OVERCOMING READER’S BLOCK by Salvatore Buttaci

Sal's blog post for Nov 13


It is almost common knowledge that the creative drive sometimes hits a stone wall and otherwise prolific writers are left wordless. But what about readers? As long as the synergistic relationship between writers and readers is optimally working, the pleasure road ahead is smooth for both of them. Consider, however, that just as writers run afoul of the joys of productivity, so too do readers find themselves in a slump when it comes to appreciating the joy of reading.

Let’s face it. Writers need readers and readers need writers. It is a fact not to be ignored. A dampening of the writer’s output and/or the reader’s appreciation of that output can disastrously result in aborted creativity. It is the old story, “If a tree fell in the forest and there was no one there to hear its fall, did it make a sound?” Allow me the paraphrase: If a book is written and there is no one there to read it, what value can that book claim? A written book is only half alive; it gains full life when it is read by others.

Oddly enough, the solution to reader’s block can be mined from the same ore as the solution to writer’s block. Both involve selectivity, time management, and repetition.
Here is an explanation of each as it applies to readers.

1. Selectivity. A surefire way to become overwhelmed by the number of books and e-books available out there is to visit Amazon.com. It can be dauntingly discouraging. It reminds me of a cartoon I once saw of a diner in a fine restaurant being handed a huge multi-paged menu and the waiter saying, “I’ll be back in a little while to take your order.”

The greater the choice, the greater the difficulty in deciding.

Readers need to settle on certain genres in fiction and nonfiction. In other words, narrow down the playing field so that instead of facing millions of books they can zero in on, for example, the genre of science fiction, historical romance, adventure, how-to nonfiction, and biography.

How do we narrow down the choices of books from which readers can select those they prefer? This article you are now reading at www.writeroomblog.com offers a manageable solution to the problem of selectivity. Only the best of books are listed here. You will find fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

To find them go to the top of the site’s page and click on BOOKS. This will take you to a display of books with a brief caption beneath each book cover. Find one that interests you and click on that book cover. This will bring you to that book’s page at Amazon.com where you can order a copy of book or Kindle.

Often when readers enjoy reading a book by a particular author, they will seek out other books by that same author. It makes perfect sense to be selective in both genre and author because it reduces the D.Q. –– the Disappointment Quotient. A low D.Q. can only add to the pleasure of reading.

2. Time Management. You have heard it often enough. And I am sure you have said it too: “There aren’t enough hours in the day!”

We know that an extension of the day to thirty hours sounds desirable, but we would still be complaining, even with an additional six hours to get things done. We need to manage our time better than we have been. Take note of how you spend your day and delete those activities that waste the minutes, even hours, when you could be relaxing in the pages of a good book.

In their struggles against the “block,” writers try to reserve certain times in the day when they can write undisturbed for an hour or so. Making this activity habitual loosens the constraints of the dry spell and writers before long begin finding themselves breaking the bonds of the I-Can’t-Write-Today Blues.

So it can be for readers. Find a particular time in the day or night to read your book. Strapped for time, perhaps read only a chapter or two, but at least you would be reading in that time slot everyday, creating a habit the mind will come to know and anticipate.

3. Repetition. For any habit to take root, it must be practiced repeatedly. Selecting a certain time facilitates that objective. Reading one day at about three in the afternoon and then refraining from that activity for the next two or three days does not. Repetition is the key to honing all crafts. If writers do not write daily, if readers do not read daily, they will find themselves in the same pitfall as the ballplayer who forgoes the habitual time set aside for batting practice, then wonders why he consistently strikes out.

To sum it all up, following the hints expressed in each of the above three areas will help book lovers get back in the swing of reading. Select favorite types of reading, manage time better so there is adequate time to read, and finally, repeat the joy of reading by reserving the same time and even the same place everyday. Once the good habit of reading takes hold it will be very difficult to break.

Writers and readers depend on one another to complete the circle of literary expression and appreciation. They do not need the frustration of being blocked from writing or reading to their hearts’ content.

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BIO

Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher and professor whose work has appeared in The Writer, The New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, and elsewhere here and abroad. He was the 2007 recipient of the $500 Cyber-wit Poetry Award.

His collection of 164 short-fiction stories, Flashing My Shorts, is available from  Amazon.com as book, Kindle, and audio book:

His Kindle e-book Ritual is part of a series of Horror Shorts published by All Things That Matter Press. Only 99¢.

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9 thoughts on “OVERCOMING READER’S BLOCK by Salvatore Buttaci

  1. Kenneth Weene

    As lifetime reader and a writer, I have still had periods of reader’s block–times when I have just stopped reading for a while. Often it has started when I found a book that enthralled, got part way into it, and then lost interest. How is that possible? I think some books would have made much better novellas or even short stories than they do full-length novels.

    Reply
  2. Kathleen

    Food for thought, Kenneth. It wasn’t all the books on Amazon that overwhelmed me but the 100 plus books on my kindle. I had to step back and now pick a book that suits my mood. I’m sure I’ll enjoy a Vampire book, I loved Twilight, but finding myself in another world where I want to be is my favorite past time.

    Reply
  3. Debi Swim

    I’ve certainly gone through reader’s block before. Sometimes I just wait it out and other times I go back and reread favorite books until I have the hunger again. I also go to Goodreads and look at other people’s reviews and recommendations in the genres I love. Great advice, Sal! It is good to know I’m not the only one that goes through that at times.

    Reply
  4. Martha Love

    I enjoyed “reading” your article! You are so right, I experience, that “selectivity” is so important in reading. Hey, thank you for explaining more about the value of and how to use this particular website blog to select great books!

    A couple of other things that help me to be sure and read more are frequent walks to the public library to browse for books of all sorts (works with children too) and placing interesting books to read strategically throughout the house. I try to have a book in every room, near various places I may be sitting, one on the dining room table, one on the coffee table near main sitting chair, on the bedside table, and of course in the bathroom.

    Reply
  5. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Reader’s block? Yep, been there; usually after a month or two of nonstop reading binge. Love your tips, Sal. A routine for reading is a good target to strive for in one’s life. I thoroughly enjoyed this article on a subject that few realize.

    Reply
  6. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Sal, this is a great choice of topics. I had never given much thought to the subject but why not have this problem? I certainly have when writing! I do agree with you that you need the three disciplines but for me, it is like writing. I have to dedicate a time every day to write so it makes perfect sense to do the same for quiet time for yourself to reading.

    Thank you for this read.

    Mamie

    Reply
  7. James L. Secor

    I read by mood. Sometimes there are no books in my house held up by bookshelves to satisfy this obsession, as it were, so…I got upstairs and raid another’s book supply. I’m now involved in 2 but there are 8-10 lying on my bed…along with the cat.

    Reply
  8. James L. Secor

    And I can’t type this morning. Is that typing block? Spastic fingers? Malfunctioning, self-destructive keyboard?

    Reply
  9. Linda hales

    Well Sal – you really are a breath of fresh air! Your topic is so practical and applies to me in more ways than one, especially over the past year. Reading is a beloved pastime, likely for most of us. My worst enemy is being too wound up with ‘busy’ activity to slow down sufficiently to appreciate what I am reading and often must re-read areas to properly absorb the story. Because of this, I often get behind in essential reading and pleasure reading lags even further behind. Guilt sets in and I find myself rushing to do catchup. Every good book deserves undivided attention and nothing less and it is my goal to find that mode again. Nothing is more satisfying to me than uninterrupted reading time.

    Reply

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