Happy Friday, everyone!
Slightly sunburnt and with a bleeding foot – Don’t ask. While carrying my suitcase up the stairs in the apparently most inconvenient way possible, I somehow managed to drop it right onto said foot and stab an artery with one of its wheels 😅 – I am back in my home country and trying to catch up with everything I’ve been neglecting while on vacation. You know, like binge-watching a ton of Locke & Key and Umbrella Academy with my youngest brother. Or finishing the Realm of the Elderlings and bawling my eyes out over its utterly perfect ending. Or simply laying on my bed, staring into space, and not talking to people. You have to set priorities!
However, while laying on my bed, staring into space, and not talking to people, I’ve also been doing some thinking. Thinking about my life, thinking about my future, and thinking about how blogging fits into all that.
If you’re a regular visitor to my ramblings, you may have noticed that I’ve been neglecting my blog quite a bit in the past few weeks. In July, I went on hiatus and posted almost nothing. These first few weeks of August, I’ve been focusing on enjoying my vacation and, as a result, I’ve been horrible at blog hopping or responding to comments in a timely fashion.
Simultaneously, though, I’m currently happier than I’ve felt in ages! And of course, my overthinking brain immediately started looking for connections. Was there a relationship between my mental health and how much time I spent blogging? Had I gotten so caught up in this hobby that I’d been unable to see that it was bad for me until I took a step back from it? In the almost three years that A Book Owl’s Corner has been publicly available, I had actually never taken a real break from it before. Sure, there was my 2021 hiatus, but I spent every minute of that scrambling to finish my master’s thesis. I couldn’t have blogged even if I’d wanted to.
This July though? I guiltily confess that, had I been so inclined, I could have come back much sooner. Yes, the first two weeks were insanely stressful, but afterwards, I theoretically had more than enough time to write something. But I didn’t. And I’m not going to pretend I regret it.
As much as I love my blog and this community, I will admit that there are some aspects of this hobby that I don’t like very much. Aspects that we somehow never really talk all that much about. So, today, I thought I’d break the silence and share some of my thoughts on the less pleasant sides of having a book blog…
#1 You’re under constant scrutiny.
Having a community to talk to, to share opinions and gush about books with, is wonderful! Ever since I unprivated this site, I’ve come to appreciate that more and more. However, that doesn’t change the fact that having your thoughts constantly be privy to the entire internet’s scrutiny can be exhausting. Especially now that my blog has gotten bigger and has become so google-able that it even shows up when I search for my full name, despite all my efforts of thwarting this. There is just some stuff that I don’t want my friends, colleagues, or students reading. And as much as I value the support of my readers, I don’t need you knowing everything about my life, either.
One of the reasons I love blogging so much, and why I had a blog long before I made it accessible, was because I find it extremely therapeutic. Writing about the books I’ve read and what is going on in my life is such a great way to work through my emotions and to have something to look back on later, when I want to know what I was up to and reading at a specific point in my life. Here’s the thing though: I rarely feel like I can put 100% of my thoughts on a book out there, particularly when I really, really loved it. Because for a book to truly become a favorite, it will inevitably touch on some very personal experiences that I usually won’t want to share. That, however, constantly has me second-guessing my posts. Am I truly being honest? Are my reviews “fake” because I’m only scratching the surface of what I’m actually thinking and leaving out or only hinting at some of the things that really make these books so special to me? Wouldn’t it be better to just record my thoughts somewhere, only for me, when I don’t have to hold back and can openly reflect on all facets of what I’m reading?
And then there are the expectations that come with constantly being in the public eye. You’re supposed to post consistently. You’re supposed to provide witty, charming, creative, and thoughtful content. You’re supposed to write something just as good as that one funny post that your followers are still citing as an example for why they love your blog. You’re supposed to keep up with what all your friends are writing, even when you’ve had an utterly exhausting week and all you want to do is drop onto your bed and sleep for hours on end.
That’s not to say that I blog to meet those expectations, or that I always meet them. First and foremost, I write my posts because I want to write them, because they’re about something I find interesting. I read other bloggers’ posts because I care about what they have to say and know that they’re going to make me think, laugh, and question things. But I also have to continuously push myself to come up with interesting ideas to write about. I have to consciously reserve a bit of time each week for blog hopping. I might not care all that much about being consistent, but, thing is, the internet does. If you disappear for too long, it’s only natural that people are going to forget about you. Friendships are based on interaction, and if you don’t give people anything to react to and don’t react to anything yourself, you’re never going to get past the loose acquaintance stage.
So if I want to be part of the blogging community that means so much to me, I’m going to have to put in the work. Which sometimes means pushing myself to write when I don’t want to. Or working past that paralyzing feeling that nothing I could ever write will live up to what I’ve previously written. Or checking in on what the rest of the community is up to even when I’m tired, knowing that I’d start to miss everyone terribly if I didn’t.
#2 Blogging is extremely time consuming.
Since we’re already talking about expectations, let’s get to the real reason why meeting them can be such a struggle: Blogging takes time.
On the one hand, there’s writing the posts themselves. I don’t think I’ve ever written a blog post in under five hours, and the majority take me even longer than that. And since I’m a huge procrastinator who does everything at the very last minute, that usually makes for very stressful and somewhat sleep-deprived Thursdays… As well as mounting anxiety during the rest of the week while I ponder how long I can possibly delay getting started without running out of time before my next post is scheduled to go up.
The thing is, I actually rarely enjoy writing my posts. It’s a huge chore that annoys the crap out of me. Because think about it – in the time it takes me to write one blog post, I could easily read two novels! I could watch a Netflix movie. I could meet up with friends and do something to relax from my busy schedule. I wouldn’t have to spend even more time in front of my computer screen, when I do so much of that for work anyway. The only reason I push through is because I like having the posts once they’re finished. I like being able to go back and read them. I like seeing you guys’ reactions to my thoughts and being able to discuss them with you. But I don’t particularly like the process of getting to the finished product.
On the other hand, there’s staying caught up with what other bloggers are writing. Like I’ve already mentioned, I value this community and the friends I’ve made through it a lot, and I want to read what everyone else has to say! I want to respond to your posts and share my thoughts on them with you. But writing long comments takes more time than you would think. I simply cannot keep up with everyone. And that makes me feel guilty. However, if I spend too much time responding to people, I’m also unhappy because I start feeling like I’m neglecting my actual life in favor of blogging. I’m already introverted enough as it is, so is it really a good idea to withdraw from my real-life friends to spend more time on the internet? Probably not…
I don’t want my blog to turn into something that I use as a means to escape from real life. I don’t want hours of writing to a far-away audience to stop me from having opportunities closer to home. I want to feel grounded in the life I have and be able to live in the moment, which isn’t always possible when there’s a nagging voice at the back of your mind, whispering that you still have to write a post for tomorrow. July has reminded me of how much freedom comes with not having any kind of schedule determining how you should spend your free time, and I can’t deny that I kind of miss that…
#3 Sharing your thoughts on everything you read influences how you read.
Another thing I miss is being able to read how I used to, without any kind of thought at the back of my mind as to what my opinion on a book was and how I could convey that opinion to other people. I read because I loved reading, only for the purpose of enjoying a story.
Now, it’s more than that. One of my favorite kinds of posts to write are reaction logs – I love preserving my thoughts so that I can look back on them later and so that other people who have read the book can discuss it with me in more detail. But writing them is horribly annoying and time consuming. I constantly have to stop reading in order to take notes, which interrupts my reading flow like nobody’s business. Simultaneously, part of me is always thinking about how I could write down my thoughts in a way that will make them entertaining for other people to read. Which means that I’m no longer focusing 100% of my attention on the story I’m reading.
Which is a problem that also extends to reviews in general. While I’m reading, I’m not completely caught up in the moment because part of me is evaluating how I’m going to rate this book and what I should tell people about it. Plus, the knowledge that any new reading material will be featured in my wrap-up can be a pain in and of itself. I want to preserve my thoughts on what I’m reading, but boy, is writing those wrap-ups exhausting! They basically amount to writing about ten book reviews at once, and getting my thoughts organized for one review is already enough to give me a headache.
Seriously, sometimes, I’m tempted to read less just because I don’t want the additional stress of having to review another book! Which probably isn’t the best mindset for a book blogger to have.
#4 The lack of payoff can be frustrating.
Even more frustrating, though, can be when you push through all the annoyances that go hand and hand with blogging, write something you are really proud of, and are then met with the feeling that you’ve been shouting into a void. I know I said I don’t like the constant scrutiny that comes with blogging, but sometimes, when you pour hours of work into a post and basically no one interacts with it, it’s disheartening.
I don’t blog for views or likes, but that doesn’t mean I’m unaware of them. And when the only comments on your spoilery book reviews are from your loyalest of followers who haven’t even read the book or highly inappropriate spam ones that take you forever to sift through, you sometimes wonder why you are doing this in the first place.
The main reason I have this blog is to gush about books with like-minded people, but if the only feedback I’m getting is “Hey, nice review, sounds like an interesting book!”, what is there to discuss about? Is the pay-off for all those hours I spent laboring over that review really worth it?
#5 You’re in danger of placing too much value on other people’s validation of your work.
Going hand in hand with my previous point, what can be even more embarrassing is realizing that you expect that payoff in the first place. Why does it matter how many people view your post? Who cares if no one else likes it, as long as you yourself are proud of what you’ve written and like having it to look back on? Why should it matter to you how many comments you get?
Back when my blog was private, I didn’t care about views or likes or comments at all. I was happy to just write. But now that it’s public, I find myself checking my statistics in spite of my better judgment. I know looking at those numbers isn’t going to change anything and, to tell you the truth, I don’t even care all that much about them. What makes me happy is when I get long, heartfelt responses, even when they’re only from a handful of people. I’m completely satisfied with my blog’s current engagement and I doubt I’d even be able to keep up with much more.
Why, then, do I even look at my stats? Why do I procrastinate doing things that matter just so I can gaze at some numbers? I feel so stupid for doing it, but somehow, I’m not as immune to their allure as I once thought. And I don’t like it one bit.
So, is it worth it?
Basically, what I’m trying to say is that, sometimes, I feel like my blog is stopping me from enjoying my life to the fullest. Having to get a post ready every single week robs me of a ton of time. Whenever I read something, knowing I’m going to share my opinions on it makes the experience a bit less magical. And then there’s the second-guessing if what I wrote is any good, the constant checking in on how a post is doing, even if I swore to myself that I would never stoop to such lows.
So sometimes, you have to wonder. Wouldn’t it be better to just write something for yourself? To pour all that energy into a novel that will truly impact people, rather than a short essay somewhere on the internet that everyone will have forgotten about two weeks from now anyway? Is blogging really worth it?
Since I’m still here among you, my answer to that last question is obviously “yes”. (At least at the moment. 😜) Thanks to this blog, I’ve made friends whom I would miss terribly if I simply decided to disappear. I’ve found a community that loves books just as much as I do. I’ve encountered people who have opened my eyes to an abundance of stories out there and different ways of viewing them. I’ve been able to interact with authors. To make others laugh and philosophize with me. I have a place that is truly mine, where I can write whatever I want to. I have somewhere to store my thoughts and look back on them. And, despite the costs, I don’t want to give that up.
So yes, blogging is worth it. But I’m not going to pretend that it’s always easy, and that there haven’t been times when I needed a break or even thought about quitting. And I just thought it was high time I shed some light on that, too.
Enough from my side, though – I’d like to hear your thoughts! Am I the only one overthinking things to this degree? Do you relate to any of the points I brought up? What do you think is the hardest part about maintaining a blog, and have you ever thought about quitting? If so, what made you want to continue? I would love to know!