By Ali Coyle
Every writer has, probably at several times, been becalmed by writer’s block. You open the working document and nothing comes to mind. Your plot (and your characters) are going nowhere until inspiration fills your sails again. It sucks.
Inspiration needs feeding, though. And regularly. Writers need to read, to immerse themselves in setting and dialogue and description and plot. When I can’t write, I often can’t settle to read either.
A few days ago, I saw a tweet that mentioned 'reader’s block.' I hadn’t really considered reader’s block as a thing in its own right until then. I’d always put my periodic inability to focus on reading (and, by extension, writing) down to not having time, or being too tired, or having too much on my mind or… Or any combination of lots of other life factors.
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Thinking of it as reader’s block simplified the problem. I was stuck in a rut, thinking things like, ‘If only I had more time, or less stress, or a couple of consecutive nights of uninterrupted shut-eye, then I could really get my head around something from my to-read pile.’ But none of the life issues I’d been blaming my lack of reading on are simple to fix.
I needed something easier. A gentle reintroduction to the habit of reading. Don’t get me wrong: I love reading. I have always looked forward to being able to open the pages at the turned-down corner (get over it) and lose myself in another world. But sometimes my head is in a place where that isn’t possible and the habit is lost.
I took the advice in the tweet. So I can’t focus on a new novel? I’ll read a short story. Still too much text on the page? I’ll read a comic. Still can’t stay engaged? How about a comfort read – a favorite fanfiction from my AO3 bookmarks?
After a too-hot afternoon in the shade re-reading a favorite manga and catching up with some short fanfiction, picking up a volume of short stories felt natural again. When I’ve finished it, I have plenty more on the to-read pile.
And I can’t wait to get to them all.
Ali Coyle is a science educator and in along with a story in Improbable's Dark Cheer: Cryptids Emerging (Volume Blue), Ali has an extensive back-catalogue of fanfiction as Rudbeckia on AO3. You can find Ali on Twitter and Wordpress. Chrysalides, Ali's triptych of novellas, publishes with Improbable Press in 2023.