Self-Imposed Pressure to Read

I'm no stranger to the reading slump. Over all my years of being an avid reader, I've encountered it on several occasions. The first time I really remember being in a reading slump was in the years after I moved to Hong Kong. For some reason, the move made me read less. I spent around two years reading significantly less than I used to. No reading slump has topped that yet.

You might think it's weird for someone who loves reading to experience a slump, but it's quite common. Most of us have experienced it in one way or another, and it can be for a multitude of reasons. A bad book turning us off from reading, not finding anything interesting, being distracted by other things, being burnt out from reading too much and too quickly. It's frustratingly common, and once again, I've found myself in a slump.

All of 2019 was a major reading slump for me. It was a struggle to pick up and get through a book, even if I really wanted to read. Part of that I blame on Artemis, a book I almost never wanted to pick up because the opening chapter was so blatantly a man's idea of what a woman is. After dragging myself through that, it was hard to pick up any other books. For the rest of the year, picking up new books took a lot of effort and I spent most of my free time re-watching Criminal Minds for the 3rd time.

My goal of 55 books in 2019 was not achieved by the end of the year. I had read 21 books, the lowest number probably since that two year slump after moving to Hong Kong. To some, it's great to have read 21 books in a year, but coming off 2018's 50 book accomplishment, I knew I was in a slump. For comparison, I've read 21 books so far this year, and I'm working my way through my 22nd.

I've found that I tend to get discouraged when I'm not reading as much. As someone who runs a book blog, has a Bookstagram account, and occasionally posts YouTube content about reading and writing, I feel a pressure to be reading all the time. No one ever put it on me, it's something I put on myself. It's probably also my innate desire to be a high achiever, something that's a result of my Asian culture and my personality. If I'm not doing the most, I feel like I'm not doing enough.

More and more in recent years, I've had to tell myself that it's okay not to be reading all the time. I'm often consuming some kind of fiction, whether that be through books, movies, or TV shows. Last year, I watched 46 movies that were new to me and a total of 534 episodes from 19 different TV shows. I was still consuming fiction at an alarming rate, it just wasn't through books. This year, I've been consuming a lot of WebToons when I'm not reading physical books. I've read Let's Play and Age Matters twice in the span of four months, as well as several other series that I'm now caught up on.

I'm reading a lot, but they're not all physical books that I can count towards a Goodreads goal. Had I counted each WebToon as part of my reading challenge, I could easily add another 10 books to my goal. And even though I can spend several hours reading WebToons, I feel bad about not picking up a physical book during the day.

Yesterday, I finally finished Soul of the Sword, the sequel to Shadow of the Fox. I loved the first book and knew I wanted to read the sequels immediately. But I found myself having trouble wanting to pick up the sequel. It's not because the book isn't good - the book was amazing. I've just felt more of a compulsion to continue rewatching Teen Wolf and the first eight seasons of Law & Order: SVU because they're available on Hulu. I wanted to read my book because I really wanted to know how the story was going to continue, but I also really just wanted to spend my time watching TV. And I haven't found that balance yet.

Considering we're halfway through July and Soul of the Sword is the first book I've finished, that puts be way behind where I was last month in terms how much I'd read. I've only just started Night of the Dragon, my second book of the month. Plans to read six fantasy books this month feel a little hard to reach when I'm still just coming out of a slump and haven't read as much as I did last month.

I've always told myself that as long as I'm consuming fiction consistently, it's going to help me understand story structure and be a better writer. Most of that comes in the form of books. TV shows and movies count too, but the structure is slightly different. Yet, whenever I spend more time watching fiction instead of reading it, I give myself a hard time. Even though I'm consuming fiction all the time in one form or another, I find it hard to give myself a break if that fiction doesn't come from a book that counts towards my Goodreads challenge. And that's a mindset I need to work on changing.

Perhaps it comes down to my over-achieving habits or my comparison of myself to other readers. It's probably a bit of both. Maybe some part of me also believes that in order to be a "good" book blogger/Bookstagrammer/occasional BookTuber, I have to be reading all the time. It's similar to the pressure I felt about not achieving my Goodreads goal last year. And just like I worked to reclaim the Goodreads Challenge for myself, I know that this is something I have to work on too.

Changing my perspective and feelings about this only continue to bring me back to the place I was in when I was younger - the reader who didn't care about how quickly she was reading as long as she was loving it. And through that, I read more and enjoyed more of the books I was reading. At the end of the day, my biggest goal is always to enjoy what I'm reading because I love it, not because I have to.

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