Friday, May 10, 2013

Reader's Block?

Most people have heard of writer's block, I think. It is a bit famous. Wanting to write, but unable to. Ironically, much has been written about the condition of writer's block. A movie was constructed around the condition of a writer with writer's block, Stranger Than Fiction (starring Emma Thompson as the writer). 

I had never heard of "Reader's Block," however. It may be that I have invented the phrase, though I am sure not the problem.  In short, it is the loss of the ability to read for pleasure. Not the loss of the ability to understand the written word, or make sense of written sentences and paragraphs. No, this is the loss of being able to have any enjoyment in reading, and as a result just not reading, whether articles, short stories, books whether fiction or non-fiction, etc. For most people, for whom reading is merely a utilitarian sort of activity, this wouldn't be much of a loss. But for someone who has always enjoyed reading, counted it as a major activity done mostly for pleasure, this would be a huge loss.

I only came to realize gradually that this was my condition. I have always been a lover of reading and of books, ever since I can remember. The library or a book store were my favorite places to spend an hour (or two, or five!) since I learned to read. I have book shelves full of books, novels, poetry, history, theology, and more. But gradually, over the course of a few months, about three years ago, I realized that I was unable to read for pleasure.  Which meant that I was no longer reading. 

Gradually, I stopped going to bookstores. What was the point? I stopped reading magazines, and let my  subscriptions drop to both journals that I used in my work as well as those I read for fun. I started shoving books into corners, under furniture, and piled them up in shelves unread. I started any number of books, only to drop them after a few pages.

It was only after talking with a friend that I recognized what was happening, and that this was a form of depression.  Losing the ability to enjoy some activity that had always brought pleasure before is a marker of depression. I realized that this was something that would have to run its course, and that I couldn't force myself out of this condition by an act of will.

Over time this condition has slowly improved.  I have slowly regained the ability to read for fun. But as a side effect, while my reading has been slowly returning, my enjoyment and ability to write has hit the skids.  In short, I exchanged Reader's Block for Writer's Block.

Now, I am trying to regain my writing again. I am renewing this blog as a starting point.  Even if no one is still following me, or reading this blog (after all, it has been two years!), just following a schedule for writing something down may help me work my way out of this slump.

I'll take it slowly. Perhaps, at some point, I'll start to advertise this blog again.

And on the whole, if I only regain one pleasure, I would rather it be reading. After all, these days writers are a dime a dozen.