For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth

Monday, December 30, 2013

Blogger Ramblings…Digging my way out a reading/blogging slump

I was ready to give up blogging at the beginning of 2013. I figured I would try to change a few things and see if it made a difference. It was make or break. As you can tell, I’m still here! so my changes worked. Mostly. I’m not blogging consistently and I still have days…ok weeks…where I would rather be a contributor on someone else's blog than run my own, but mostly, I’m happy and content with reading and blogging again.

So many of my favorite bloggers closed down this year or cut way back on posting. I totally get it. This is way harder than you could ever expect going in. There are amazing perks to this hobby but there is no doubt that it’s a lot of work. 

I thought I would share what made things better for me. It might help you get through the slumps – or you might have your own suggestions. The important thing to remember is that blogging is not a one size fits all kind of thing – so - DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. If you want to blog 7 days a week – go for it. You want to mix animal/family/music/pet rock collections on your blog – DO IT. I think most of us blog to connect to others. What better way to connect than sharing what we love. Do you cut off a certain pet rock collection hating group? Maybe – but being yourself is much better than trying to force yourself into a rigid blogging formula that will burn you out in a year.

So anyway….here are a few changes I made that helped me out of my reading/blogging slump.

I stepped away from the ARC: I think this is probably the #1 cause of blogger burnout. We can’t live another day without that ARC, request it (& a dozen others), get approved and then go….um – I’m not in the mood to read that right now. Ooh shiny NEW book I can’t live without…clicks – request different book – repeat.

To get myself out of that cycle I banned myself from requesting anything new until I got my Kindle e-book and BEA collection under control. Once I did, I now limit myself to two requests per month. If I read AND review them – then I allow myself to request another. It seems to keep me on track with a number that’s not overwhelming but allows me to get more if I’m on track.

I stepped away from the hype: Before blogging, I knew exactly the type of books I would like, just from the summary. My reading tastes were all over the place. Once I started blogging I got caught up in OMG BEST BOOK EVER – LOOK AT THAT COVER hype. While I discovered many great books and authors that way, I also read approximately 200 books a year that I hated and felt like an idiot being the lone reviewing dissenter. I knew these books weren’t for me right away but everyone else loved them so I forced myself. Not every book is for every reader – let it go. I still feel like I’m missing out on ALL the books but I’ll get to it when I get to it. 

I stopped reading: I went through the reading slump from hell and desperately tried everything to get out of it. The main advice was to go read an old favorite again or read a different genre. That didn’t really work for me. Reviewing books turns you into such an analytical reader that you start to lose the pleasure of it – even with old favorites. What worked for me is to just stop reading for almost a month. It gave me time to clear my head and wipe out all those repetitive tropes. It made me desperate to pick up a book again to escape – which leads me to…

I don’t review everything anymore: Other than taking time off from reading – this helped me the most. Let that reviewer brain take a break and read for fun again! I usually leave a one or two sentence review on Goodreads, just so I can remember what I thought at the time but sometimes a book doesn’t need to be dissected to death. I also have started writing more mini reviews. I enjoy writing them and my followers seem to enjoy reading them. Win. Win.

I learned to lighten up: This was hard for me. When you read so much, things get repetitive or you start to hold books to a higher standard after you’ve read a similar book that blew you away. I needed to realize that a book doesn’t need to be – and most likely won’t ever be – perfect & that’s ok. It can still be a good book.

I take time off: This is another thing that was hard for me to do at first. I blogged 7 days a week for almost two years. Near the end I was basically posting filler which is lame. people can tell it’s filler. I’ve decided to not worry about it. If I have something to say I post it. If I don’t – well – I don’t. I may post 5 days a week or randomly take 2 weeks off. I made a personal decision to return this blog to more of what I originally intended, a place to talk about things that interest me. My stats went down (& I don’t even check them anymore) but my interaction and conversations with other bloggers went up so it was worth it to me.

I don’t let the drama get me down: There are rude authors. There are rude bloggers. You don’t need to get in the middle of every frenzy and a handful of authors/bloggers do not define the rest of the community. If you think the blogging community is not supportive – then you’re not talking to the right bloggers/authors.

Vent. Vent. Vent.: I couldn’t have made it this year without my blogger friends. You are NOT ALONE. Talk to other bloggers!! You would be surprised at how many of us feel the same stress and pressure.

This isn’t a competition. You don’t have to do it perfect or not at all: I think almost all of us want our blogs to be as good as we can make it. It’s a refection of us but I think we can take that to the extreme. If we can't blog to our exacting standards we feel like we’re disappointing people and end it. I was so incredibly sporadic with posting this year – yet people were always there when I came back. This is a hobby. Sometimes I’ll be really into it and sometimes I won’t. If deep down, you’re still having fun with it and will miss the community, then relax and enjoy, blog when you can. Your followers will stick around. If you had fun while it lasted but you’re ready to move on – that’s fine too. It’s not a failure. It just ran it’s course. But don’t let some unrealistic blogging standard be the deciding factor.

So that’s what worked for me. I’m 100% out of my reading slump and about 70-80% out of the blogging slump.

A few things I would like to accomplish in 2014.

~ Find a way to review books that’s easier and more fun. I’m getting bored with the standard reviewing style and formatting a post is the bane of my existence.

~ Add drop down menus so I can start sorting reviews by year. Add a favorites page.

~ Organize my Goodreads shelves. I only used to do Want to Read and Read. I’m trying to add more categories that are helpful to both myself and those who may be reading my reviews.

~ Talk more about music, TV and life in general. I like the discussions it generates. Plus those posts are easy for me to write for some reason.

~ Get a custom header. I switched to this basic design and I love it – but I want to add my doggies and Figment back in there.

~ Discover new to me book blogs and comment more.

~  Read and review older books and from genres that aren’t my usual reads. Like non fiction for example.

What are your struggles/goals regarding reading & blogging? Any tips to dig our way out the deep, dark pit of blogger despair?

51 comments:

  1. I like your tips and goals for the New Year. I tried to do what worked for me this year too. I didn't take a long break, but I did focus less on review books and tried to read titles that I'd had on my shelves for a long time. I like breaking out of the same old genres I normally read, and I don't just focus on books, but all sorts of things I like.

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    1. I need to read more "non buzz worthy" books. It's hard because that's mostly what i have or I get a little .99 Kindle book deal crazy lol but I'm going to make more of an effort.

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  2. Yes to every single one of these. I went through virtually the same thing this year and am still going through it somewhat. I really want to keep blogging and that's what's ultimately motivating me even though I often don't want to deal with it.

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    1. If we could just find a way to blog without all the ...blogging lol It's fun once you post but ally he things that lead up to it can be draining.

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  3. I can agree more! This has been a tough year forme especially Ithaca work hours including so much - how I miss 40 HR weeks! I almost quit twice and he'd to the s 3week hiatus to re-evaluate things myself. So glad that you found your rhythm again!

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    1. It feels like it's been tough for everyone. The shine has worn off and now we're trying to find a way to juggle everything.

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    2. OMG...was I on drugs when I left that comment?! Lol...how did you even make sense of it? Perfect example of the toll blogging can take and why I usually don't comment on blogs-I'm too tired to make sense!

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    3. I understand you because that's how I type lol

      In fact just last week I left a slightly (accidental) pornographic typo comment on a friends blog. And it was her daughter's post. *shame* *SHAME*

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  4. I'm glad you're still here! Yay!

    I went through some slumps this year, too. I was burned out from writing and teaching and trying to keep up with blogging. There were many times I couldn't face the blogs on top of everything else I had to to do. But I couldn't bring myself to quit because I missed the company of the people I'd met through blogging. So now I blog twice a week -- but only if I have time to visit and respond. I don't blog when I can't return the favor of a visit.

    Back when I was reviewing books for Amazon Vine, I got caught up in the OOH, REQUEST EVERYTHING frenzy -- and yeah, I read a lot of books I hated and lost my taste for reading. So, I hear ya on that one! In the end, you have to stay true to what you like in order to keep the joy of doing it alive.

    Here's to 2014!

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    1. I just came to the conclusion that I never read ALL the books I think I desperately need. There just isn't enough time so I've learned to limit myself. I do feel like I'm missing out sometimes but oh well....lol

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  5. I love this! I totally agree with the shorter reviews, and not dissecting a book to death.

    You know you are my blogging Idol-type person. I am just so happy you got your mojo back. It shows.

    Happy New Year!

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    1. Yeah - it started taking the joy out of reading. Even when I loved a book - I started seeing the flaws once I wrote a review and it ruined it for me.

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  6. I am so glad it worked out for you, too many have quit blogging :/

    For me it works doing my own stuff. I read, I enjoy and after that I think and review..quickly and short.

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    1. I love the way you blog. It seems so laid back!

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  7. Completely with you! I found a couple of memes that I enjoy and had to find a new reviewing style, too. Deep dissection is not my forte. I like fun and easy (just like my men. Ba-dum-dum). You've got to go with what works for you or you'll wind up burned out and leaving the game.

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    1. LMAO

      I really enjoy your reviews! They're FUN!

      I'm still floundering a little with reviews but I think I'm over the worst of it.

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  8. Such great suggestions. And I'm really happy that you didn't quit :)
    Aaah -- you are going to have to tell me how you decide to organize your archive. I started doing it by year and then changed my mind and merged my first two years of archives. And now I'm behind in linking up. I'm wondering if anyone even uses it…
    Jen @ YA Romantics

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    1. For me, I'm starting to lose my reviews because the list is getting too long lol

      I think I'm just going to start from 2014 and everything else stays where it is.

      I think we go through more effort than necessary half the time lol

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  9. Awesome post, Karen!! I'm so glad you found what works for you. I am also trying to do what works for me. It's definitely been slowish around my blog during the holidays, but I will pick it back up again asap!

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    1. Thank YOU for being once of those venting people I can go to! lol

      You've helped get through so much!

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  10. I am so glad that you didn't go and I agree with all those things too. I do agree with stepping back has worked for me and knowing that I am doing this as hobby has helped lol. Hype kills the book now :) You totally rock you know that ...my hero . Love you

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    1. Love you back Julie!

      Hype really is a very bad thing lol

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  11. What an awesome post, Karen! I can see myself in so much of your thoughts and feelings. I will definitely be referencing back to this in the year to come. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

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    1. I know we all have our way of getting through it but I hope it helps bloggers to realize they aren't the only ones going through it.

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    2. Seriously, it's like you're talking to me, with the ARC cycle, the "buying a book because everyone loves it, then not really caring for it," the feeling of missing out when you don't buy it, comparing that amazing book with the so-so ones that follow, trying to post as often as other bloggers, or lamenting that I can't come up with the conversational posts like they do... I struggle with all of those.

      My biggest thing, though, is that I never reach out to talk to the other bloggers. What if they think I'm a big baby, or they don't understand? Or even worse, what if none of them even respond?

      But you're right, this is a hobby. It's certainly not my job. I need to relax and just enjoy it. You're so wise kemosabi.

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    3. You really should reach out!! You would be shocked by how many people feel the same way! I know I was.

      There are bloggers that post everyday and are so unbelievably creative that I'm jealous but when you talk to them they are on the edge of giving up.

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  12. Great post Karen. (These words are overworn, but I mean it). Honest and helpful. And it's not like your new and simpler design lacks anything substantial, but I'm looking forward to your new header :).

    I want to do more with my blog next year, getting more involved in the community. On the other hand, I won't be able to help being a quiet blogger, and I guess it's OK. I want to find a balance between the two things.

    Have a great, book-filled new year!

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    1. I just want my doggie back lol It's just "me"

      The community (as messed up as it can be at times) is what keeps me going. I've met so many amazing people - such as yourself :-)

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  13. I've tried to quit a couple of times, but you see how that went. :) I am going to let a few days here and there go... I'll see how that goes as well. LOL I'm also accepting a few more crafty type or doggy type books. They don't get as much look-sees but who cares? It's my blog. :) I really should cut down on the ARCs. I'm so weak. :)

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    1. I'm glad you didn't!

      I like your doggy book reviews and I love that your personality shows on your blog design and postings :-)

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  14. About two years ago I decided on "just doing it my way" and even sent an email to the publishers that I work with to let them know that I wouldn't be an "on-time" reviewer. This year I am even cutting back further (work obligations). I don't know that I have gotten close to quitting but I have taken weeks off here and there. I just try not to take it too seriously.

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    1. You're one of the bloggers that I look up to. I love your attitude!

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  15. I love, love, love this post! I wish I could get back to my 2 reviews a week habit, but I don't know if I can. I also do think that we, as bloggers, see that so many other bloggers post so much we think that we're doing it "wrong" if we can't keep up. And yes, it's so hard to read without being critical...but I've been reading The Passage and really enjoying it. Not really taking notes or anything so there's that.

    I'm a little bored with my review format as well. I have a few ideas on how to do it differently, but haven't taken the plunge yet. I do like the idea of just blogging when you have something to say. I'm glad you didn't quit, even though I've felt like it a few times as well.

    So, here's wishing you a happy, healthy New Year filled with great books and great times. (Hugs.)

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    1. I think goals are good but when you feel like you "should" do something a certain way because that's how it's done gets you off track.

      There is no right way or wrong way to do a hobby. I'm not sure why were all (including myself in that) worried about doing it perfectly.

      Don't quit Pam!!! I would miss you too much.

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  16. I'm so with you. I don't do hype, stats, ARCs, or drama. Haven't for years. All that jazz makes my brain hurt.
    I haven't been reviewing every book either.
    And I love when bloggers just blogs when they want about what they want.
    As long as it's one every few weeks, I'm good.
    Happy New Year doll!
    Here's to finding your happy place.
    :D

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    1. I thought my infrequent posting would kill my blog but it didn't. I don't have regular traffic like I did before but the followers I dod have like to discuss things and always manage to find me when I post something new.

      I love your blog Juju!

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  17. Love this! I started a new job a few months ago and at first I was stressed about not being able to keep up with the blog but then I just let it go and I posted only when I wanted to. I lost a lot of stats because my posts dramatically decreased but mentally I was in such a better place by not worrying about it.

    I love mini reviews! I tend to skim really long reviews anyway so I like the shorter ones better, plus as a reviewer sometimes I just don't have that much to say. I used to stress about it and work to make them longer now I just say what I have to say, no matter how long or short!

    So glad you decided to keep blogging!

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    1. I always want to make all my points about a book - like if I miss something - I'll get called out on it lol but I tend to glaze over longer reviews these days too and every time I post mini reviews people comment about how they like them better so maybe that's the way to go if you don't have a lot to say.

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  18. This is a really great post, Karen. I decided to do things a little differently towards the end of last year - I was also in a bit of a slump - and I hope to continue that into this year. I cut down to posting only 3 or 4 times a month (or even less if needed) and found I actually had time to read more often too. It was definitely less stressful and it reminded me that blogging is supposed to be FUN. Stepping back from review books is what I'm doing right now and it's very liberating. I like being able to read my own books, at my own pace, and without anyone expecting me to share my thoughts immediately after. Congrats on mostly getting out of your slump, and best of luck for 2014. :)

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    1. It is SO liberating when you step away from the review books. I had never even heard of ARC's when I started and reading was much more fun in those days.

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  19. I am so glad you rediscovered the book blogging joy! Your post is brilliant, and I would miss your voice in our community if you went away for good. I've come to the realization that I don't want to do the things that would garner me a large following- I don't like hosting giveaways, I feel awkward requesting arcs (because you are right, by the time I get them I'm in the mood for some other newer arc), and I'm not disciplined enough to post every day. This year I'm focusing on interacting with other bloggers, get back into that feeling of community which is what I really love about book blogging. I reserve the right to be contrary- to suddenly host a challenge, or read-a-long, or disappear for two weeks. But I will make an effort to not lose sight of all the wonderful people and blogs that I've been lucky enough to discover in the last few years! And if I get to feeling down, I'll come back and re-read this post. Thanks, Karen!

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    1. I rarely request books. I don't' have many contacts or anything and I don't feel worthy to put myself out there lol

      "I reserve the right to be contrary- to suddenly host a challenge, or read-a-long, or disappear for two weeks"

      LOVE THAT!

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  20. Amen, Karen! You said what I've been feeling and thinking. Your reflections is helping me set up 2014 blog-wise. You also have solid resolutions, I for one am starting with participating less on bookmark stops which are fillers with a few exceptions.

    Happy new year!

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  21. These are awesome goals, Karen, and great advice! I think bloggers burning out is kind of like an epidemic, unfortunately. ARCs are a big factor because everyone wants THAT book FIRST and then they feel pressured if they do get it and need to review it and LIKE it, but if they don't get it, they feel like a failure! It's a horrible cycle. I hope your 2014 reading year will be fantastic!

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    1. I think year was the worst I've ever seen in regards to burn out. It made me so sad when some of my favorites quit - not necessarily because they wanted to - but because they couldn't keep up with expectations. Like blogging 7 days a week...it's got to be ok to take a day off from a hobby right?!

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  22. Such a good post! I don't think people realize when they start blogging that they can easily burn themselves out quickly. It's easy to request those review books, but reading them all is hard. I get some unsolicited ARC's, which is fine since I don't feel the pressure (I actually like getting them and usually read them because I have zero expectations from them). Other then that I get some through Amazon Vine, so usually about 2 a month. Somehow I'm still WAY overwhelmed with books, but many of them are Indie that I agree to try.
    People need to remember to run their blog the way that works best for them. I don't have trouble posting every day, but I need to remember that if I do have a burnout I can walk away for a day or two and it's not a big deal. I also have been thinking of adding more non-book related posts. So that might happen but it'll be only occasional so it shouldn't turn away my book friends.

    Thanks for reminding us all that blogging is a hobby and we need to remember to do it for US and not try to make everyone else happy.

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  23. I, too, want to find an easier review style. I might just do mini-reviews, or something along those lines...

    Do what works for you! Your fans will be here. :)

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  24. Thanks so much for sharing your advice and what worked for you to keep you blogging. I also put myself on a ban from getting new books last year until I made it through the books I already had (or most of them anyway). This was a huge help band made me feel less overwhelmed. I think the number one thing is for people to do what works for them. Blog on a schedule that works, about what they want to write about, and reviews can be long or short. ;)

    Great goals for 2014. Wishing you a Happy New Year and a wonderful year ahead. :)
    ~Jess

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  25. You are so right about all of this, Karen...but then again, you usually are. :D

    We've talked about blogging/reading slumps before, and I was nodding along as I read your entire post. I've been trying out some of the things you've mentioned in recent months also, most particularly shorter review formats, stepping away from ARCs and hype, and just trying to have more fun in general.

    We also are trying out a more structured reviewing schedule as well, which I think will help. Sometimes having too much freedom means people start pushing off stuff to the end of the month (myself included) and then stuff just doesn't get done. I really hope this year I won't have to worry about consistent content anymore, but with our current number of reviewers, hopefully it wont' be a problem!

    Good luck with your goals, Karen. I'm glad you're still here, the blogosphere is a better place because you're in it.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  26. I used to get real twitchy if I didn't blog for a few days. But I went 10 days over the holidays and I didn't mind one bit. It's good to let go of self-enforced rules we give ourselves. i hope you ahve a more enjoyable 2014. And yes, non-fiction is awesome.

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