Dry Spells

Dry SpellsA couple of months ago, my grandfather sent me a box full of books. I had been complaining about having nothing to read, and books are where we always find common ground. He has never suggested a book to me that I did not like, so as I opened the box, inhaled the smell of old books, and started to pull them out, I was feeling that unique high of a reader; anticipation and indulgence all swirled into one.

There were maybe 20-30 books in this box; I can’t even imagine what shipping must have cost him. I found homes for all of them on my shelf, and left the one that he had spoken the most about on my end table (Sailing Around the World, by Joshua Slocum). Around the same time, I had ordered 4 books from Chapters as a birthday present to myself, so, as you can imagine, I was inundated with reading material.

I should be through those books by now. I’m a fast reader, my evenings and weekends are free, and the only things that beg for my attention are my pets, who would gladly curl up next to me to enjoy a few quiet moments with a book. But I’m about 30 pages into Sailing Around the World, and it’s a good book; clever, full of dry humour, adventurous, and well-written. So why aren’t I finished?

It’s because, as sometimes happens to me, I am experiencing a dry spell. No book can hold my attention, not even Harry Potter or The Hobbit. I can’t re-read any of my old favourites. I can’t get caught up in a new bestseller. I can’t even finish a book that I started months ago. I don’t want to read in the evenings. I don’t want to read in the bath. I don’t want to read on a sunny weekend afternoon.

And it’s not that I have no desire to read, it is that nothing interests me right now. My brain is craving other forms of stimulation, regardless of how I feel about it. In some ways, it can be a blessing. When I read a book, when I become entranced by a story, I am a slave to it. I eat it, breathe it, sleep it. I physically crave it when I can’t read it. I will become so involved in it that I will read even when I only have 3 minutes to spare.

This makes me wonder if perhaps it is healthy to take breaks every so often, to lose that all-consuming feeling of curiosity and longing. After all, if I were to feel like that all of the time, it might drive me quite mad. Reading has become an addiction to me, and to abstain from it for a week or a month at a time can help me to clear my head.

I find that when I keep my distance from the pages, I am able to focus more on my own writing. Questions that have been floating around in my head for ages suddenly have answers and plots can be untangled. I have more time to explore other mediums that I relish, such as video games, movies, and theater.

And the strange thing is that during these dry spells, I do not miss reading. I do not gaze at the books on my shelf in exasperation or frustration. I do not feel as if I have lost anything, but instead, as if I am taking a vacation and will soon return to the routine that I know and love. I know that I will return to their pages soon, and that it will feel like home.

As I have said umpteen times, we are all different. How we read, how we write, and what inspires us are all individualistic experiences that help to shape and define us. There is no “right” way to read, and no “right” way to write. We are who we are, and there’s no one way to be a bookworm.

Do you ever have dry spells? Or do you read constantly? Do you take conscious breaks from books, or does it happen naturally?

I’ll be on Facebook until next time.

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18 thoughts on “Dry Spells

    • You know, prior to writing this post, I thought I was the only one. So, if you look through the comments, you’ll see it’s quite common! Maybe it’s our brains telling us we need to focus on reality for a little while.

  1. This is so familiar. My dry spells are definitely a natural occurrence, not self-imposed. I should learn to accept them as you do. Instead, I feel like the neglected stacks are staring at me and accusing. Bah!

    Thanks for articulating this common feeling!

    • It’s very enlightening to see so many others who go through dry spells. I had thought I was quite alone in those, and I would often feel sub-par because of it. It’s much easier to accept knowing that it’s a normal experience for other avid readers. Thanks for reading!

  2. I find my dry spells are caused more by circumstance than by my own moods. In school, I had a lot of dry spells. Lately though I can’t stop reading (or listening to audio books, but I’ll treat that as the same thing). I started reading Game of Thrones for the first time this week and I find myself hooked. I have trouble putting it down sometimes.

  3. Yes, I have those same dry spells. And no, I don’t feel guilty for not reading. They also usually occur for me the same time that I’m heavily into my writing and my brain just can’t spare the cells to focus on another story when I have my own characters and plot charging around in my head.
    I read well over 100 books a year, so I don’t get too worried when the dry spells come. They’ll fade, eventually, and I’ll be back in my reading groove.

    • I read a lot of books as well, so when I don’t read it feels so strange. But, after finding so many others that feel the same, I think I’ll let my guilt disappear. It seems to be a fairly usual occurrence, whether it’s due to writing, being busy, or just not feeling like picking up a book. Thanks for taking a look!

  4. I don’t go through dry spells but only because I’m always struggling to find the time to read the way I’d like, but I get your point. Between wanting to read and needing to write, sometimes I do take a break. I take a step back and do something else before I begin to resent my passion. Movies, music, and baking do it for me.

    • It’s good for the mind to take a break and stretch its “legs” on a different road now and then. I find too much reading can make me feel a bit muddled, so I welcome a bit of gardening, gaming, or whatever else interests me from time to time.

  5. What a lovely thing of your grandpa to do!

    And oh yes, dry spells are a fact of life. My worst one came around the turn of the millennium. I had just finished the matriculation exams and shortly after that the preparing for the entrance exam for the university. After that I didn’t read for years. (as you can guess, I didn’t get in that year – one point short) Me – the bookworm – didn’t read a piece of fiction in years, the books for school I forced myself to read. Now the thought of not reading is almost incomprehensible, since I’ve gone back to the a book per week (or per day depending on the book) frequency, with dry spells that last only for a few weeks in between.

    • He’s very dear to me, I am lucky to have him!

      I have friends who have gone through the same thing, and friends who just don’t have time for fiction at all, though they would like to. I’m sure that it felt wonderful once you were able to get going again! Do you remember what the first piece of fiction you read was after you finally found the time?

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