Confession time. For the past three years, I stopped reading. Outside of my clients’ manuscripts, I probably read two to three books per year. Sacrilege!
The old saying “to be a writer, you must be a reader” is stone cold fact. Anyone who says, “I hate reading, but I love writing and want to be an author! Is that weird? Lol,” is going to drop absolute poo on the page. Sorry, not sorry; I have receipts. But I’ve always been an avid reader—a love that guided my career path and filled my free time. I used to devour six-hundred-page fantasy tomes in a week, even during college when I had mounds of assigned reading. I read for joy and for inspiration. But for a few years now, I’ve (mostly) only read for work… until the past month or so. Hallelujah! I’m back, baby!
So, what happened?
Burnout applies to all fields, and as a full-time writer and editor, I got reader burnout. After analyzing, reshaping, brutalizing, brainstorming, birthing, enhancing, and polishing four or five manuscripts all day every day, I wanted to turn off my brain, eat chips, and watch TV. Period. Shows and movies were where I got my writing inspiration. It’s a valid source in many ways, but it’s not the same. Different mediums offer different “user” experiences.
But I’ve been a full-time writer for six years, and this is a more recent issue, so there had to be another trigger. Well, ladies and gents, I grew a whole human being and then, surprise, had to take care of her. Is it my toddler’s fault I stopped reading for fun? Absolutely not! Is motherhood the secondary “trigger”? Absolutely. Babies steal brain cells (no, really, scientifically, mommies give up some brain power to their babies; “pregnancy brain” is real and never fully goes away. FUN!) and parenting is HARD, y’all. It creates a whole new level of exhaustion. Add bone-tired to “if I see one more adverb today, I’m going to scream-itis”, and you get a reader burnout concoction for the ages.
So, what’s helped heal me?
Time, discovery, and … Instagram.
I needed time to not only adjust to my increasing client workload but also to reach a place where I felt more confident turning down clients who aren’t my cup of tea. I made the decision to niche down and focus on fantasy and its many subgenres for my ghostwriting work. While I’ll still happily act as editor on other genres, I’ve noticed I work most efficiently and have the most fun as a ghost when the project falls in a fantasy category. So, I said goodbye to my last non-fantasy client at the end of June and made the jump! The relief is real, and the stress is less. (On another time-related note, my baby girl is growing up, becoming more independent, and now has her stay-at-home daddy to handle her “Can I have…?” needs.)
With stores back open, vaccines available, and anxiety dying down, I ventured back to my favorite used bookstore and found a book I’ve been itching to read ever since I saw the trailer for the movie on Netflix: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It’s a Southern Gothic that burns slow and hits low. And when I found it at McKay’s and saw that it was short, I went, “I can handle that.” In fact, I loved it. Did I read it at my college-aged speed? Nah. But I stayed up late with it a few nights, and that felt wonderfully familiar.
Lastly, and most oddly, biting the bullet and venturing into “Bookstagram” (with the help of my lovely VA, Debora) gave me the final push. Stylized pictures of beautiful books has an “ooo, gimme!” effect on my brain. Also, if I want to make Bookstagram posts and grow my author audience, I need to have new books to photograph and review (even if they’re from the library and not really “new”).
The clincher, the glorious moment when all that came together to give me back my mojo (yeah, baby, yeah) was walking into a Books-a-Million while on a mini anniversary vacation with my husband. The moment I laid eyes on a Buy 2, Get 1 Free sign, that old rush sang through my blood. I snatched up three books quick, added two more that were on my wishlist (and not on sale) to the cart, and left with a massive smile on my face. I started Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo in our AirBnB vacation cottage. And you know what? Since coming home, I just keep reaching for it.