Are you in one of those stages in your life when you can’t find the time to read?
Are you missing books? Do you grieve for the intimacy of novels and their stories? Do you long for this time when you could crank up your imagination and live through the exciting lives of other people?
If you want to get back into books, but you just don’t see how to fit them into your life anymore, I might have some tips for you.
I love reading; it is without question my go to entertainment. I usually go through 100 books a year. But there has been times in my life when I just could not find the time to read. I can admit right away it left me sad, missing some important part of me. So I know what you are going through, and I understand how frustrating it can be. The good news is, I always found solutions!
Because you are an adult, you have work, you have too many thoughts in your head, you are too tired in the evenings, but it doesn’t mean you have to stop fiction. It is just a question of changing your reading habits and find new opportunities.
The important thing is first to understand why you are lacking time. Each of the moment in my life I went through a reading slump, was because something was taking the time I usually spend with a book. And each time I had to find a different solution to bring books back into my life.
There are many things you can do depending on your lifestyle and occupations. You just need to know what problems you are fighting and immediately you can find some way to counter that. Technology is making it much easier too.
So what are your problems? What exactly is stopping you from reading?
- Problem – I have no thinking space left to read.
In my last 2 years of uni, I changed my major and got exceptional permission to cram an extra class. I also directed 2 plays, was the trustee of a cultural club and wrote a thesis. I was just mentally exhausted and my mind was too crammed full of new ideas, theories, lessons and research and complicated concepts to really concentrate on fiction. I usually love complex SciFi, multiple inter-crossing plot-lines and point of views and I missed it terribly. But there was no way I could pick up a book casually, and follow what was happening, when in the back of my mind I kept writing and re-writing my thesis.
My mind was chock full. There are some times when we are doing things that require you to learn many new skills – like when getting a new job, or doing night classes, or you might just not have the mind space for something demanding. And that’s ok. You just need to adapt to the situation.
I put the bar lower. I realised I could be a bit of a snob in my reading choices and it was doing me no good. Life is not only about intellectual literature, complex storylines and characterisation. Sure, it is a plus, but some simple things can pack a real punch in the feelings department. I was missing books, when I could find all the entertainment I was dreaming off in some fun genre titles that wouldn’t require me to think too much.
I made sure I picked books that I could drop down for a whole week without really forgetting all that much. And my way of doing that was by turning my attention to young adult and new adult titles. I started looking at authors I was emotionally attached too, because I read them smaller, authors I felt melancholy about. There are lots of very simple plotlines out there which aim at nothing more than entertaining us. For fantasy nuts like me try Neil Gaiman’s teen books like Stardust, or Garth Nix’s Abhorsen series.
- Problem – I work all the time and books have gone out the window
That happens… you grow up into a supposedly “responsible” adult and suddenly you realise all your life seems to be spent either working, or doing chores and then it’s already time to sleep and you really did little to entertain yourself. Yep, I’ve been there, and it’s exhausting, and collapsing on the couch with no will to make a single effort isn’t very rewarding. So sure, there are a lot of brilliant shows on Netflix… and I indulge too, but… reading is nice and I like to change my entertainment mediums.
Of course I could recommend reading in transports. I do that a lot. In fact, that’s where I manage most of my reading. As soon as I cut down on my public transports time, I can’t get through as many books and it’s annoying. So this is often not a solution for many people – you might be driving, or walking or cycling to work. And in that case it’s over, no more reading.
There is another way, which is to cram an entire world with deep characterisation and great plot in a much smaller amount of time. How do we do that? Well, by picking up a comic book or a manga series. Whatever genre you like, you can find it in graphic novel format too. And there are some stories that are so deep and amazing they have nothing to envy from books. From autobiographies, to mind-blowing worlds with twists and turns, you are bound to find something you will love. The advantage is that illustrations communicate so much in the blink of an eye, immediately there is much less to read and yet you get something crunchy for your hungry mind.
If you want real grown up graphic novels I would recommend for detective fans Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi, for an intimate story that break your heart and makes you believe in people again Blue Pills by Frederik Peeters, for SF that keeps you on your toes All You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka. The list is endless, but it gives you a place to start digging. In 1 hour you can get your book fix with beginning, middle and climax and ending, or go for a serial like most mangas are.
- Problem – Since I have kids I can’t open a book
Believe me, I’ve been there. I had a baby that just would not get out of my arms. Each times I tried to put him down, he yelled like the world was going to end, and he did not stop… even when he fell asleep. If I placed him in his bed, he woke and screamed. Seven months of my life were spent holding him. It was exhausting, frustrating, mind numbing, and really really boring. The problem is that with only one hand, reading a book is quite hard…
Solution – I admit I love paper books, I love the feel of books, the smell, the look of them on my shelf, the pleasure of turning pages, the grain of the page and the feel of the cover. You know that satin finish some book have? Isn’t it marvelous? I get it all.
But as a person who found myself with only one hand, who woke up at any time of the night to feed my baby and had to stay awake as he took forever to drink… I learnt to appreciate e-books. I installed Kindle on my phone because it was the lightest thing I could handle with only one hand. I’ve got tiny hands and I can’t flick easily on a tablet and it was impossible to turn pages. Anyway, consider changing your reading method and think beyond the reader. While they are more pleasant for the eyes, phones can really do the trick. Added bonus, many libraries now have an e-book section and you can borrow e-books.
- Problem – I spend my life in an office chair, I have to move around, reading is not keeping me healthy
We could argue it’s keeping your mind healthy, but hey, a healthy mind in a healthy body is important. When you don’t have a lot of time, there might not be much choice, you are going to gym, doing a run, going for a walk, swimming 2km, whatever your sport of choice might be, it leaves you no time to lounge and read. I should get healthier too. And I know that sometimes when I’m moving around, like doing chores, I would love to be able to also enjoying a story.
Did you know the audio-book industry was booming? And who could blame people? I mean technology now allows you to read on your tablet, plug in your earphones and listen to the rest of your book in seamless transition. Yep, this is the future we all enjoy: technology that works and makes your life comfortable. Audio-books are not for everyone, sometimes I find some voice actors give a tilt to the story, emotions that I would not have quite perceived that way, but there is a lot of choice and some people, once they leaped in, just can’t go back. I mean, there is something so soothing to have someone read to you, right?
- Problem – There is too many interesting things to do in real life to find time to read
When I moved to Paris, I was always out. The city just doesn’t let you rest. There is the constant feed of culture and I am a sucker for exhibits, museum nocturnal openings, city discovery walks, tea houses, theatre and dance performance, public lectures, treasure hunts and everything and anything and it was marvellous and there was always more and something new to see and discover. Soon I realised I was never in my home except to sleep. And it was alright, better than that, it was a lot of fun… but I didn’t get to read anymore. And I wanted it all, of course. I am sure you are the same. Why should we not be always out and yet also have stories? Makes no sense.
Start reading short stories. There are some wonderful online magazines out there with very high quality stories that really hit the sweet spot, at least for me. I discovered amazing writers that gave me whole new concepts in bit sized increments. Best of all, some even had free podcasts to enjoy the story while strolling through some of the greatest areas of the world. For fans of the speculative genres, SF, fantasy and horror, I highly recommend Clarkesworld and Strange Horizons. They are free and there is nothing to throw out, all of their stories are chiseled gems. And don’t forget anthologies. Many independent writers get their first footing into the writing world through short stories. I saw a few careers start that way, following the steps of an author who’s story I particularly liked. There is something deeply satisfying in being the first one to recommend a book.
In any case, I hope that helped.
What are your techniques to get back into reading when you realise you stopped for a while because you lack the time?