The Return of a Small Joy
When I was a young(er) person, I was a voracious reader. I blew through books all the time. Once, during a school reading challenge, I read so many books that I ran out of books to read, and ended up doubling up on some titles. I read so many books, my teachers didn’t believe me. They thought I made up the lot. Reading so much, and loving every minute I got to dive into another world; that I got to escape my reality for a little bit is in no small part of why I’m a writer now.
But I will admit, that I’ve been struggling to read of late. A combination of a time-consuming job, several side-hustles, and the added stress of a global pandemic, and all the stupidity of (some) folks regarding it, losing a long-time flatmate and having to move…. It’s all added up. The result was that I could barely pick myself up, let alone a book.
For some reason, reading seemed like such an incredible chore; one more thing I should be doing. Another thing to tick off a list mindlessly. I found I just couldn’t do it.
That, of course, made me incredibly sad. I loved reading. I have since I was a child. But the magic seemed to have gone out of it a little of late.
The problem was, there was not one single cause for this change, but a myriad of them, and so many of them out of my control… it seemed an impossible thing to fix. Yet, in the past three weeks, I’ve started and finished as many books. I’ve hunted my bookshelf for a the books I haven’t read yet (there are surprisingly few) to create a new to-read pile that I am excited to start making my way through.
I’ve found the magic again.
How I got there surprised me a little.
Fiction was always my love. It was always the best escape; a safe place to retreat and the best place to find adventure, intrigue and the truest of friendships. Its absence tore at me. My inability to access all fiction had to offer left a large part of me drifting and listless. I realize that this might sound very odd to non-readers, but I’m pretty confident that readers know what I’m talking about.
As it happens, I feel my whole person is sort of drifting and directionless. Earlier this year, I decided to stop drifting and try to control the raft the currents of life were tossing me about on. My dream is to earn a decent living writing fiction. I don’t want to be filthy rich and fame is not something that particularly interests me (beyond having my books be wildly popular, of course). I just want to have enough to be able to live on my terms. Ah… impossible dreams.
To that end, I purchased a couple of self-help books. One was on just general improving of oneself. One was very specifically about creating the right conditions for a successful career as an author. It was going through these two books that led me on to the next phase of a return to reading.
Reading these two books – at a snail’s pace, I might add – led me to seek out other non-fiction. I found books and articles on my favourite subjects (prehistoric anthropology, archaeology and the like) and my brain, hungry for words and thirsty for knowledge made very short work of them. It. Was. Glorious.
From there, it was a short jump back into fiction.
I have a short, but utterly boring commute to work. Not wanting to use up all my data in my travels, I decided three weeks ago to stop abusing Google Scholar and pick up a fiction book to alleviate my boredom on the train. The first book was good, but not brilliant. I enjoyed it well enough, but no so much that I risked missing my stop. The second was utterly engrossing. I missed my stop once, with a goodly number of very close calls. The third is also quite good. I will be finished it very shortly.
I’ve been reading in small bites – as long as my train ride lasts. While I miss those long days of losing myself to an epic tale, the shorter reading sessions has helped me immensely. For starters, only having that limited window for reading has helped me take the odd pressure to finish a book quickly off myself. I have no choice but to read in small chunks. It therefore, somehow, doesn’t reflect poorly on me if it takes me a week or more to finish a book instead of two days. I don’t know why that would be an issue, but here we are. It also makes picking up a book less daunting. Why it would be is beyond me, when it never was before this, but, well…
In fact, this reading lark is going so well of late, that I’m actively looking for books to add to my to-be-read pile. I’m specifically looking into Warhammer 40,000. After watching a friend’s live stream of a Warhammer game, I’m quite keen to get stuck into that universe. Unfortunately, the first book I’m searching for, Horus Rising, cannot be found anywhere I have looked. I’m worried it has gone out of print. I don’t have an e-reading device, and one isn’t on the horizon. I’m hunting for a physical copy.
So, a plea for help. If anyone spots a paperback of Horus Rising or any omnibus editions in which it is included, please let me know, and I’ll try to snap it up before anyone else does. I refused to pay through the nose (looking at you eBay), but I’m happy with a secondhand copy.
Did I really write a great big long blog post so I could beg for a particular book?
In any case, don’t go out of your way, but I’d be happy for any leads.
I’m very happy to be reading again. It is a small pleasure whose absence left a gaping void in my life. If you find yourself in similar circumstance, I feel for you. With luck, and the world returning to normal, we will be all be able to find our equilibrium, and our small joys once again.
When S.M. Carrière isn’t brutally killing your favorite characters, she spends her time teaching martial arts, live streaming video games, and cuddling her cat. In other words, she spends her time teaching others to kill, streaming her digital kills, and cuddling a furry murderer. Her most recent titles include ‘Daughters of Britain’ and ‘Skylark.’
I’ve had this problem for a very long time. For about 8 years. I like to have at least an hour to read a novel. Otherwise it doesn’t quite hook me. I have to really want to read that book to finish it.
I’m always either too tired or don’t have that hour or more to spend. In that 8 years i’ve read an embarrassingly few novels but i’ve turned to comic books and short stories. I can get a complete story in that short about of time even when i’m fairly tired.
It’s great that you still read, though! Finding the time is really rough.
To think I almost missed thispost. Glad I read it as it spoke to me. Glad you are back to reading. I have never been the fastest reader. My shelf of books to read tends to grow faster than the books read. I can empathise. At one stage I was struggling with even a slim volume every few months. Commuting by car, family work etc. I found I was even having a kind of “i need to catch up on my reading” stress. Thankfully that is behind me now, in no small part due to me delving into anthologies and magazine fiction.
Anthologies are really good for that kind of thing. I’m glad you’re past the block!