This is a guest post from Beth O’Brien. Beth is a library assistant and book blogger from Atlantic Canada. She’s a Gilly, a Hufflepuff, a Jesus feminist, and a coffee-lover. When not geeking out over books, she’s obsessing over her favourite TV shows, listening to the Avett Brothers, and collecting mugs. Follow her on Twitter @fuelldbyfiction.
Twenty-sixteen was a big year for me in lots of ways. I was newly single, I made a ton of new friends, I moved out of my parents’ house, I lost forty pounds. A lot of good came out of last year. But it was the getting to those good things that was the hard part.
In March I began noticing I was declining into reading slump territory. Any reader knows how discouraging that can feel. I thought this would be like any other slump I’d been in—annoying, but ultimately short-lived. I was wrong.
Being a reader is a huge part of my identity. I’m a book blogger and a library assistant. Books are part of both my personal life and my professional life. When my longtime boyfriend and I split, I was struggling to figure out who I was on my own. I latched onto my identity as a reader, and when that began to slip, I was lost.
It felt like a huge part of me was missing. Like I had been cut off from my community. I stopped blogging, I stopped hanging out on Twitter, I stopped accepting and requesting review copies. It was hard not to get depressed about it. Even now, almost a year after my reading slump began, I’m still feeling some of its effects on my reading. But looking back, I can see how in that time I was growing—both as a person and as a reader.
Through the growing pains, there are five main things that I learned.
1. My time is precious. My reading time is even more precious to me. I’m not going to use my time on things that I don’t enjoy.
I have become a huge proponent of the DNF. If the book I’m reading is for enjoyment and I’m not feeling it, I’m going to move onto something else. Maybe I’ll come back to that title another time. But there are too many good books out there to waste my me time on something that’s not giving me pleasure. I’ve also become much more selective about books I accept or request for review. I know now just how much of a picky and moody reader I can be. I don’t want to waste my, or the publisher’s, time and resources.
2. My reading tastes have evolved.
When my go tos couldn’t get me interested, I tried new things. One of my now-favourite genres is feminist nonfiction. I discovered my absolute passion for it during this strange, unrelenting reading slump. These books educate me, challenge me, and broaden my perspective.
3. There is more to who I am than a reader.
Being a reader is a big part of who I am. If you were to ask my friends to name one thing about me, it would probably be, “She really, really likes books.” And while I love that, there’s a lot more to me. I love movies and TV shows. I’m a friend. A sister. A daughter. An aunt. A feminist. A writer. I’m a lot of things. It’s okay to take a step back from one thing to focus on another.
4. There is more to a reader than the number of books they read or the kind of books they read.
During my slump, I didn’t keep up with all the new releases I knew I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to read. I stopped paying attention to award winners unless it was for work. Where I was once knowledgeable, I had stopped caring. All the books that bloggers were talking about I hadn’t even heard of. Not only that, but I was constantly behind in my Goodreads challenge. Eventually, I was so far behind I didn’t have a hope of catching up.
I’ve had to learn to not place too much importance on these things. There are so many different kinds of readers. Not all readers care about new releases. Not all readers are bloggers. Not all readers even have or use the internet. I’m reminded of these things every day at work, and my slump really brought this into focus for me. I’m not a “bad” reader because I’m having a rough go. I’m just changing and evolving as one. And that’s totally okay.
5. As crazy as this feels for me to say… there is more to life than books.
Even though it was rather against my will, I learned to focus on other things during my reading slump. I spent more time with friends and family. I caught up on the latest shows and movies. I explored my city. I began to read different kinds of blogs. I made new friends. I went outside (crazy, right?). Although none of these things could fill the place in my heart books do, I’ve learned that it’s all about balance. It’s okay to not read all the books because I’ve been spending time with other humans. I might even be happier for it.
The next time I find myself in a reading slump, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’m going to recognize it for the challenge and opportunity to grow that it is. I hope you will, too.