How I Fell in Love With Reading Again
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Since I graduated from my post-graduate studies 4 years ago, my annual reading numbers have been on a gradual decline. Seems a little odd right? Most people I know were so excited to finish our post-secondary educations so that they could read for the joy of it and here I am doing the complete opposite.
Reading in my post-secondary education was always a release for me. It was part of my daily routine and my first method of stress relief when things got hard. (Case in point: A Week for the Wicked by Tessa Dare was devoured in one sitting when I should have been studying for an exam).
But once I entered the real world of working–and shift work at that–reading got pushed by the wayside. Shift work is the biggest factor there. I work 8 hour shifts and we rotate through a day, evening and night cycle. Gone were the days when I would willing get up earlier than I needed to so I could read a book. Once I started working, getting as much sleep as possible to make up for those night shifts and earlier mornings (because I was commuting 2 hours every day for the first year and a half) became priority.
I had found a rhythm though; a balance between having a social life and continuing to read.
I had accepted that my years of 200+ books read were behind me but I was reading more quality books and experiencing less reading slumps than I had in the past.
Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020.
Like many, I never thought things would get as bad as they did. I’m an avid traveller and the loss of that freedom crushed me. I had several big, waited-years-for, trips planned that all got delayed and that was incredibly depressing. But I also work in healthcare: a hospital laboratory to be precise. A field that had its own problems and shortages before a global pandemic struck with a critical blow that has forever changed my profession.
We had an outbreak very early in the pandemic at my work and it was hellish. There were a lot of unknowns at that time so it was extremely scary and stressful. I’d go to work, come home and just watch the news to see when it would all be over (a very bad cycle and one I quickly stopped doing by the end of the summer 2020 for the sake of my mental health).
Being forced to stay home when we entered our first province wide lockdown should have been a bookworm’s dream (if you omit the reason why you need to stay home). But I couldn’t concentrate. My mind would wander just a few pages in as I read my books. I’d be exhausted when I came home from work because we were so short staffed, so I’d fall asleep a few pages into my book when I would try to read before bed.
I had a hard time getting into novels in general; though I’d go through little spurts where I could get through a few as if they were an obsession. ARCs started piling up (I’m on the street teams for a few authors), COVID kept hitting in waves and I started to pick up other hobbies (like Netflix and crochet) because they were better at keeping my mind active. (I found that I had to do something with my hands to keep myself pre-occupied)
Fast forward to May 2021 and I discovered I really missed reading.
I had been reading an ARC of Beautiful Enemy by Piper Lawson. I love Piper‘s books and I had been EXTREMELY excited to start this new trilogy. As soon as I started reading, I got sucked into the story and couldn’t put it down. This book reminded me why reading was so rewarding as I went through every emotion as I read it. I laughed, I cried, I swooned and I just adored every page of that book.
And that’s when the little spark reignited my love of reading.
While I credit Beautiful Enemy to be the book that pulled me out of my reading slump, there were other factors that helped. Little things that I had been actively trying to do since the start of the year to get me back into reading on a regular basis. My ah-hah moment during Beautiful Enemy was the moment I knew my efforts had paid off and my reading slump of the last year was officially finished.
1. Starting a Bullet Journal
I talked about starting a bullet journal in my Reading Plan for 2021. Lots of people use bullet journals for a variety of things in their lives but the main goal of mine was to get more of a routine going in my everyday life. The beauty of a bullet journal is that it is completely customizable to you and that you can change it as you go. Nothing is static about it unless you want it to be. And since this is my first foray into the concept, I’ve changed mine a few times until I’ve found a system that works and I love that flexibility.
One aspect that has remained consistent is the habit tracker I keep. I always have a spot to track my daily reading in my journal. As long as I pick up a book at some point in the day, I give myself a mark. I’ve come to accept that given my work schedule I might not read every single day…but when I do find the time, the sense of accomplishment that I get by ticking off that box has had a positive impact on my reading habits as a whole in the last few months. It serves as a great reminder that I do read more than I think, even if it was just a few pages for that day.
I was never a fan of audiobooks until I was a fan. I’ve talked about how much I love audiobooks and how important they have become in my reading habits. Last year, audiobooks were a big reason why I met my Goodreads goal for the year. Because even if I wasn’t picking up a physical book, chances were I was listening to an audiobook while I did something around the house or was out walking my dog. In fact, audiobooks made up 50% of the books I read last year!
The best thing I did was to start investing in audiobook series. I found that when I started a series, I didn’t have to think too much about what I was going to read next; the obvious answer was the next book in the series! My library has access to Hoopla which has an amazing audiobook selection and you don’t have to wait for a title to be available to check it out, it’s always available! So I could always get the next installment as soon as I finished the previous. It’s a great way to get backlogged series off my TBR.
3. Reading Authors I Love
The authors that I am on ARC teams for are authors I love. Authors that I read no matter what and always read the newest releases for. Picking up their books to read gave me the comfort of knowing that I was probably going to enjoy–if not love–the book. It was much safer than picking some random book on my TBR that I may not enjoy. I mean, they’re my favourite authors for a reason so clearly I enjoy their stories!
And it some ways, it helped that there was a deadline for completing the book since it was an ARC. I’ve talked about reducing my ARC commitments before on the blog and how the many deadlines can add a stressful pressure to my reading. But here, that pressure was a positive one because I: (A) wanted to help out these authors with their new releases and (B) remain a member of the team for future releases. It kicked my butt into gear and made me pick up a book and start reading.
We seem to be on the up when it comes to COVID where I live in Canada and that means things are gradually reopening as we adjust to our new normal. Work is getting better as well and I find myself going back to my everyday routines once again. I’ve always been one to succeed when I have a plan and a routine, but knowing how to pivot when obstacles appear has been one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned in this pandemic.
And as my reading habits improve, so has my blogging. I’m writing a post about how I got my blogging mojo back after a long, unintended, hiatus so look for that in the next few weeks. But the gist is, now that I have material (ie books to review) for my blog, the posts are flowing freely and it feels good to return to the blogosphere.
How has the last year affected your reading habits? Do you read more or less? Found new genres?
Let me know in the comments below!