I read City of Strife by Claudie Arseneault, an absolutely fantastic book, about a week and a half ago (I’m still writing the review. I need to read it again) and I’ve been unable to read ever since. See I have an avoidance type personality and, for me, that means I’ll go out of my way, to sometimes ridiculous extents, just so I’m not disappointed or just so I don’t cause any problems. In this case, it’s the former.
After reading City of Strife, I’m terrified that the next book I read won’t be able to live up to it (getting real, it probably won’t). It had everything I love in a good story, and I’ve never read a book that touched on so many of my favourite themes & elements. Politics, found family, a lot of diversity, diverse lgbtqiap+ representation, and especially important for me aroace & non-binary representation. It’s hard to find something that ticks nearly all of my boxes yet this book did (it missed only one but I don’t expect it to show up in a high fantasy novel to tell you the truth).
How can anything live up to that hype? And that’s why I’m in this slump. I can’t even read my go-to fanfictions because, in my head, I’ve been spoiled ( in a really, really good way). Pushing through a reading slump is hard for me, I find that I get really sucked into a world and I can’t remove myself from it as easily as I jumped in. I end up not reading anything substantial for days, weeks, sometimes even months, and once, an entire year (Curse you Deathly Hallows).
So what do I turn to when I can’t stomach novels, short stories, or even fanfiction? Self-care! And a lot of it. I spend a lot of my self-care time drawing mandalas and other similar styles to create colouring pages for myself and hopefully, one day for others. This step is the most important for me because it doesn’t matter how much I enjoyed or hated a book, I put so much emotional energy into reading either that by the time I’m done I’m burnt out and exhausted and I want to run away from everything. Doubly so for bad books. So I spend a lot of time drawing and that is the best way for me to re-center and breathe and untangle myself from the mess of emotions that were left behind by whatever I was reading. Then onto the next step.
Whats the next step you ask? Poetry and comics! Not the most likely combo, but it works for me. Right now, I’m re-reading Warsan Shire’s Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth. Warsan and her work mean so much to me as a young Somali in the West. I’ve never connected to poetry to the level that I did the first time I saw her perform at my university a few years ago. I spent hours crying after that performance and again while reading her poetry. She’s amazingly talented and seeing a Somali gain that kind of success gives me hope. This is why representation is important. It gives young folks like me role models.
I’m also reading Gotham Academy by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl. I have so much catching up to do in this series, it’s not even funny. I tend to spend whatever left over money on comics since I hate having them as ebooks, so I have a stack of comics in my room waiting for me to read. I’m still on the 7th issue of the First Semester and I haven’t read the Lumberjanes crossover or touched the Second Semester. Oh God, I’m so behind. I’m behind on all the comics I’m following, and honestly looking at a large stack of unread comics doesn’t really help my reading slump so I take out a couple of issues and the rest stay in my closet. Out of sight, out of mind as they always say.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with slumps, some people switch the genre they’re reading, others don’t read at all and instead watch a good movie or listen to music. Some, like me, read anything but novels, short-stories and fanfiction, or you know, anything similar to what caused the slump in the first place. At the end of the day you know what you need & if it takes you a while to figure it out that’s fine. Never feel bad for not feeling like reading. It takes me ages to start reading again. Even poetry & comics. A week & a half is one of the shortest periods of time I’ve had before picking up a comic, and I’m pretty sure some part of me only did it because I’m so bored at work. And like I mentioned earlier, I usually spend my slump taking care of myself and prioritising my healing process over everything else, typically by drawing & colouring.
So speaking seriously, don’t beat yourself down for avoiding books. Self-care is more important than a Goodreads Challenge.
Thanks for reading,
PS. I’m well aware that slumps can also stem from depression and the lack of motivation to do the things one enjoys, but that’s not what I wanted to talk about in this post. While I do have depression and reading slumps because of it, it’s never been the biggest culprit for me so I didn’t think I should talk about it in the same post as reading slumps caused by great or bad books.