Last weekend at KidLitCon13, Sarah Stevenson and I presented on Blogger Burnout: Suggestions for Getting Your Groove Back. In this post, I'll recap our session, with emphasis on the strategies that we came up with for overcoming burnout.
It has been our observation that anyone who has been blogging for a while experiences periodic bouts of burnout (or blogging blahs, or blog angst, or "the Blahgs", or whatever you would like to call it). I was struggling with this myself earlier this fall, after being sidelined by illness, when I ran across a post that Sarah wrote about her struggles to rekindle her love for blogging. A number of long-time bloggers responded in the comments of Sarah's post, with useful suggestions. Sarah shared some of these and her response to them in a follow-up post.
Reading these suggestions, and just knowing that I wasn't alone in my situation, helped me to get my own blogging groove back. I wrote about this in some detail in this post, with particular thanks to Melissa Wiley, Gail Gauthier, and Adrienne Furness for their motivational suggestions. I received lots of additional suggestions and general encouragement in the comments of that post, for which I am also grateful. But essentially, for me, getting my groove back boiled down to two things:
- Returning to my blogging roots, the central passion under which I started my blog in the first place (growing bookworms); and
- Taking steps to remove (mostly self-imposed) pressure wherever possible.
For Sarah, who is still working on this, thinking about the issues and why she's struggling, and reading everyone else's feedback, helped her to realize this:
"If I am writing about what I find important and enjoyable and special, then it will be different (from other blogs) simply because it reflects my perspective. It won't be a mouthpiece for marketing or a regurgitation of information I can find anywhere else."
Which is a pretty important start to recovering from the blogging blahs.
So when it came time to think about sessions for KidLitCon, Sarah and I thought that perhaps in sharing our experiences, we might be able to help other bloggers. We brainstormed together, and came up with a list of reasons why we think that book bloggers (specifically children's and YA book bloggers) experience burnout. For each of these, we scoured the comments in our posts, and other sources (like the results from a recent survey of book bloggers), to come up with concrete strategies for responding. (Photo of Sarah and me presenting taken by Rosemond Cates, and shared here.)
Sarah then turned this content into a pretty one-page handout, which we are hoping to eventually turn into an Infographic. But for now, I'll just share our thoughts here. I've also added a few extra suggestions that came up during the session, though we were too busy to take very many notes.
Reason 1: I feel burned out because blogging feels like an unpaid job, like something I "have to do." This can be especially true for authors, who are told to blog to maintain a public face.
- Take a break. In a recent survey of 310 book bloggers (not just children's and YA books), 24% said that they take a break from blogging when they feel burned out.
- Cut back: Give yourself permission not to do the parts that feel most like work. For me (Jen), this has always included blog tours and interviews. But interestingly, Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books said that blog tours help her, by giving her a deadline. It's all about figuring out what works for you.
- Self-examination: Have your reasons for blogging changed?
- Change things up: Try cycling in guest posts or re-posting favorite older posts.
- Start something new: Try a new feature to rekindle your interest.
Reason 2: I feel burned out because I receive too many books and too many requests for reviews, and I have too little time.
- Give yourself permission not to do things, not to review everything. Here audience member Paula Wiley said that she's talking about books more on GoodReads, and only reviewing the ones about which she really has something to say. Maureen Kearney is doing something similar with LibraryThing.
- Set boundaries: use a review policy. For instance, after discussions with other bloggers, I (Jen) recently altered my review policy to say that I wouldn't necessarily respond at all to review requests. This was freeing (though controversial among audience members.)
- Stop accepting ARCs. Blog backlist or library titles instead. Audience members mentioned that digital ARCs are particularly stressful because they expire on a certain date (possibly when one is still in the middle of reading them). We say, try saying no to these for a while, and see how you feel.
- Take a break from reviewing for a while, or stop reviewing altogether.
- What's your favorite category of books to read? Stop reviewing those for a while, and just read for enjoyment.
- And an additional suggestion from someone in the audience, clear your shelves, and get rid of the books that you aren't ever going to read. This can be very freeing. November/December is a good time for this, because many organizations are conducting book drives.
Reason 3: I feel burned out because nobody's commenting, and/or I don't feel like I'm reaching enough people. (Many audience members agreed that comments and stats have been down in recent months, and that there's often a feeling like we are only reaching each other.)
- Give comments to get comments.
- Find new places to put the word out: Facebook, Pinterest, topic niches (i.e. parenting blogs).
- Reach out to blogs that seem similar to yours. Comment, share posts. Strive for real connection.
- Set your blog up so it's easy for readers to share posts. For instance, I (Jen) often send a post out on a Tweet instead of commenting. If you don't have a visible Twitter ID that I can include, you won't know this.
- Try posting book lists instead of (or as well as) individual reviews. Lists are often distributed more widely than other types of posts. The audience also agreed that individual reviews are among the posts that receive the least comments.
Reason 4: I feel burned out because I'm too busy. I don't have time or energy for blogging. Other things in my life may take precedence for a while (new job, new baby, etc.).
- Put the word out and let people know. Your loyal readers will understand and be there when you get back. Or, as I (Jen) put it during the session, the people who read your blog probably like you.
- Use the time to reassess. Do you miss it? Do you want to come back? Do you want to do something else?
Reason 5: I feel burned out because blogging just doesn't feel as rewarding anymore.
- Start a "FeelGood" folder for storing supportive comments or emails. Refer to this folder from time to time.
- Get back to your blogging roots. Blog your passion.
- Share your struggle. Knowing that you are not alone can help.
- Try something new. Someone in the audience mentioned here that it's ok to blog about other topics if you like, apart from your core blog mission, and that sometimes such posts generate excellent responses.
In summary, a more general plan for fighting burnout:
Pinpoint the specific reasons YOU are feeling burned out. It may sound obvious, but once you starting thinking about it, you may find a deeper reason than you anticipated. You may THINK you're depressed because your posts don't go viral, but stop to consider: was that your original aim, to be viral? If not, then maybe that's somebody else's priority, not yours-and the real issue is that you feel pressures that you didn't feel before, concerning somebody else's definition of blogging success. Go back to the beginning, and get in touch with why you blog-ask yourself the important questions about why you're doing it.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Why am I blogging in the first place? If you don't know, it's well worth spending some time to figure that out.
- Who do I want my audience to be? Parents, teachers, kids, other bloggers?
- What is it that gets me fired up about blogging? What am I excited to share?
Our thanks to everyone who helped us to think these things through before KidLitCon, and to everyone who participated during our session. Blogging can feel like a lonely thing. You sit in front of your computer typing up posts to which people may or may not respond at all. Attending KidLitCon was a reminder that we are NOT alone. Those of us who blog about children's and young adult books have formed a community of like-minded individuals. We are kindred spirits, who share a passion for connecting kids with books. And when times get tough, we are there for one another. That is what community is all about.
Thanks for listening! -- Jen and Sarah
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page and Sarah Jamila Stevenson. All rights reserved.