BBAW Day 5: Keeping It Real, Keeping It Going

Day OneIntroduce yourself (17)Today is the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, and today’s topic is: how do you avoid blogger burnout? The short answer—I don’t.

Okay, so now for the long (winded) answer. The very few of you who have been visiting this blog over the years know that I tend to disappear for long stretches of time. I can think of only one time, back around 2010, when I actually decided to take a break because it seemed like people were fighting a lot over things (some petty, some very serious like plagiarism). Most times, though, I haven’t made a conscious decision to quit, so that’s why I keep coming back.

I stop blogging generally for two reasons: I’m in a reading slump and have nothing to say, or I get behind on reviews because I have BIG IDEAS. But I think about blogging all the time, and I have enough half-written (or even complete) drafts of posts (some reviews, some not) to prove it. I used to do The Sunday Salon and Booking Through Thursday pretty much every week, but somewhere along the line I decided I should “get serious” and only write reviews. But let’s face it: reviews can be boring to write. Plot summary, opinion, wrap-up. Maybe something interesting about the author. Maybe recommendations to similar books. Some people use lists or GIFs or anything to make a review seem less…review-ish. For me the solution was the idea of the bookish essay. I’m pretty sure I decided to do that after finding Lydia Kiesling’s original (now defunct) Widmerpool’s Modern Library Revue (which became The Millions Modern Library Revue). I love the way she writes. And I didn’t want to copy how she writes as much as I wanted to write more deeply/widely about the books I was reading. I have many, many (unpublished) attempts to do this, but they took a lot of effort and were hard to get right. And even when I felt like I got them right, I was terrified to share them. I worried people would think, “Who does she think she is? What does she think she’s trying to do?” So in other words, I did it to myself: I backed myself into a writing corner with a whole lot of “shoulds.”

In these blog revivals, I’ve tried some of my own regular features (Freestyle Friday) or picked up doing memes again (Top Ten Tuesday). But I admit to being wobbly on these as well, especially Freestyle Friday, which was a weekly post where I just wrote about anything on my mind. It got a pretty good response and was fun to write, but I kept wondering if anyone really wanted to read about my nonsensical, non book-related thoughts. (Oh yes, and then there was my ill-conceived The Album Project, where once a week I planned to write little essays about music á la Nick Hornby. Crickets. Probably rightly so.) I’ve also tried joining a challenge here and there, but I suck at sticking to a list (see #10BooksofSummer: Womp Womp).

The other thing I’ve done in the past to try and revive the blog was to jump on the ARC bandwagon and review pretty much only and everything new. This worked well for a while, until I had more requests accepted than I could manage. To this day, I still have unread ARCs waiting for review. I’m sort of ashamed about that, and it was my own fault for getting so overwhelmed, but for the first time in a long time I felt like a relevant blogger. All the popular kids were talking about shiny new books ahead of their pub dates, and I wanted to do that, too! Except…what can blog readers say when they’re reading multiple posts about a brand new book they haven’t read yet? I got more traffic, but it was kind of a conversation stopper. I got a little bored, and then I started to resent the fact that I had to keep reading ARCs when I really wanted to read all the other books I was neglecting.

The truth is, I don’t have any real answers. I may burn out again. I’ll keep trying and probably keep failing. As much as I love to read, I truly keep the blog going because I also love to write, I like to challenge myself every once in a while, and most importantly, I like YOU. I like being part of a community. Even if I only get one Like or one comment, it totally makes my day.

Thanks to all of you who visited this week. I know realistically I may never hear from some of you again (at least until next year’s BBAW…and I hope there will be a next year) as we all retreat back to our corners of the blogosphere and get on with things, but I hope to see most of you now and again, even if just to give a virtual wave!

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25 comments

  1. It does feel a bit like the end of summer camp,doesn’t it? We are all waving and promising to write ….

    I don’t think there is one formula that works for everyone. All I can suggest is to write whatever you want. That way your interest in the subject will shine through. If you try to tailor your writing to what you think people want to read it won’t feel as genuine.

  2. Heather, summer camp–yes! I agree.

    I won’t write anything that doesn’t feel genuine, but that doesn’t keep me from being interested in knowing what other things people like to read about. I may or may not want to write about those things, but I also might find good links to share, etc. Just more ways to connect, really. 🙂

  3. I never feel like I have anything to add on music posts! I’m not not interested, I’m just — I don’t know enough about music! I’m a music ignoramus! :p Other than that, I like whatever you write. It’s fun to catch up on other stuff happening in your life, and I also love your review posts. You always have a thoughtful and interesting take!

  4. Well, that sounds like a challenge. I’m putting you on the blog roll so I remember come back more!
    Actually, of the times I have needed a break or took or just fell off the planet for a spell, I find that I commit to AT LEAST reviewing in some way – even if only 3 words – the last book I read (and I will never stop reading, doh) and then somehow, I climb back to the wonderfulness eventually. The only real guilt I allow myself is any books I read that I didn’t review. I probably have only 10 (or 20?!!) over the past 9 years. Ah who’s counting…

  5. I am glad to have found your blog through BBAW this year, and you can count on me dropping by soon again.

    As far as the content question goes – I have gone through phases too, and while I try to find structure and balance all the time, I just go with the flow, and write what I want to write anyway, because there is no perfect way, or even ONE right way to do it. 🙂

  6. I am thanking BBAW every minute, for I have discovered lovely blogs like yours, because of them. I like how you try so many of it, and still in peace with the fact that burnouts are inevitable. Such a wonderful opinion. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  7. I think it’s an ever evolving process, our blogs. I love this post for so many reasons. Some of your struggles are my own, and I appreciate your honesty. I am so glad you took part in BBAW and I got a chance to know you a little better. I hope you have a great weekend!

  8. “I was terrified to share them. I worried people would think, “Who does she think she is? What does she think she’s trying to do?” ” I feel this way often, but I especially did at the beginning. Glad to hear I’m not the only one!
    Share them! 🙂

  9. ” It got a pretty good response and was fun to write, but I kept wondering if anyone really wanted to read about my nonsensical, non book-related thoughts. ”

    Yes! All of my favorite blogs, book or otherwise, are my favorites because they talk about things outside of their ~niche~ and I feel like I actually know them.

  10. Jenny, I totally get that about the music posts (not the part where you are an ignoramus, though, because I know better). In all honesty, I’m not sure how to write them. I have no musical training and don’t play an instrument, so definitely not taking that approach.

    Thanks for the kind words! I always appreciate when you drop by.

  11. Care, ha! It wasn’t meant to be, but if it gets you to visit then fine with me! I’m glad we got acquainted this week! I like the idea of even writing a short review, to find whatever words you can muster. That’s a goal for me this year, to review every book I read. I stand in awe of the fact that you have so few unreviewed books over your blogging career. You, lady, are an inspiration!

    Updating to add: I found a comment you left on my blog in March 2009! Random! 🙂

  12. Shantala, right back at you! and you are right–there’s no one right way to do it. I know that because of all the wonderfully diverse blogs out there. But knowing that and then trying to decide for oneself what to do…not always the easiest. My interests are always changing, but at least it keeps things fresh. 🙂

  13. Deepika, I think burnout doesn’t have to be inevitable for everyone, but if it happens, I think Andi had the best advice, which is not to panic and just sort of embrace it. Hopefully you have a long way to go before you start to question things, but you have such a good attitude I think you’ll be just fine. Lovely to meet you!

  14. Wendy, I can’t figure out how we never “met” before! Better late than never. I loved reading the story of your blog this morning, which most definitely spoke to that evolving process. You have a lovely weekend, too! I’ve added you to Feedly, so you’ll be hearing from me. 🙂

  15. Naomi, I think we all feel this way especially when we try something new. And the funny thing is, probably only we are really acutely aware of the change.

  16. Katherine, I agree! I like the random posts, and I even like “reviews” that veer off in a personal direction, because seeing a real, personal response to a book is always more meaningful to me than reading a critique.

  17. I think part of being a long-time blogger is allowing yourself to change and try new things, even if they don’t really work. Who could do the exact same thing the exact same way for years on end?

    Good luck figuring out what will work for you right now! 🙂

  18. Lindsey, you make an excellent point. I can think of very few longtime bloggers who are still doing things the exact same way–and those who are just found a formula that worked for them from the very start.

  19. Priscilla, as a blogger of just over one year, I really enjoyed reading this, knowing that I’m not the only one out there who struggles with self-doubt and feeling like I’m getting behind on reviews. I have to say that participating in the Top Ten Tuesday meme has helped me already to keep posting, even if I am still mulling over a review. I’m so glad I found your blog. I really value your reviews. (And thanks for reaching out on Goodreads too!)

  20. Laila, thank you! I’m happy I found your blog, too! Top Ten Tuesday has definitely saved me a time or two when I was having trouble writing a review (or reading a really long book). It’s weird but I still feel like I am practicing…I don’t know if I’ll ever feel like I’ve got it right, but maybe that’s a good thing. 🙂

  21. I wish I’d spotted your Album Project, sounds interesting to me! I went through a blip last year thinking my blog was pointless because I wasn’t reviewing the latest releases, but hey, we are who we are and that’s not my thing. Your reviews are great.

  22. Cathy, thanks! I may revise the album thing in some form, not as a weekly post but just to do some posts about music. I hid the few I did (I think three). Maybe I’ll re-post a couple.

    I absolutely love your blog. Besides the fact that we have similar tastes and your reviews are always thoughtful, I admire your perseverance at reading your own books. I’m trying to stick to that as much as possible this year, which means I won’t be talking about a lot of new stuff either. I’ve come to grips with the fact that there are too many good books to always worry about what’s new, even if it doesn’t draw traffic.

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