Is reader’s block a real thing?

For me, yes… Especially with fiction. Poetry is my “job”, as it were — the writing, editing, teaching, and judging of — so I find it easier to plow on through texts that don’t jazz me. But I’m a slow reader of fiction to begin with, and because it’s more mysterious to me in terms of how it’s working, I get more absorbed in a good book. That said, I sometimes come off a book that knocked my socks off (Klara and the Sun last year and Piranesi this year) and find myself unable to choose what to read next. It’s like when you take a perfect bite of dinner and then don’t want to eat more because that last forkful was so tasty you don’t want to spoil its memory in your mouth. Anyway, it’s not just me, apparently.

It’ll happen to you……

Reader’s block. The struggle is real. Or at least it is for me. I can see it in my reading log. I’ll read a book that I fall in love with so completely — something like Jesse Q. Sutanto’s Dial A for Aunties — and the experience will give me a sort of high. But then it will end and I’ll be at a loss. I’ll read at least seven books I only feel meh about, DNFing god knows how many others, before finally picking up a book that gives me a fraction of the joy that last awesome title gave me. God, I hate reading slumps.

And these past two years, the reader’s block has been even worse. Pandemic-related stress and anxiety have torpedoed attention spans. Our cognitive load — the amount of information our working memory can hold at any one time — has shrunk. “Previously, you might be willing to put that little bit of effort in because you get that extra reward from reading the book,” neuroscientist and psychologist Oliver J. Robinson told the folks at Refinery29. “But if you don’t care about the reward anymore because you’re anhedonic or you’re miserable or you’ve got other things on your mind, then you’re not going to bother.”

Sound familiar, anyone?

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