On Reading and Readers’ Block

The last time I wrote here, I was overcome with writers’ block. This time, it is the opposite situation. I can churn out a minimum of 300 words and up to 500-1,000 words of writing, expressive or otherwise, in a single sitting these days, which is brilliant. But, it is taking me more than one hour to read ten pages of a book, a Victorian novel, to be more specific. When I read my favourite short story collection, I can only focus on one story at a time, which comes down to one story per sitting. This has been the case since December 2014, and it’s not over yet.

For the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I was going to read 45 books. I had read 43 already in the last days of the year, but I was struggling with one book that prevented me from achieving my goal. So I decided to cheat, against my better judgment, which, in any case, did not matter too much because this was just a reading challenge, with no accountability as such, and that I am way too principled to do something of this sort. But, I still cheated. I changed the number of books I was planning to read to exactly the number that I had read: 43 books in a year. This was okay, because I had read over 40 books throughout the year, despite many periods that should have prevented me from focusing on a book. So, it was all good.

However, the book that prevented me from reaching my goal of 45 books left me with something known as the Readers’ Block. That book was Philip Roth’s When She Was Good, and now I cringe whenever I see a book by him at a bookshop or a second-hand bookstall. Although, I must admit I do plan to read his Portnoy’s Complaint at some point, which was recommended to me by a very dear friend, but in a few years’ time, not yet, I’m not ready.

So, getting back to the point, I am still stuck in a rut regarding my reading. My reading goal for this year remains the same: 45 books; but, so far, I have been struggling with Anthony Trollope’s Barchester Towers. Don’t get me wrong, I really do like this novel. I am annotating it as I read and doing so slows me down. I happen to have some vague plans of starting a section on this blog titled ‘Readings in Victorian Literature’, and believe that annotating and making notes will help me to write about the above topic. But, I also need a book or two that I may read quickly, just to increase my book count on Goodreads; something, anything that does not demand too much mental and emotional energy from me. I find that I am, at present, unable to give myself fully to a book.

I recently took a break from reading Trollope and instead read The Railway Children by E. Nesbitt, despite having been told by the same very dear friend that it is a terrible book. I still liked it; it was short, sweet, fast-paced, and light enough for me to read it without putting too much of myself into it. In short, it was the perfect book to cleave through my readers’ block. Sadly, it did not help very much. My reading block still exists. I’d rather stare at my laptop screen than read Barchester Towers. Certain other things are also exacerbating the problem, things that may be solved through reading, and of course, writing.

I am now considering reading A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett next. I believe it will be similar to The Railway Children; it will be short, sweet, possibly more fast-paced than Trollope’s novel, but not necessarily light enough. I know because I’ve seen the 1995 film version of the book as a child, and it was one of the ‘sad’ films from my childhood that I still remember. In any case, I plan to give it a try, soon.

I really must read.

It feels like something awaits me within the pages of a book, something better, something beautiful; something that might save me.

Maybe it is this anticipation that holds me back from reading, puts me in an utterly distracted state of mind, which bothers me and further prevents me from reading. So, I can only write.

Does it have to be like that? Just write, write, write, write while it becomes a struggle to even read ten pages in a sitting? Or, only read, read, read, read for months at a stretch until the creative juices break open the dam within and flood everything. Is this how it is going to be like? My entire writing life segmented into spurts of intense periods of only reading and only writing, each full of vastly different emotions, each without peace, without calm, a period that never ever stops being tumultuous.

Is there any chance of reconciliation, some sort of balance to be had here? It might help; how, I don’t know.


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