more likely to be hanging out with friends. I made myself surrounded by people. My advice-- change it up a bit. If you can't read, don't! Get outside and do something or try something new that you've always wanted to try. Getting outside yourself is a good thing!

    Every once in a while now, I'll get in that slump..either because I'm upset about something going on or maybe it's unexplainable...I end up tackling an old childhood favorite or read a fun, mindless magazine!

  17. I have had periods like that. Somehow, when I feel stressed or depressed I either bury myself in books or stay far away from them. When my then boyfriend broke up with me 7 years ago I occupied myself with watching endless costume dramas and reading the books that went with them. However, it took me some time to be able to like them, because their stories were too much like happy love stories at first. And now that I'm in Sweden and incredibly homesick at times, I have found myself resorting to the classics genre as a sort of comfort reading. Anything else feels too unpredictable to me, and I don't like reading outside my comfort zone when I feel insecure.

    I do hope you manage to feel a bit better about your bad news. It must be horrible to go through. I wish I could do more for you than simply wishing you all the best. If there is anything, please let me know.

  18. Dearest Amanda,

    I wish I knew your personality better so that I knew what kind of joke to make. Not because I think a joke would cheer you up in a time of crisis, but simply because that's what I do, make bad jokes--and by bad, I mean not very funny--at inappropriate times. It's a sort of bad habit of mine.

    But probably the best advice I could give, which I'm sure you know and have heard a thousand times from people much closer to you and your current situation, is that, whatever it is, it will pass eventually. Like a bladder stone ripping through a urethra, there's a time limit for your grief. (See? Bad joke!)

    I'm actually in a reading rut myself while I wait for Towers of Midnight, though usually my lack of reading has more to do with my abundance of writing. Being a future bestselling author requires sacrifice I suppose. Plus, I just haven't found anything that "wows" me lately. I know that my problems aren't similar to yours. How do I know this despite not knowing what's gnawing away at you? No, I'm not psychic, I just know I wouldn't blog about boredom being a hindrance to reading. Plus, I follow your Twitter feed, so I *think* I know what's bothering you, if it's what you alluded to last week.

    In any event, just know you have fans out here--fans who hope you will some day review *their* books . . . honestly and brutally to be sure--who've got your back. Not literally, obviously, because that would be plain creepy and then you'd just be a head and limbs (again with the bad jokes). This too shall pass.


  19. I don't know what you're going through, but I hope things get better soon for you. they will get better. slowly maybe, but they will. That month of not eating, of not talking to anyone, of avoiding social contact, of sleeping in my clothes? been there done that. it sucks. For now and for as long as it takes, do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

    that said, i get my reading mojo back by not reading.

    sounds silly, doesn't it. I don't want to read, I don't feel like reading, so damn it, i'm not going to read for a few days!

    I'm not a big TV watcher, so when I've lost that book mojo, I turn into a big old couch potato and watch tons of tv.

    after a few days of the boob tube, even Twilight sounds like a good read.

  20. Am finding it very hard to concentrate on books right now. The only things that can hold my attention are old short stories (am currently reading a few bits by Kipling and Clark Ashton Smith) that I've mostly already read, because the two new novels I bought lately just aren't doing it for me. Not Weird enough, to be honest. I find myself losing focus and drifting off into scenes from my own novel, which I desperately need to start writing again. Current SFF is just not delivering for me at the moment.

    Sorry to hear of the personal catastrophe btw, have been there. Dealt with it with a lot less dignity too, many times. With time it fades and gets easier, although of course this will be no consolation whatsoever.

  21. Sorry to hear you had some bad news, Amanda. Whatever it is, I hope you get through it okay.

    The only times I've ever not felt like reading was right after the gruesome finals exams periods, back when I was in college. We had 10 classes per semester, so 20 per year, and all 20 exams were scheduled in a two to three week period, which basically meant nothing but studying for a good month. At the end of that time, I just didn't want to look at a book for a week or two. Aside from that, I've never felt like not reading. Not ever.

  22. Sorry to hear you are having a tough time and I hope you feel better soon.

    I've had times when I lost the urge to read but they do pass eventually and one day soon you'll find yourself reading a blog or walking past a bookshop and you'll just have to have that book :D

    Sending you a big hug
    The other Amanda x

  23. I'm sorry you're going through a rough time. I've also had periods where I just couldn't concentrate enough to read, and I found the best thing to do was to keep at it in a very low-key way. I'd still read every day, but I didn't blame myelf if I could only get through twenty or thirty pages. I also focused in on other things, like TV on DVD or my own writing. While I still had to concentrate, these activities required a different approach than reading, and they helped me feel like I was still doing something with my time.

  24. My sympathies,

    However, should you wish to keep reading, my recommendation is as follows:

    Take long walks (unless a health issue precludes it) irrespective of the weather. The worse the weather in fact, the better. If you live in proximity to some cliffs, on a windswept moor, near a bog, excellent! Sometimes an alienating urban landscape will work wonders as well. Whatever the case, contemplate, or let your thoughts merge with the landscape as you desire. Walk until you are tired (or threatened by acute physical danger).

    Sit in front of a fire, or if none are available (don't forget, furniture often makes a fine blaze), a similar source of warmth. Drink a cup of tea (not hemlock), a glass of wine or old port, or a dram (bottle) of whisky. Pick up a book, something not your normal choice for diversion - something hard, classic, or simply obscure. Read until your eyes can't focus, the fire goes out, or your supply of alcohol dwindles to a dangerous level. Retire and repeat.

    You might find reading becomes less an issue than just reading your normal sort of book, during such a period, thinking of it for the blog, and reporting is not what you need. You're not going to find reading for pleasure giving you the same effect if your mind or emotions are in turmoil. So read for something else - read for improvement, for enlightenment, or out of pure obstinacy.

    Books have many purposes, among them the ability to sit silently in our minds and fill out the quiet places. Some aren't meant to be read just to pass the time on the train. Digest and ruminate, brood if you must, find something that is hard to get through, that demands a lot or even makes you furiously angry but accept that things are different - and will be for some time.

    Alternatively: You can make mazes out of the stacks of unread books that will soon litter your living space. Invent a fantastic name for your City of Unread Books. Cut out paper dolls to inhabit it, pen up some wood lice or silverfish as their cattle behind fences of braided leather spines. Give performances to your imaginary friends detailing their daily lives and struggles, occasionally gathering up paper citizens to savagely tear to ribbons or toss into the fire in random fits of pique. Straddle your small universe like a vengeful colossus. You are their creator, and lo, you will be their unmaker as well!

    Or just go to the cinema. Bleak art house films with various awards and/or foreign films whose translators went mad and so there are no intelligible sub-titles are best - accompanies by wooly sweaters and copious amounts of black, sickly sweet coffee.

    Good Luck,


  25. Hi Amanda, I'm sorry to hear that you aren't having a good time of it. I had a really horrible time in my life two years ago, I fell out with my parents basically and we've not spoken since. Reading had always been my solace and a way to get away from things but I really struggled as I just couldn't concentrate as there were so many thoughts flying round my head. A close friend of mine who shares the reading bug suggested that I just read books that I had loved in the past as it didn't matter if I wasn't fully following them. I did what she suggested and I have to say that it really helped, still had the comfort of reading without the pressures of following a new plot or getting to know new characters.
    I really hope that you things get better soon!

  26. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    I love each and every one of these comments and I appreciate the time you've taken to respond to my post. I'm also humbled at some of the reasons you've given for why you might have stopped reading. It helps put my heartbreak into some perspective.

  27. So sorry to hear your news Amanda.

    Like some others have said, my reading goes through peaks and troughs too; mainly due to periods of depression which usually has non-specific triggers. But I never worry about it because the reading mojo WILL come back. And books will always be there.