Regular readers of this blog may have noticed that my once-steady stream of book reviews has dried up of late. In fact, it dried up much earlier than was visible on the blog, because I was fortunate enough to have a backlog of 20 or so reviews. This enabled me to keep posting reviews for more than a month after ceasing to write them. But eventually, the reviews ran out, and my blog posting has been rather sparse ever since.
Most people who have been blogging for a long time (I'm coming up on 8 years in December) go through periods of blog doldrums. Blogging is something that we spend a lot of time and energy on, for which most of us don't make any appreciable amount of money. And there's the pressure implied by the steady stream of books that appear on one's doorstep, or in one's GoodReads and NetGalley queues. It sometimes requires periods of rest, or refocusing one's efforts, to recapture the energy to keep going.
For me, my period of blog doldrums started because I was ill, and I for quite a while didn't have the energy to even think about blogging. I've been having recurring pneumonias for nearly 2 years now. This summer things got worse, and I ended up hospitalized a couple of times. But the good outcome of that was that we finally learned that I had an obscure bacterial infection that was causing the pneumonias. A month or so of very strong antibiotics (via home IV line) seem to have beaten back the infection (though they had their own less than fun side effects). And finally, I'm doing better. I still tire easily. I'm still trying not to do too much, or travel. But I'm ready to think about what I want to do with my blog going forward.
During the time that I've been sick, I've been reading primarily adult titles, catching up on the genre that I've always most enjoyed, mysteries. This started out because I didn't want to feel guilty about reading children's or young adult books and not having the energy to review them. But as my energy levels have come back up a bit, I've found that I still don't really feel like reading things that I think that I should review. That is to say, reviewing has started to feel like a bit of a chore. Homework. Unpaid work. However you'd like to put it. It's not that I don't appreciate the books that publishers send to me, because I do. I have books that I've been really looking forward to reading. But ... the piles feel overwhelming.
As I was coming to this realization about my reluctance to dive back into reviewing, I came across a two-post discussion launched by Sarah Stevenson at Finding Wonderland. And it turned out that Sarah and I were in the same boat. Sarah started with Rekindling My Love for Blogging, Or Is the Thrill Gone?, saying:
"Sometime over the past year or two, the whole blog thing became a chore. Posting, commenting, writing book reviews, "maintaining an online presence"--it wasn't so much fun anymore."
Sarah was mostly just telling people, explaining that she didn't expect to be blogging quite so much. But she got a lot of good suggestions in the comments, and she later posted More Monday Thoughts on Blogging and Kidlit, in which she captured some of the comments from the earlier post. I was particularly taken by these three points:
"Gail Gauthier said that starting some new features has really helped her regain momentum for blogging."
"Melissa Wiley talked about going back to the original roots of why she started blogging in the first place--something that really resonated."
"Adrienne's feelings about the situation really paralleled my own, too: "It got so I couldn't do book reviews anymore, for a lot of the reasons you all have mentioned--feeling overwhelmed and feeling obligated."
I took a few days to think about Sarah's post, and particularly Adrienne and Melissa's feedback. Thinking about why I started blogging, and what it is about blogging that excites me. Here's part of what I commented on the second post on Thursday:
"what motivated me at the beginning, as this person with no kids who wasn't a children's book writer or anything, was this passion that I have for encouraging kids to love books. Not sure WHY I feel so strongly about that (besides the obvious wanting other people to share in the joy that I got from books, and the opportunities that came from being a strong reader). But the blog was an effort to "do something" instead of just thinking that it was important.
And I guess these days, I find I'm more motivated to skim other blog posts and newsletters to find the good stuff that helps with that (growing bookworms) than I am to write reviews of individual books. But a bunch of Twitter and Facebook links doesn't really make for an exciting blog..."
So I've been thinking about that, particular the bit about going back to why I started the blog in the first place. And suddenly, yesterday, I found myself coming up with ideas for blog posts. Posts that I wanted to write, rather than posts that I felt like I should write. I wrote about Roald Dahl day, and my two favorite Dahl books. I drafted a post about the five series that I'm most looking forward to reading with my daughter, and started sketching out thoughts for a post on bedtime reading vs. other types of reading. And I can feel other ideas percolating behind the scenes.
In terms of the books, I'm thinking of doing some mini-reviews or themed lists of picture books, rather than putting pressure on myself to review all 30+ titles that are in "worth talking about" stack. And I think ... that I'm going to just start reading children's and young adult books again, and trust that my desire to talk about them will come.
My thanks to Sarah, Gail, Melissa, and Adrienne, all of whom have helped me, I think, to get my blogging groove back. Only time will tell! Thanks for listening.