Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Not Striving

Raise your hand if you consider yourself a blogger.

My hand wasn't actually up. I consider myself a blogger in the same way I consider myself a "play-dater." (I'm perfectly willing and happy to have a mom and her kids over to play but I refuse to call it a date.) Which is to say that yes, I'm a blogger but that's not at all how I personally identify myself. I am just a regular person who happens to have a blog. I also happen to enjoy having it but I don't look at it as some sort of professional tool that is going to make me a shining star in the world of men. I keep up this place for me and mine because I want to remember what I thought about certain books. Some of you are kind enough to read my thoughts and have refrained from tracking me down personally to ask me about my opinions which you find bizarre and I thank you for that. Honestly, I really do.

I've been blogging here at Reading to Know since 2006, and at other (now defunct) blogs before then. If you've been tracking with me for the past 10-ish years (and some of you have!) you'll have seen Reading to Know go through any variety of changes. Why has it changed? Because I have changed. Because my thoughts and opinions on any variety of subject matters have changed. It will go on changing and, baring something unforeseen, I will go on writing about those changes experienced through the world of reading and books.

Over these many bloggy years I've witnessed the same things that you all have: promos for the next great bloggy conference, the tips and tricks for getting your posts out there, the promise of a future of full of fame and glory which came about at the result of writing up delightful product reviews of the best roll of toilet paper on the market. We bloggers (speaking generally and generally speaking) tend to think we're big stuff. Comments matter. Page views are counted. Do we or do we not advertise on the side-bar? What about attending that conference where if we attend we are promised bloggy buddies for life as well as up to 10,000 new followers?! Travel! See the world through your blog! Get free things! Possess notoriaty! Possibly (gasp) write. a. book. (!) It's glorious fun to think about, is it not?

Yet another thing I've observed over this same period of time: bloggers come and bloggers go. They sigh pretend sighs telling you that they are totally satisfied with their 300 Facebook followers but secretly they are driving themselves mad because it's not 30,000. All of those little Ree Drummonds out there hiding in plain sight! If someone will just.....notice.

Now, I can't say that I've totally been immune to the idea of getting the word out there about Reading to Know. If I'm honest (and I will be) it's nice to know that people read along. It's nice that some of you have read along for such awhile that I can truly count you as my friend (and know you count me as one also). Now when I write, I don't always write strictly for me but I write out a conversation that I'm having in my head with you. I've come to know your preferences, your opinions, your cares and your joys. We've conversed enough over these many years to know that we're still going to be friends even if we suddenly stopped blogging. (But we would never stop blogging, of course. No. You'd better not!)

Yes, I've been caught up in the whirlwind craze of wanting to review for big name publishers. Upon reaching certain goals like those I also realized - none of that matters one little bit. Instead of great pleasure at this idea of what book blogging success looks like,  I've found it to be stressful. When I have a pile of books to review for other people I begin to feel burdened with the weight of a to-do list. Despite the fact that I did (and sometimes still do) think it's fun to review books, ultimately accepting review copies makes me feel forced to spend time with books I don't even like. Furthermore, frequently I know when reading said review books that my friends won't like them either. So why bother? Why stress? Why strive? For what purpose? To be noticed? Is it worth all of that?

Obviously you are reading this now because I (still) have a blog. That is exactly how I prefer things. Here is my point: I own it and it does not own me.  No deadlines. No crazy rules for myself about how often to post, when to post, what to post (and when to inform you if I will or will not post). I'm not denying myself face-to-face fellowship with people in my "IRL" community so that I can tackle my bloggy to do list. It's not so consuming to me that I feel a constant need to mention this site when in the actual company of others. (In fact, I pretty much never do.)  Reading to Know is just a blog, not a life. (Let's call it a fun diversion though because it most definitely is that!)

Really, the quantity of people who visit my bloggy abode is not at all important to me. (Nice? Yes. Of course!) But when pressed to answer honestly I also have to tell you, it's the quality of the people who have become my friends that matters more. This blog is absolutely not a popularity contest and - you might have noticed - I don't spend a lot of time playing "link-around-the-web" games in order to increase the number of page views. I don't care a hoot whether publishers like me or not. It's not about them. It's about developing thoughts and sharing with real friends.  No striving. I never want this blog to own me because as I've watched other people's blogs begin to own them I always feel a sense of futility on their behalf. If they don't reach their bloggy goals, will they feel a disappointment? Will it be a dashed hope and dream? Frequently it seems so and that's unfortunate for anyone.

I like blogging as it involves talking about a subject that I not only care about but think is important: reading. I like not striving to be noticed. It's freeing. It's calming. It allows me to live the life that is right in front of me with this blessed benefit on the side.

In the past people have asked me for advice on how to blog. What host to use? How often to write? How to be noticed?  I've given a variety of answers to those questions in the past but in the present my response would be different. I would simply say: "Don't strive." Do you what you love, love what you do. If it's stressing you out too much, perhaps your focus is wrong. Don't write to win a popularity contest. Write for you. Write for the specific people that you love. Enjoy the small moments and if a big one happens well, enjoy that too! Consider it an unexpected fun gift, say thank you and then . . ? Move along. Remember the really important aspects of life. Those usually aren't the things that are staring up at you from a screen.

Whatever comes of blogging, be willing to enjoy the ride and make it so that you can.


Karen @ Living Unabridged said...

Good reminders here. I struggle with this because, honestly, our budget is tight and we could use the money if my blog were actually profitable. But that's not why I blog. I write because I must. I've always written. I always have notebooks and random scraps of paper with my writing on them. Now I have digital pages too, and sometimes people even like what I've written. That can feel pretty good after years of writing stuff that no one else ever saw. Seems like success (like having a post "go viral", which happened to me recently) can actually be more stressful than obscurity.

*carrie* said...

Thanks for these thoughts, Carrie. I started my blog in May 2007 after being inspired by my sister. I definitely felt pressure in those early days to post frequently, and I was very interested in all the stats. My, how things have changed. Now I post about once a week, and I haven't checked my stats in years (other than the weekly email I get from Sitemeter). It is freeing to be at that place.

I wish I could remember how many years I've been reading your blog--a long time!!

Cassandra said...

Good thoughts! I for one am glad that you're blogging. :) I am horrible about reading posts in a timely manner but I do eventually read them all.

I've considered taking my blog down but haven't yet done it. I post so irregularly and I'm not sure if anyone would miss it. Part of the reason I hesitate to stop blogging is that I've met some really awesome friends via my blog. They've read about my adoption and emailed me to chat. And now we've been friends for awhile and email back and forth. If I hadn't been blogging, I never would have met these kind ladies. But I will never be popular and I will never make money with my blog. I don't really care!

bekahcubed said...

I've been thinking along these lines lately - although with a bit more of a depressing twist.

Several of the bloggers I've followed for years have started doing a lot of sponsored posts and I'm torn between continuing to follow them out of loyalty for what was or unfollowing them because I dislike what their blogs have become.

At the same time, I worry a little because I've enjoyed the friendships I've developed with other bloggers (such as yourself) through our blogs - but am afraid that my changing emphasis (it seems like all I write about during this season is motherhood) will lose me those friendships. Is it weird that I'm afraid my regular readers (and the bloggers I regularly read) will drift away - not because I want the numbers (a company contacted me about reviewing books and asked for my subscriber count and I couldn't even remember my password to figure out such a thing!) but because I value those friendships (which is really a cop out, because I could keep them going with e-mail, except that I'm drowning in a deluge of e-mail that I can never keep up with)?

*Editors note: Run-on sentence detected.
**Author's note: I know, I know. Why did I let you take residence in my head? I stop caring at 5 pm - could you please refrain from commenting between then and 8 am?

Lisa said...

I rarely comment here but read your blog daily. Your thoughts and comments on books have opened up new ones to read. All I can say is AMEN!

Ginger Mae said...

Thank you so much for this Carrie. I've been struggling for awhile with the concept of starting a blog. This really helps me take some of the pressure off myself and put things in perspective. When you love writing, I think people can tell when you change your style to draw more readers...It's no longer for the love of it anymore. You can always tell when a blogger - *ahem* blog writer loves what they're doing, more than their stats.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I've been blogging since 2007. I have a few times been bitten by the "bigger is better" bug, but I usually keep it at bay. I, for one, cannot even fathom spending more time on my blog than I already do. (I know this is probably a failure of mine or at least a lack of understanding: the "big" bloggers probably blog a lot smarter; I KNOW they usually don't go into as much detail as I and others whose blogs I enjoy do.) However, my VERY favorite blogs, and the only ones I truly faithfully read, are the ones like yours (& mine ;-) ) that are "old school" blogs--not businesses, but personal blogs. I really dislike the new format of blogs that turns them into a business-like website where you have to click over to actually read the blog. Blech. I like to read about people's everyday lives--their struggles, their successes, what they enjoyed for dinner, the books the read, etc. I don't have time to figure out 1,387,999 social media platforms, and what's more, I don't wanna. I'd rather read my old school blogs and actual books. :)

That's my own 2 cents. I enjoyed reading yours, and yes, I agree with you.

Long live old school blogging! :)

Barbara H. said...

Yes and amen. I don't begrudge someone monetizing their blog, but when it gets to be more "commercials" than genuine blog posts, I lose interest and feel used.

I've always felt the best blogs had more of a friends visiting over the back fence feel rather than a professional one. What few times I peruse a "how to be a better blogger" article, I find myself doing everything "they" say is wrong. Like not posting with a regular schedule. My life is such that I never know what day will bring forth, so trying to do certain posts certain days would be more stressful than I have energy for just now.

Sure, I'd love to have more readers and commenters. But I don't want to post with numbers in view as a goal. And I struggle with what's getting the word out and what's self-promotion that's going too far. So for now I just post whenever I have something on my mind and hope it's beneficial to whoever happens by.

Carrie said...

@Karen - I do sympathize with that one.

@Sarah S - I am looking forward to reading your writing (whenever you write it). :D Also, I miss you.

@Amy - YES! Old School Blogging. Love that.

@bekahcube - HA! As if. I think it's really fun and interesting to read about your journey into motherhood. It's a part of you and the season of life that you are in.

I have to confess that I'm with everyone who said/says that they read blogs which stick to sharing what's on their mind and hearts. Once a blog goes flashy with ads everywhere, I tend to move on UNLESS they are someone that I developed a good relationship with in which case I'll keep reading for glimpses of their every day.

I simply do not read blogs that are designed in the magazine style. I'm not sure if that's a stylistic preference or speaks to a part of the striving which I mention. At any rate, love the term "old school". ;D

Shonya said...

I love this post so much! There aren't enough words to express how much I love this post.

"Thou shalt not stop blogging." Even though I'm always behind, I DO always get around to reading your blog.

Thank you for not jumping on the bandwagon and continuing to be you.

As for myself. . .I blog because I need to write. Some seasons (such as now) that need lessons (usually in favor of more sleep!), and I think about shutting it down, but I always come back to it. I also blog so I can remember what books I've read and what I thought about them. :)

Alice@Supratentorial said...

Great post. I've been thinking a lot lately about why I blog and whether or not it's something I want to continue. I think the answer for now is yes, and this post helped confirm that. I've been feeling like maybe I should step away from blogging because I don't do more with it and there are so many other things that I could be doing with my time. But I enjoy it. I think what you are saying here (if I can put words in your mouth) is that it's enough to do it because you enjoy it.

Carol said...

Hi, came via Amy's blog. This was very encouraging to read. I've been blogging 3 yrs this month & the thing I've loved most is 'getting to know' some of my readers. I enjoy writing but I angst over what I write at times because it will be in a public place that I I wonder if it's worth it. 'Old school' - I like that!

BerlinerinPoet said...

I definitely did not raise my hand.
I am loving this post! I liked that quote you had about striving for value rather than success.

Melissa said...

I've left this post "unread" in my feeder for a while so I'd have time to savor it. LOVE IT!

My blogging voice has been muted for now, but I may return to it one day. I find great encouragement in this post, friend.

Lisa notes... said...

So obviously there are still a few of us out here who blog for the pleasure and friendship of it, not for the money or platform-building or what-eva. I'm encouraged reading both your post and also the comments, several by people I also consider blogging friends.

I blog because it helps me see what God is up to more clearly and because I've found "my people" here in bloggyland who love him AND also love books as much as I do. :)

Susanne said...

Love, love, love this post! I started my blog at a time in my life when I felt really lonely and I must say I have met some wonderful friends through blogging. There was a time when I stressed about how many commented and how many were coming by to read. But no more! I write when I have something I want to share, lately it hasn't been a whole lot, but that's just the way it is right now in my life. And you know, I'm not stressed at all about it! Love your insights!

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