Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Burning out on blogging

weekly geeks
My first Weekly Geeks post! I couldn't resist this week's topic: bloggerly burnout/why we blog.

This past week wrapped up Book Blogger Appreciation Week, in which I'm sure many of you participated. In two weeks will be Banned Books Week, in which I'm sure some of you also will participate. I'm also sure that many of you participated, and will participate, with at least a post per day, if not more, on your respective blogs.

Personally, after such weeks, I feel almost burnt out and think, "Why am I doing this? I'm not getting paid for this." Do you ever feel the same way after weeks like the ones mentioned above? If you do, what do you to counter it? How do you keep going? Do you take a break from posts after that, or do you just "soldier on"?

Or if you don't feel burnt out after such weeks, why not? Also why are you a book blogger? From what I've seen and experienced, it's certainly not the fame or the glory that you get. So what is it? Why? Why? Why?

I didn't experience any sense of burnout from BBAW. But then, I wasn't involved in organizing or running the event; I simply wrote a couple of posts, visited new-to-me blogs listed on various Mr. Linkys or touted by other bloggers as their favorites. I entered a few giveaways although I've apparently won nothing but a slot on some publicist's mass mailing list. I didn't take the awards portion of the week seriously enough to get upset when my choices didn't win; I came to grips a long time ago that my tastes are outside the mainstream. Plus I had a day's break from all computer activity due to working at the polls last Tuesday and by focusing on book blogs instead of obsessively checking in with all the political sites the way I ordinarily do the rest of the time, last week probably lowered my blood pressure thereby improving my health. So yay Book Bloggers Appreciation Week! I appreciate you greatly.

But as for burnout in and of itself, I admit that I've been feeling a low-grade version for longer than many have been blogging and I seriously thought about throwing in the towel earlier this year.

Next month Pages Turned will turn five; I had a mostly-reading journal at LiveJournal for more than a year prior to that. My daughter was responsible for setting up the LiveJournal; I could never figure out how to post images there and Pages Turned was created originally as a vehicle that would allow me to post some of the vacation pictures we'd taken the previous summer, although I knew from the outset that I'd use the blog as a reading journal and a commonplace book. I admired the LitBloggers who posted reviews and analysis of professional quality, but I wasn't assembling clips and contacts for future employment; in fact, I regarded my own blogging as not writing. Writing was dialogue and character development and plot; blogging was goofing off with other people who loved and recommended books. Book bloggers in general seemed an accommodating bunch--links, quotations, full or capsule reviews, bookish chitchat--and the bloggers I connected with certainly were what they seemed. And we were all united against the professional reviewers who thought us as a bunch of pooters with 18 cats.

But then the publishers and publicists and authors began to take book blogging seriously, and while that is a change for the good, the tenor of the community changed in the process. I now felt somehow obligated to abide by the as yet unspoken but somehow understood Neighborhood Covenants even though these standards hadn't been in existence when I'd put my key in the lock and my books on the shelves. I would postpone writing about books until I had the time to do a full review instead of a quick mention--and lose any desire to write about the book at all. I would hold back on linking to interesting articles--because isn't microblogging the province of Twitter now? Why bother routinely nudged aside oh, this would be cool to post.

Burnout City.

Then in the spring, after a slew of articles and discussions by publishing insiders on how to write a proper review, how to properly request review copies, a book blogger with quite a lot of prestige twittered that bloggers who kept reading journals were pretending to be what they were not, that there ought to be a way for people--presumably those in charge of distributing the freebies--to differentiate between those deserving of ARCs and those who aren't. And, because real life was particularly real and raw at that point, instead of snorting through my nose and thinking Isn't that rich coming from someone who maintains she isn't in it for the free books, and keeping that person's opinion in the proper perspective, I dwelled on it, burning out even more thinking, Well, if this is the direction book blogging's going in, ferreting out the commie slackers among us marching to our own drummers, I don't want to be a part of it anymore. You superbloggers can take your full-fledged reviews and your networking with the stars and you can--

Except there are enough bloggers who don't get caught up in these positioning games at all, or who bow out of them when they realize that's all they are instead of getting out of blogging altogether. There's no reason to read the review copy before you tackle Proust if Proust is what you're in the mood for; it can wait on the shelves with the rest of your books. There's no reason to think no one will be interested in reading a book you love unless you spend hours on a review; I'm more often intrigued by a mere mention of a book by someone whose readerly sensibilities I value or know are aligned with my own; when I was an Amazon associate I saw how I sometimes sold obscure books by merely listing them in the sidebar in my year's reading and not writing one word about them.

It is truly a matter of keeping a proper perspective, of following one's own instincts and inclinations, of not turning reading or blogging into a competitive sport, that can put the joy back into an activity you've burnt out on.

And it certainly helps if this is your theme song, to listen to it on a regular basis!


  1. Great post! We should all do exactly what we want with our blogs and nothing else, and we shouldn't feel obligated to anybody to do anything, period.

  2. I second Dorothy. It's hard not to get caught up sometimes, but I find when I try to run with the big dogs, I don't like blogging anymore. I'm happier staying on the porch. :-)


  3. And a third from me. I think there's enough room in the blogging world for many types of blogs.

    Like you, I realized long ago that my sensibilites don't necessarily match those of the crowd. And I'm fine with that. If the crowd wants to embrace what I do, fine. If not, fine. I'll just do what I do. Sure, I get caught up in the controversies sometimes, but I try to stay true to me and to the readers who do enjoy what I do and not worry about whether I'm blogging "correctly" by someone else's standards.

  4. Hooray for this post! My sentiments exactly. I got burnt out from all the "blogging" issues so I've been staying away from them. It's really a matter of who we connect with. Like you, I like visiting blogs whose reading tastes are similar to mine, and am content with having like-minded readers to talk with. Other things besides that I lay aside.

  5. This is wonderful. There's been all kinds of pressures lately on what a book blog 'should' be. Whether we should be uber-bloggers showing ourselves off as professional reviewers, or whether we should be seriously engaging in literature all the time. When I read the judging criterion on BBAW I was suddenly in doubt that what I had WAS a book blog. I don't make it pretty with lots of pictures of books in the side bars (technically incompetent), I don't have my contact details readily available, and the last thing I am is concise. For a while there, I really did think it might be best just to slink away and leave all the proper book blogs to it.

    But I've grown so fond of a number of other bloggers, and I still spend all my life reading and writing and talking about books. So I guess i'll keep going.

  6. I read pretty much what I like. At my own pace. I agrre, if I wish to read proust, why should I read anything else? That is one reason, I keep reading poetry.

    Weekly Geeks: Why/What makes us go on?

  7. Okay, AMEN! Your post was along the lines of what I have been thinking lately. Being a new book blogger (only for 2 months) I, like many, just wanted to share my love of books and find out about books people liked, and so on. Little did I know there was this hub bub of book bloggers who take thier blogs very seriously, and that's fine! I identify myself as a book blogger, not a book reviewer, I think there is a big distinction there.

    Several times I ALMOST wanted to drop it as I saw there was a huge potential for big drama among bloggers, and indeed that has come about, but I love my blog and those I follow (and finding new ones all the time!) and try to keep burn out at bay by taking breaks now and again. (I've had an adoption blog for 3 years.) Great post!

  8. I don't know what to add to this except that I agree. I have not been blogging for all that long, and I started as a way to keep track of what I read via a list, then somehow it morphed. Sometimes it's a "book blog" & sometimes a sort of journal. The thing I took from BBAW was that I'm not a book blogger in the accepted sense, I'm not up on the "issues" and I'm not competing for anything. What I do have are some wonderful bloggy friends who are mostly about books; and some equally wonderful bloggy friends who are not about books at all. I like that.

    I have always liked your blog for the independence of your thought and the cool quotes. So I hope you are not considering going anywhere! (and thanks for visiting the other day)

  9. All I can say is Right On! Although I haven't been book-blogging that long, I've experienced a lot of the same feelings, and come to much the same conclusion. I've always said I blog for the fun of it, and I intend to keep it that way. I'm not a professional reviewer or blogger - I'm not even sure what being a "professional blogger" would involve. And when it stops being fun, I'll stop doing it.

    Also just wanted to say I love your blog. Yours was one of the first book blogs I discovered and it was the blog I mainly based mine on when I got started a couple of years back. Hope you keep right on doing what you do (as long as it's fun, that is).

  10. I like your emphasis on having fun. It's too comical when some of the "big" book bloggers start talking about professionalism--unless they have signs saying "will work for books" I'm pretty sure most of them are still amateurs.

    I'm glad you're finding ways to keep it fun. Coming here is a refuge for us newer bloggers who might otherwise get more caught up in the "competitive sport" aspect.

    Personally, I find some of the competition inherent in the speed with which ideas are posted and get responses. By the time I get around to visiting, the controversy is often already over.

  11. You know, sometimes it really pays to be out of the loop and just doing your own thing. Lately, part of me has been wondering whether I should keep doing my blog, since I don't get nearly the amount of traffic as a lot of others, I don't solicit/receive a lot of ARCs since I don't have time or inclination to do professional reviews, I don't participate in all the community aspects like memes, weekly geeks, etc. - but then, I started my blog for me, and enjoy writing my thoughts about the books I choose to read, and will just continue on going about in my quiet way, beyond the pale of the drama. I guess I'm not a serious book blogger, but I'm happy with what I'm doing, going on four years now.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

  12. Amen...and this is why I've been subscribing to your blog for awhile now! I accept books for review...but I don't worry if there is something else I want to read first. I hate the drama. I don't think there is a right and wrong way to review a book. I think we should do what we like. Thanks for being a voice of reason...

  13. Fantastic post, Susan! I enjoy doing some reading challenges, a weekly event here or there, and the occasional meme but in the end it's my blog and I'm going to run it in the way that makes me happy. We've been doing this for a long time (I had my 5 year anniversary in the summer) so it'll always be fun to make connections with new bloggers and I'll never tire of hearing about new books but ultimately this has to be fun for me.

  14. Fantastic post on blog burn out!

    Something you mentioned caught my eye. I don't generally just get burned out on blogging. Rather, I see some attitude that hits the wrong chord with me, and I start dwelling on how irritating that attitude is, and THAT is what gets me towards burn out, the feeling that I should throw up my hands and walk away.

    Like you said, though: it's all about perspective!

  15. I submitted my comment then realized I had more to say. :)

    I'm on Twitter, but I recently made a conscious decision to stay out of any controversial topic (unless I really really can't help myself). I think Twitter has started to burn me out more than anything, because I always feel like I'm supposed to be outraged. There's always someone tweeting a link that will take me to some post that is supposed to make me outraged. And frankly, I can't be outraged all the time. It's too much effort, too much energy that I want to expend elsewhere. Sure, I have causes that will get my blood boiling, but I can't get worked up over every injustice in the world. I have to choose my battles!

    I guess I feel like Twitter can be really intense, and my decision to only dip in once in a while has been a good one!

  16. Trish ~ I've never been able to put my finger on what it is about Twitter that keeps me away, but I think you have a really, really good point. I'm not on Twitter myself, but there are feeds on other websites I used to watch/read and had to stop for reasons similar to what you stated. If I want to be cranky, I'll watch the news. And I don't do much of that either for the same reason! :-)


  17. This post definitely helped me to get the perspective back on things. It is WAY too easy for me to get caught up in the less essential things, at times.

  18. I found your post via a link at Trish's site, and I very much enjoyed reading it (and can really relate to it). Although I've only been blogging for a year, I tried to do too much and hit burnout last spring. Since then I've cut the number of review copies that I accept down to a trickle, and I get to read more of what I want and post reviews when I want to. Sometimes checking stuff out from the library is so much more attractive than obligating myself for another deadline.

  19. I have only just discovered your blog, but this post stood out. I agree with everything you say. I'm not a fan of long reviews as I often feel that they give away too much. I would much prefer a trusted source to just tell me the titles of books they know I'd love and know nothing more than that before reading it.

    I am often tempted to buy books when they are mentioned in passing and single line recommendations in my comments section are my biggest weakness.

    I'm pleased that you decided to carry on blogging!


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