Reading & blogging, chickens & eggs

One evening several months ago, my kid launched, quite seriously, into a discussion at the dinner table. Topic? “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Not new ground by any means for adults, but for him, it was a fun debate topic.

I was reminded of this discussion this week as I felt myself getting more and more frustrated and overwhelmed by my reading and blogging to-do lists. What’s the connection?

It’s simple: I started feeling under quite a bit of pressure to schedule my reading around the ARCs and digital galleys lined up in my queue. And yet, at the same time, I have a growing stack of new books that I couldn’t wait to buy, a few library books, and some older books on my shelves, all awaiting my attention. Which raises the question — what the heck am I doing?

I started a blog as an outlet for my love of all things bookish. I wanted a place to share my thoughts, meet other book lovers, and — I’d hoped — engage in great discussions about some terrific books. And that’s all come true, more or less, and with lots of trial and error.

But lately, I’ve been feeling the need to pick books to read in order to meet my blogging needs. I’ve been requesting and reviewing more ARCs, some of which I’ve really enjoyed — but always with an eye toward keeping up with what’s new and reviewing books that are more likely to get “hits” for my blog. I’ve been hesitating about devoting time to longer books, as that would mean I’d have fewer reviews to post in a given week. And those books gathering dust on my shelves — the ones that I’ve had for a while or that were published several years ago? Well, where’s the incentive to read those, if I don’t feel like they’re likely to increase my blog traffic?

No wonder I’ve been feeling like not such a happy camper. I have five review copies of new and upcoming books to read — but what I really want to do is read the Susanna Kearsley book on my shelf, then dive into the new Joe Hill novel that should be arriving on my doorstep this week. Plus, hey, I have a few graphic novels to catch up on, and then there’s the promise I made to myself to read one scene from Much Ado About Nothing each day.

Not only that. What about my blog posts back in December and January about my reading resolutions for 2013 and my participation in a TBR reading challenge? Should those be driving my book selections? I was diligently working my way through the TBR challenge list I’d selected for myself — for about three months, and then other books caught my eye. So now I feel guilty about not living up to a challenge I set myself… except why should I? Wasn’t the whole point of it TO HAVE FUN?

Really, I have enough things in my life to worry about. I have a full-time job (which, unfortunately, has nothing at all to do with reading books). I have an energetic, funny 10-year-old who occupies most of my free time around the house (not that that’s not a great thing!). I have an older parent whom I should call more often. I have bills to pay, dishes to put away, a husband who needs attention once in a while. READING IS MY PASSION — NOT MY BURDEN!

Back in January, in my blog post called Top Ten Bookish Resolutions for 2013, I wrote this for #10:

Slow down. Stop focusing on the numbers. Stop worrying about stats. Read for pleasure. Pick books because they’re what I want to read. Take as long as it takes to read, savor, enjoy, contemplate, consider, ponder, and reflect. Remember that I read because I love it, not because I have a challenge to meet or a blog post to write. When I stop enjoying my reading and start finding it more of a chore, I know I’m doing something wrong. READ FOR LOVE. That is all.

Clearly, I haven’t been following my own advice.

Back to the chicken and the egg: Which comes first, blogging or reading? Do I blog as a result of reading books that I love? Or do I pick books to read that I think will help my blog stats?

The answer is obvious. I need to remind myself to stick to my resolution:

READ FOR LOVE.

I hereby vow, once again, that I will not let blogging obsessions dictate my reading choices. I will read the books that call to me, that excite me, that appeal to me in the moment. Planning ahead is fine. Requesting ARCs of new books is fine. But if I’m reading a particular book out of a sense of obligation or in order to have a “fresh” book to review, then I’m doing something wrong.

Which comes first, blogging or reading? It’s clear: I’m a reader. And always will be.

So, I’ll do what I love. I’ll read the books that I really want to read. And I’ll keep on blogging about what I read, because it makes me happy. And hey, if we can have some great conversations about the books we’ve read, that’ll make me really happy too.

READ FOR LOVE.

I think I’ve found my new daily mantra. Happy reading, everyone!

12 thoughts on “Reading & blogging, chickens & eggs

  1. This is a lovely post. πŸ™‚ It’s a reminder to all of us that we’re doing this for fun, because we love reading, and because reading is our way of relaxing. I understand being caught up with blog stats or wanting to review the newest things, but it’s great that you’re taking a step back to breathe.

    Best of luck! πŸ˜€

  2. I’ve had a similar struggle, but I also work with books.
    I’m in an indie bookshop buying in the children’s new releases so I feel the pressure to keep on top of all the new stuff coming in for YA, teen, junior fiction and younger readers.

    Customers always want recommendations and it’s my job to know or at least have a considered opinion. The occasional book is amazing but, golly, I’ve had to troll through some dross over the years. And I was losing my love of reading and blogging as a result.

    In the past 6 mnths I decided I had to read for my pleasure again.

    I joined the Classics Club and started reading more of the newer adult fiction – the prize winners, favourite authors and started making a dent on my TBR pile. I’m much happier.

    I only skim through the dross now to get a basic idea and save myself for the amazing kids books when they come along.

    It’s great to have timely reminders like this about why we all read and blog. I’m glad I found you πŸ™‚

    • Brona, sounds like you have my dream job! My fantasy would be to chuck it all and open up a small bookshop — totally unrealistic, but lovely to think about. It’s nice to hear that we’re not alone — that we all struggle to find a balance between reading what we want and reading the things we “should”. I’d imagine that you really do have pressure to keep up with the new, new, new all the time. I think I just need to give myself reminders from time to time about what really makes me happy. Thank you so much for your lovely comments! It’s nice to meet a kindred soul.

    • That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? For the most part, I’m still really having fun with my blog. It’s a nice outlet for me to get to rave about books and feel just a teensy bit creative from time to time. But yes, I do need frequent reminders to focus on the fun parts and on the books and topics that make me happy. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Well said, Lisa! I feel like this has generally been the overall feeling for a lot of us book bloggers these days.

    While it’s certainly not hard to feel the pressure, we owe it to ourselves and to reading as our common passion to step back and let reality sink in. For most/all of us, this isn’t our full-time job therefore we shouldn’t treat it like one. We need to do this because we love it, not because we feel like we have to. I think you’ve just created a mantra that we all can share in and use. And let’s not forget to stop and smell the roses every once-in-awhile while we’re at it. Go out and live life instead of blogging about it!

    You, lady, have my utmost support! Cheers! πŸ™‚

    • Wow, thanks Nikki! I think this is an issue that strikes a nerve for a lot of us. I’m still in my first year of blogging, trying to figure out the right balance. And as you say, I need lots of reminders about stopping to smell the roses!

  4. It’s funny how we can lose sight of why we really do things – social media stats can be so seductive. But ultimately reading an amazing book that we’re certain we’ll love will bring a great deal more satisfaction and stay with us much longer than the temporary buzz of getting a lot of hits for a review of a book we might soon forget – it’s great that you took the time to reflect and remember what mattered most for you.

    I think as well, the blogosphere sometimes feel saturated with people reviewingnew stuff – you might be surprised by how many people engage with a post about a classic or even something obscure that resonates with you.

    • Thanks, Annabel. I think I need to remind myself of all of this every once in a while — it’s too easy to get sucked in by stats and the like. I appreciate your comments!

  5. Great entry Lisa! Your post is actually pretty timely; I’ve found myself scrambling a bit recently with my reading and posting, scheduling around ARC releases and whatnot that it’s sort of muddled my initial goals for my blog, which was to post my thoughts on the books I’m reading and that I love to read. It’s exciting to read these ARCs and stuff but yeah, I realised I might need to step back a bit and reassess the way I’ve been going about my reading and blogging lately.

    “Read for love.” Fantastic reminder, best of luck sorting through your reading sched and stuff! πŸ™‚

    • Thanks, Lianne! Writing this post helped me sort out my priorities, but I do find that it’s an ongoing issue and I need lots of reminders! At least now I recognize the warning signs — when I start feeling stressed about what I “should” read vs what I actually want to read, it’s a clear indicator that I need to stop and breathe and think about it a bit more. And mostly, I feel like I’m doing better and worrying less, enjoying more! Let me know how you’re doing with all of this. I think it’s a challenge that many of us share, trying to find a balance that makes sense for each of us individually. If we stop enjoying what we read, then what’s the point?

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