Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Essay: Reader's Block

Every Wednesday, I have an essay on any topic that catches my fancy!

A pet peeve is when people use the term "writer's block", mainly because it's a catch-all phrase for various excuses. I mean come on, we're writers. The least we can do is verbalize what's preventing us from continuing, whether it's getting stuck on a story, losing interest in what we're writing, fearing we don't have the necessary skills to tackle the subject matter, plain laziness, or simply because we have a fucking migraine. So I feel hypocritical when I talk of something like "reader's block" but allow me to explain.

There are periods in my life when I'm simply not motivated to read. I'd rather play a video game, watch TV, jog around the neighborhood, or perhaps even pick up a comic--I'm just not interested in tackling an entire book. And it's not the author's fault mind you. I could be reading one of my favorite texts but unable to concentrate. As tempting as it is to call it sporadic Attention Deficit Disorder, that's not the case. I tend to work in cycles, usually concentrating on one particular activity in a quarter. I could have my "reading phase", my "writing phase", my "gaming phase", then cycle through that again the following year.

When I had my heart first broken post-high school, I couldn't pick up a book. My crush was also a fan of reading the same books I was interested in (mainstream fantasy and science fiction) so it'd trigger a memory whenever I saw a book's cover or reading a passage that I thought she'd like. Insert whiny teenager rants here. Fortunately, I got over it and resumed my book-reading spree.

Obviously, I'm not heart-broken now but my cyclical nature still kicks in. It's for that reason that I wasn't able to consistently post on my blog pre-2007. Last year however, I did promise myself that I'd make it a point to regularly maintain a blogging schedule. That means writing even when you don't feel like it. And to a certain extent, because I have weekly book reviews, reading even when you're not in the mood to do so. I'm partly in that cycle when I'm not in my reading groove. But I dream one day of being a Green Lantern and I let my willpower do the rest. At the end of the day, reading is a choice and a skill. As a disciplined human being, I can overcome it--and have done so. Besides, it's not like I'm reading badly-written books and there's nonetheless pleasure in the reading process.

Occasionally, I'd run into a short story or novel that's so compelling that whether I'm in my reading phase or not is irrelevant. It has me hooked and glued to the book (or more commonly these days, to the monitor). These types of fiction are a boon to me as I forget whatever emotion is impeding me from reading. And let's not make any mistake about it: claiming that I'm in a "reading phase" or in a "reading mood" is simply an emotion. Still, the thrill of finding such treasures is enhanced by the fact that I'm in a reading slump. The question I want to ask is what stories or novels have replicated the same experience for you? What author or work causes you to forget all of your concerns and simply read and read until you reach the last page, irregardless of what you were feeling that day?

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