Asheley from Into the Hall of Books had a great discussion the other day called Making Bloggy Mistakes which led to a fun chat with a few other bloggers on Twitter. Later on in the day, I was putting off writing the five reviews that had started piling up and was brainstorming what kind of new creative post I could come up with as I was doing my work (all the while pinning both just-for-fun things and helpful blog things on Pinterest) and the perfect post popped into my head. It wasn’t about anything particularly creative at all — in fact, it’s sort of the opposite.
I think we book bloggers all need to cut ourselves some slack.
Asheley’s post sort of started that idea swirling in my mind, but really the more I thought about it, the more I felt the need to post about it… My blog is turning three this year in April — hooray! — and I’ve learned a LOT over these past three years. From what I can tell, I probably hopped onto the book blogging scene right as it started “taking off”, so to speak. Maybe that’s my perception because I knew nothing about it at the time, but I feel like the “veterans” of the book blogging world tend to be going on their 4th, 5th, and 6th years (and beyond!) and I tend to know a lot of people who started right around the time I did — give or take. Since I’ve started blogging, I’ve also seen quite a few veterans hang up their blogging hats too. They’ve all had their various reasons — whether that be more important things in life, starting a family, worn out by drama, or just burned out on keeping up with the blog — and although we miss their presence in the book blogging community, they’ve all had some wise parting words, the most important and most-often repeated of which is this:
You are reading and blogging as a hobby. Always keep it fun.
Those words always strike home with me since the whole reason I started blogging was just to have a fun outlet for my book reviews and had hoped to reach out to an audience who was looking for book recommendations. I didn’t know ARCs existed, never thought I’d talk to authors or publishers, and never thought my blog would come as far as it has today.
Starting in 2015, I decided to really make sure that I was doing this for fun. I mean, I always have fun with my blog but admittedly, sometimes I put way too much pressure on myself in a few different ways. For some people, “keeping it fun” may mean cutting down on the number of posts and reviews or not letting themselves get stressed about posting X amount of times each week… It’s hard work and I do work hard to achieve those, but that’s not the thing that I felt pressured to accomplish. It all had to do with reading.
I started blogging in 2012 and my eyes were opened up to a WHOLE lot more books than what I found in Borders (RIP Borders) and the used book stores near my house. Suddenly I was reading way more books based on other people’s recommendations and reactions, but hey, that was a good thing because that’s why I started my blog, right? But it was easy to get swept up in the popularity of a book or a blog or a post. I ended up reading books that were popular — which I might have done blog or no blog — and I wasn’t always enjoying them but now the difference was that when I didn’t enjoy the books everyone was raving about, I felt like I should have. I wanted to like what the popular bloggers liked. I wanted to be one of those bloggers who received ARCs from publishers and who authors talked to and who got tons of comments on their awesome posts — because really, how is that not appealing — so what did I do? I read what they read.
That worked out okay sometimes. Most of the time, actually! I didn’t pick up EVERYTHING that was going around but I tried to read the books with the biggest buzz. I thought a book may not be for me but I tried it anyway. YES, I have found some books that I didn’t think I’d like and I LOVED them and that was a great experience… But I’ve also forced myself to read (and finish) too many books that I wasn’t enjoying.
I didn’t really start reading a LOT until 2011 and I started my blog in April of 2012 and it’s pretty interesting to see my reading habits and ratings broken down in percentages! Four-star books seem to always dominate and that seems about right, but I think what’s most interesting is the change in DNFs and two-star ratings. It’s hard to tell by the actual numbers but the percentages for two star books increased as did DNFs from 2012 to 2013 (right when I started blogging…) and I’m actually sort of surprised that the number of three-star books went down! I thought that would be higher. But the GREAT news is that my number of five-star books increased!
(Yes, I made graphs and charts for this… Follow me here…)
Anyway, I can analyze what I read in the past for days but really this shows me that I’ve been picking up too many books I knew I wasn’t going to like. I KNEW IT. I picked them up anyway because of obligations. So charts and graphs and ramblings aside, where am I going with this…?
Read what you want. Always.
In 2015, I’m REALLY trying to read what I want to read and not what I feel obligated to read. I know, I know, despite how many times we say that blogging is our hobby and we shouldn’t feel obligated to read anything, we all have those moments where we feel like we should read something — whether that’s because of a group read, because we requested it from a publisher, because we met the author, or any other number of reasons. It’s taken me three years of blogging to be okay with not reading everything (which is great since that’s impossible anyway). It may sound silly to some people who have never had this problem because they do always read what they want BUT I do think we’ve all been in that spot at some point in time and I’m sure almost all of us have forced ourselves to keep reading at some point in time.
Reading what you want is freeing but in a way it also requires a bit more work. I’m trying really hard not to request books from publishers or via Netgalley/Edelweiss if I really don’t think I’m going to read it SOON. There are plenty of books I’d like to read but I really don’t have the time to read them all as ARCs or egalleys. The books that aren’t a priority, I can wait until they’ve been published and then I can buy or borrow them. It will also free ME up to read what I’m really dying to read and not stare at all of those books that I requested and wonder when I’ll get to them.
So far in 2015, I’ve read 17 books. Only one two-star book so far and a couple three-stars but that was more “this book wasn’t what I thought it would be” versus “I don’t feel like reading this book but I am anyway”. I have been SO HAPPY with everything else I’ve read so far this year and I’m really excited to keep picking up books that I really feel like reading. Very long story short, I am giving myself a break!
This can extend to how much you want to put into blogging too.
I really love putting a lot of work into my blog so that’s not something that ever feels like a stressful thing for me, but if you find yourself struggling or rushing to finish a post, do it later. If you don’t want to post, then don’t. If you want to do something totally different that you’re not sure “fits” on your blog, do it anyway. Your blog is YOUR creative space and just because it’s a book blog doesn’t mean you can’t post other things on there. This is your hobby and you should feel comfortable doing what you want with it. Try not to worry about what other people are doing or feel pressure to fit a certain mold. I think it’s easy to fall into a competitive spirit and sometimes that’s fun or drives you to become a better blogger but I don’t think it should be something to stress about!