Despite having a degree in English Literature, I spent much of my undergraduate time holding a love-hate relationship with the very concept of reading.
Growing up as a child who made “being a book worm” their entire personality, religiously carrying a book whenever I left the house and reading Great Expectations at the age of eleven, it’s bizarre to me that often in my time at university, the idea of starting a new book simply for fun filled me with a sense of dread. I loved to spend long mornings browsing the shelves of waterstones, gently positioning a new book purchase on my bedside table, promising myself that I will read every night before bed. And yet I never did. In the haze of academic study, something I once cherished became a chore, a task not worth wasting my energy on. It was only in the final year of my degree that I began to slightly long for lazy mornings spent in bed with a coffee and a book; a desire that felt so foreign to me that I had to train myself into doing it again. Reading for fun didn’t come naturally to me like it once had; although I had the time, ability, and resources to devote to it, it was a task I had to ease myself into, one that took practice and patience.
The aim of this article isn’t to provide you with a dramatic story on my relationship with reading; instead, I want to share the things I learnt with whoever may be reading this. Although you may not be in a slump now, it can hit you amongst the pressure of academia, and it is reassuring to know that there is hope, and you can find that joy and passion again. Importantly for me, the first thing I had to do was allow myself to read the books I wanted to read, no matter how trashy or unintellectual. As an English Literature student, I had conditioned myself to believe that the only books worth reading were ones that could be studied critically; This isn’t true! Read your favourite childhood book, read young adult novels, read cringey romcoms – what matters is that you are reading and enjoying it, and that is enough. Starting small, easy, and familiar is a great way to ease yourself back into the process. Secondly, I had to remove all pressure to read. For me, that was deleting Goodreads from my phone, taking the books off my bedside table, and not scheduling time into my day to read. Although these things may work well for some, I found that they just provided unnecessary pressure and stress in which I felt like I had to read, which defeats the whole idea. Reading shouldn’t be an impossible challenge or a source of guilt, it should be something that you engage in because you want to.
It is hard as a fresher to balance the time and energy between studying, adjusting to living independently, and engaging in hobbies. Give yourself time, give yourself a break, and don’t feel defeated if you find yourself in a slump, however long that may be for. Reread The Hunger Games, buy books that fulfil you, and remember that no slump is permanent.