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!
32 thoughts on “Discussion: Why We Need to Cut Ourselves Some Slack”
I agree so much. I used to post more because i felt I had too. I used to read books because I felt obligated too. I hate that. I don’t post ever day sometimes only once or twice a week.I have a full time job and a 2.5 year old I watch after work. I get tired. I don’t always have the energy so yes I agree totally. it should be a hobby and for fun. If its not fun take a break. I am trying so hard to come out of my comfort zone to get to know some fellow bloggers too. I think this is important. I am very introverted and its hard for me. but I do believe its part of the fun and part of the reason I started. I don’t seem very good at it but I keep trying.
I really like that your 5 stars went up.Mine probably went down. Only because the more I have read the more I realize it takes to wow me. I could be wrong though. I know I do get 4 star happy. I probably have more 4 stars then anything.
I used to never DNF books. I always felt (ocd issues) I have to finish books and even series. I gave that up though. Too many good books out there to get through. I don’t keep track of them though. No clue what that is. I also sometimes don’t finish a book but in a couple of years will try again and like it. sometimes its a mood thing.
This is a great, albeit loaded, topic! I do put a lot of pressure on myself. I have been blogging one way or another since 2010. I do think that last year when I started the book blog up I tried too much. I wanted on all the blog tours and read all of those “how to book blog” posts making myself crazy thinking I was not good enough. I wanted the big numbers. Reading and blogging are my hobby, and I really enjoy this. It is good to kick back and remember that this is just for me, and nothing should be taking the fun out of it. Especially, not feeling inferior. I do the things I love and skip the things and books I have no interest in, no matter what the hype is.
a) I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to comment. Seriously, I fail, and I apologize.
b) RIP, BORDERS. ;_____; I used to work there, and I miss it so much.
c) JUST… SO MUCH YES TO THIS WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOLE POST.
“You are reading and blogging as a hobby. Always keep it fun.” This maxim is EVERYWHERE, and I am definitely one of the ones who says it and COMPLETELY believes it. …But… how weird is it, that it’s so hard to fully put this into practice? Why can’t we always just do what we want? Why do we make things into “obligations” and feel like we *have* do certain things? We don’t need to do this!! X_X
I think you and I are in a really similar headspace with everything that you touched on. I’m making 2015 my year to read what I want, too — it started off as sort of an unintentional result of the whole “scrap the schedule, it’s stressing me out” thing. And I think I’ve gone through the same progression of feelings you did, regarding ARC’s and wanting to Read Popular Books Now regardless of whether that was the best choice. It’s just a slippery slope to unhappiness! For a while it’s great because you feel like you’re “in the loop”, and doing the cool thing, and you think it’s what you really want to be doing…… but burnout happens fast. And like you noticed, you end up forcing yourself to read books you know you’re not liking! More and more, I’ve found (and am still finding) that it’s REALLY worth it to wait to request/read until closer to, or after, release – which helps to cut down on requests in the first place!
I definitely agree that we (at least, *I*) put way too much pressure on ourselves to be “perfect bloggers” — or maybe not “perfect bloggers”, but there’s definitely pressure to do everything we think is necessary/obligatory TO being a blogger. And I’ve definitely felt like throwing my plans out the window sometimes… But for me, plans are what keep me going. I have to have certain goals, and those goals always end up feeling a little bit like work (any requirement does, for me). BUT, the payoff of being in this community, and feeling like I’m contributing something, and having fun while I’m doing it — that’s worth it.
But it’s SO necessary to make sure we always keep things in perspective, and to take a step back (or a few steps back… or a giant leap back…) whenever we feel like things are getting to be a little much for what should be a fun hobby. I think once we start losing the joy, it becomes pointless, and that’s not something I ever want to happen!!
Oh, I love this post! I’ve definitely started cutting myself some slack recently, like with ARCs, posting schedules, etc. I also NEVER used to DNF books, and I’ve started doing this a lot more recently. I think I’m definitely getting better!
Oh my gosh, YES TO EVERYTHING IN THIS POST!! I’ve been blogging for 2 1/2 years and I STILL struggle with letting go of that guilt when I DNF an ARC or am no longer interested in reading it anymore. I changed my review policy, which helped IMMENSELY. But I still feel like I’m too focused on ARCs, or at least, reviewing them that I’ve stopped reviewing other books on my blog. The “me” books, the ones that I never have the energy to review fully because I do that all the time with ARCs (and I feel like they need proper reviews). It’s something I’m working hard on! I’ve burnt myself out on ARCs and stress and the need to review everything before, so I try to take it slow now and just be chill about everything. And so far? It has been oh so nice.
I’ve also let myself become too focused on what everyone else is reading before. I call it book pressure, and I had catered my blog to it without even noticing it was happening. It wasn’t until last summer where I stepped back and put everything into perspective and realized how much I was doing that and how much I wanted to STOP. It’s not bad, per se, but I didn’t start my blog to read what everybody else was. And I wanted to get back to blogging HOW I WANT. So, I totally understand how you’re feeling when it comes to this. There are books I never would have found without book blogging, and that is so great. But sometimes those shiny ARCs and the sense of competition can really make you forget why you started blogging in the first place. And it’s so, so important to remember.
I hope this all made sense! Haha. I’m so glad there have been many posts about this and that people are recognizing that this is still, and should stay, a hobby. It should be FUN AND STRESS-FREE. Wonderful discussion, Brittany!
I love this post, Brittany! I started blogging in 2012, as well, and it’s kind of interesting to see where this journey has taken me. I’ve never done the ARC thing, so reading obligations for me are rather minimal. I try really hard to read whatever I want, but I still get caught up in the hype and the wanting to read and like what everyone else is talking about. What I’ve found hardest lately is the major disappointment I set myself up for when I want to like what everyone else likes. When I don’t, I feel not only left out of the fun, but I feel like I have to keep my negative opinion somewhat quiet to avoid being a spoilsport. At the same time, it can be frustrating to go off on your own and read your own thing… my audience is much smaller/quieter when I review adult lit than YA, for example. I find right now I am struggling to maintain a balance between enjoying what I’m reading and getting the interactions I want out of blogging. Then again, this all comes back to the pressure I feel to write reviews people read and care about. I want reviews to be for me, too, but only for me? I’m not sure about that yet.
Anyways… all that to say, great post that’s got me thinking a lot about where I am in terms of my blogging life. We could all do with being a little kinder on ourselves, I think.
I totally agree that we as bloggers need to cut ourselves some slack. It’s easier said then done though! It’s funny I am reading this post now, I actually have a post going live tomorrow about how I always follow the trends but this has worked for me for the most part. Even though I am easily influenced I am still pretty selective and only read what I want to read. I’ve never gone crazy requesting books but instead am actually very conservative on that front knowing how easily influenced I am and if a book starts getting a bunch negative reviews, I likely won’t want to read it. I never want to feel obligated to read something I don’t want to read. This is probably why my rating skew high and I don’t have many 2 stars or DNFs. I hope you have a fantastic, no-pressure, 2015 reading year!
I fully agree. i got caught up in everything last year and rarely used to DNF but got caught up in the world of ARCs and accepting tours and review requests willy-nilly. Read stuff that sounded vaguely interesting but so many books I really wanted to read were put on hold. This year, I am slowing way down on review requests and netgalley, etc and even the “hype” books and hoping to start hitting up those books that are getting lonely on my shelf.
We shouldn’t have to read only the popular or newest titles either. We are giving our time and energy to share about books with others and that in itself is great but when I try to overplease followers, authors and people I don’t even have a clue who they are, i just end up stressed and reading even less and that does no one any good.
THANK YOU for writing this post!! Really and truly!!
As yet another “newbie” (very newbie, less than a month!), I too have felt the pressure to follow in the footsteps of the veterans – trying to catch / keep up and read the same ‘popular’ books, post similar material and weekly posts etc.. just so I could try and fit in with what all my favourite bigger bloggers were doing. I figured that whatever they did and the schedule they kept must have worked for them, so it should work for me too! But here I am, barely into it, and I can already tell that I’m not enjoying myself like I’m supposed to…like you said, we should blog for ourselves, first and foremost! We can’t be everyone else, we can only be ourselves. I have to get back to the reasons why I wanted to start a blog – and you have reminded me of those very reasons! It’s not about the numbers or the ARCS (which, lets be honest, I probably won’t see one of those for a while, but I’ve accepted this!), it’s about the books, it’s about the love of books, it’s about our own expressions surrounding these books!
Your post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. It means a lot to hear these words of encouragement from you, as someone who I consider to be a “veteran” and whose words I trust! I have curtailed comparing myself to my favourite blogs and I hope to keep it this way while I built my little blog up, keeping to my own vision.
Thank you again!
Excellent discussion post, lady! I’ve been blogging for over a year now and one of the main things I keep telling myself is not to let myself get burnt out. There’s so much more to blogging than I ever imagined; it’s so much more time consuming. But I need to remember that it’s for fun, and not be stressed about having to read certain books or coming up with the most creative posts or worrying about how many followers I have. Sometimes I can let these things get to me, but I try not to. Mostly I don’t ever want to give up this community of friends that I’ve made, so I know I need to make sure that I’m always having fun and not stressing so much. 🙂
HECK YES TO READING WHAT YOU WANT TO READ AND POSTING WHAT YOU WANT TO ON YOUR BLOG! I feel like we went through similar reading experiences. Before blogging, I read what I liked and often didn’t even have a book lined up until I was done with my current read. When I started blogging, I started acquiring more books and reading more “popular” titles and getting swept up in the excitement of that. I don’t regret it, as it’s led to some of all-time favorite books. But starting middle of 2014 and continuing on into 2015, I definitely share your mindset of just reading what I want to read. And it’s definitely made my reading experience better overall! More 5 stars, 4 stars and less lower stars or DNFs overall. Love it. It’s hard to shake yourself out of wanting to read all the popular books though, and sometimes, I still get tempted. But I’m trying at least, so that’s something, right?
I couldn’t agree more! I always try to tell people this when I see someone apoligizing on their blog for being inactive or something, or someone telling us they’re stressed out. Chill out, believe that your readers are still there and take some time off. I would much rather update once in a while and still find it enjoyable than be stressed out about having to update every day.
Love this post and I agree with it all! Blogging is fun, but sometimes, without us realising it, we make it…not fun for ourselves. I think it’s because with blogging there is a sense of responsibility. If you’re a host of something or you have an ARC to get to. It can start off fun, but go downhill pretty quickly. I think it’s important to stop and think every now and then about why we do what we do. Because we love books and this community. Just…sometimes our brains go all silly and forget silly things like that!
Great post and I totally agree about cutting ourselves some slack. I just started my blog this past November so I am still a newbie. I am finding that I feel I need to read all the popular books that others are reading. But I need to remember to still read what I want to read. 🙂
So true! I’ve been doing pretty much the same this year, trying to cut back on “have to” books and focus on “get to” books. I’ve been limiting myself to 4 REQUESTS a month, which really prioritizing only requesting the books I would drop everything to read and if I don’t get them, oh well, gives me more time to read fun library books!
I really needed to hear this, especially as someone who just started blogging a few months ago. The list of books to read is intimidating and I’m starting to pull back just a little bit, especially since I want to read ARCs for authors I know & give them feedback.
I feel like there will always be too many books & not enough time, which isn’t that terrible of a problem if you ask me.
Thanks for posting this!!
Love your post so much! Even before I started blogging with Jess I felt the pressure of buzz books a bit just from being on twitter and seeing other reviews. Like you said though, I’ve found a TON of amazing books this way that I’m really happy about! And it’s fun getting recs from people whose taste is similar to yours. Also omgggg I miss Borders too! </3 Lately I've been feeling the burn out a bit. It was exciting to be able to request arcs and I haven't gone TOO crazy but the few I have weigh on my shoulders until I read them. I don't know how the rest of you do it with so many! I'm trying hard to concentrate on the books I have and only request and/or preorder the books I feel like I have to have. I have some books that I needed on release day that I haven't read yet and now they're out in PB or have a sequel! That's my cue. Going to try and cut back on that. I need to give myself slack in lots of areas of my life. Sounds like you've figured that out for your blog, which is great! Keep having fun and doing what YOU want to do 🙂
I’m SO with you on this!! Lately I’ve been feeling exactly the same way. I’ve been letting myself balance things a lot better and read whatever I want. I generally don’t request ARCs unless I’m SUPER excited for them – same with borrowing them (thanks ;)!) Reading is a hobby and should be fun over everything.
The bottom line is that we can do whatever we want with our blogs; that’s why they were created. When I first started blogging, there was this one blog that hardly ever posted reviews and only posted random discussions or other things. I constantly “judged” her for not even following “the point” of book blogging. I cringe at those thoughts now, because who cares! I’ve tried to limit my reviews and my reading challenge number because I started to get so bogged down with the idea that I needed to read ALL the time. I’d make myself feel bad for watching TV or just hanging out. I didn’t start this blog with the idea that reading would be my only hobby, so I’m glad I broke myself out of that pattern pretty quickly.
I definitely think bloggers put too much pressure on themselves, and I used to do just the same. I would have reading/blogging slumps all the time when I had a ton of reviews/tours to get done in a short amount of time. I used to say yes to all the books that I was offered for review too.
Now I’m much more selective and read more of what I want. I find it works a lot better that way and it gives me a lot less stress and it’s just mroe fun! I used to want to impress others but now I act more myself and just do what makes me happy 🙂
I’m a fairly new blogger (six months and counting), and I totally agree with this! When I started out, I didn’t know anything about NetGalley, ARC’s, or what the “buzz books that everyone is talking about” were. I just wanted a place to keep track of the books I was reading, and put down my thoughts about them. It’s been a learning experience to balance what I can take on to read and review in a reasonable time frame, and how to not feel bad because I don’t love the book everyone is hyped about (see today’s post). I’m still learning, but I’m still loving it, so that’s what counts!
I’ve been trying to balance this as well. Particularly in terms of requesting newer arcs for request from publishers or Amazon Vine. I’ve also being trying to be mindful about passing on things I know I won’t be able to give proper attention/glowing reviews.
My book buying spiked when I started blogging (seven years ago!) and especially when I worked briefly in an indie bookstore so it’s also been important to take a step back and read some books that have been languishing on my shelves.
Great points Brittany!
“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.”
So true! I love this post! Reading and blogging should be fun! I always love seeing people blog for themselves instead of competing with others. I love reading about blogger’s interests besides books. I like getting to know the person outside of everything bookish.
Thanks, Nicole!! I think because we fall into the book blogging niche, it’s easy to feel like that’s all we can do. Honestly, that’s mainly what I stick with because I don’t really have any other hobbies haha! But I’ve actually seen a few people say recently that they like to see variety on someone’s blog because we’re friends with soooo many book bloggers the different content makes someone’s blog stand out! 🙂
I think when it’s a social hobby, it’s easy to fall into the slump of comparing yourself to someone else whereas if I was just scrapbooking say, it’s only me doing it for myself. I still read and blog for myself but now I’m looking at what other people are doing and that adds an extra layer of “keeping up” in there!
Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂
Reading this post made me wonder if these “veteran” bloggers you mentioned (those who have been posting for 4+ years) went through this “epiphany” so many of us have seemed to talk about recently. Like, do most bloggers, regardless of topics, have this moment where they decide that they are doing what they want to do, not what they feel obligated to do? I feel like I’ve come across so many bloggers in the past couple months who have written almost the exact same sentiments you have. I love this; it makes me feel so much better about my own burn-out.
It really does feel like we have to constantly stay “in the game” when it comes to book blogging, reading what books are popular or what books are shoved in our faces. But after so many burns and disappointments, I really feel like this is not the way for ME to be a book blogger. I loved being in the game for a while, getting ARCs and really writing reviews, but now I’m enjoying reading what I want and catching up on books I didn’t get to read in the past because I was so concerned with trying to keep up with the Joneses. It’s been very freeing for me and has allowed me to sort out my priorities when it comes to blogging. There’s no need to put pressure on ourselves to be the perfect blogger. I think just doing what we love and reading what we love is why we got into blogging; no need to forget that part!
That’s an excellent point! Maybe we all go through this realization and this was mine 😉 It’s so funny because I never really felt like I was feeling obligated to read anything unless I had made a commitment to it and then I was like DUH. Stop making commitments! I still will, but I’m getting more choosy and I’m really trying to stop that unintentional pressure by not requesting or downloading as many galleys.
I’m glad you started to find your blogging rhythm again!!!
I don’t think I could agree with this post more if I tried. I’ve really been struggling with finding my blogging momentum again, and at the end of last year I found myself not wanting to touch my blog or any book whatsoever, and it’s taken me absolutely ages to get back into the swing of things! I’m trying so hard to just pick up books that I want to read this year, instead of forcing myself to read a certain book because I got it for review so I need to read and review it straight away. If I’m not in the mood for it, I won’t enjoy it, and that’s not fair to the author at all. And I’m trying to apply it to my blog as well. I do other things as well as read, and I want to show that on my blog, instead of worrying and thinking ‘but no-one will read it if it’s not about books’, because that isn’t always the case. I don’t think there’s such a thing as the ‘perfect blogger’ at least, not anymore, because what people want to take from a blog changes so much these days!
Thanks for commenting, Hollie!
YES, it gets so hard when you get sort of stuck in that rut of what you feel you “should” be doing or reading! It’s really hard because I always want to read what someone else is reading when I see it and see how awesome it looks or if I get caught up in all of the books I’ve requested or bought and haven’t read yet… But it’s so great to pick up books I FEEL like reading. My experience is so much better! 🙂