I wouldn’t say this is the most brilliant insight ever to occur to a human being… but it does feel like a breakthrough for me:
I need more freedom!
Specifically? Freedom from deadlines and commitments. Freedom from obligations. Freedom from pressure.
And what I really mean is, I’ve become too bogged down in all the “shoulds” and “musts” in my reading world, and I need to make a change!
Having just returned from an almost three week vacation, I’m taking a fresh look at how and what I read, and how I approach book blogging.
One thing I loved about my vacation was my break from blogging. I do love blogging, and I’m not quitting! But it was really nice to just read for pleasure, without worrying about posting schedules, memes, comments, and the like.
Instead, I read the books I felt like reading — the old paperbacks I’d thrown in my bag for beach days, the Kindle titles I’d been meaning to get to, and the new release I was salivating over. And I loved it!
I know it’s a common complaint for book bloggers: We spend so much time reading the books we’ve committed to, trying to make sure we read our ARCs and post our reviews, and we lose the ability to read for fun.
Somehow or another, I continually find myself overcommitted to ARCs, despite my best intentions to cut back. I think it started when I was more of a blogging newbie, when I’d get turned down for more ARCs than I’d get approved for. Solution? Request A LOT. I thought I’d reduced my number of requests, but as I get approved much more regularly, I still find myself with a reading backlog that’s extremely daunting.
This year, I started using an Excel worksheet to track my review copies, color-coded, sorted by date, and with a nice check mark to show the ones I’ve finished. (Yes, I’m an Excel geek.) Seeing it all in black and white makes me realize that in order to stick to a schedule and read all review copies by their release date, I’ll never have time to read anything else. And that’s just not acceptable.
What about all those books already on my shelves? What about the older books I’ve always wanted to get around to? What about the new releases that I actually *gasp* buy for myself as a treat? What about my backload of Buffy season 9? Where’s the time for reading all of those?
And then there’s the issue of my blogging schedule. I’m not overly focused on posting every day, but I do end up posting most days of the week, between my regular features, participation in blog memes, and writing 2 – 3 book reviews each week. I blog for fun, but when it starts feeling like just one more deadline to meet, the fun factor goes way, way down.
I need to read what I want to read more often, and worry less about keeping up with ARCs. I do feel that I have a responsibility to read the ARCs I’ve requested, and I still intend to do so. But maybe I can relax my own expectations a bit, and worry less about the timing. If I review a book a month or two after its release date, so what? Not everything has to be done according to the calendar.
I need to request fewer review copies. That means cutting back on scouring NetGalley for new listings. Sure, I still want to read plenty of new books, and always will. But I need to differentiate between the ones I really want to read because they appeal to me and the ones I request because I think they’ll be big and I want to be in on them.
I need to read books when they strike my fancy. And if what I feel like reading has been sitting on my shelf for years, that’s okay. I need to give myself more leeway to read whatever I feel like reading, whenever I feel like reading it. Elemental, I know, but apparently I need the affirmation to give myself permission to read without obligation!
I need to cut back on my blogging commitments. Readers of my blog probably won’t notice much of a change, but I think there are certain types of post I’ll be doing less frequently. Maybe I’ll only do the Top Ten Tuesday topics that really call to me, instead of trying to participate every week whether inspired or not. Maybe I’ll rethink some of my own regular features. Maybe I’ll spend less time on other social media. I don’t know yet what this will look like, only that I need to do it.
So consider this my own little personal Declaration of Independence. I hereby declare that I embrace the freedom to read without schedules, to read whatever suits my mood, and to pick my books to suit my whims! Give me liberty, or give me… chocolate chip cookies? Just give me the liberty to read freely, and I’ll be a happy bookworm once more.
14 thoughts on “Give Me Liberty!”
Good for you! I’ve had many of the same thoughts — I’ve cut down TTT’s only to topics I really care about and give myself permission to read other books in between review books. I can’t even imagine the pressure you must feel to read all ARCs prior to the release date — I find my reviews are better received if they aren’t *too* early, though that is of course a fuzzy concept by nature. I’ve been reading a lot of advice from other more seasoned bloggers than I while trying to gain a better balance when it comes to blogging — the general consensus seems to be that we shouldn’t take advantage of the system, but we also shouldn’t feel like we work for the publishers — we don’t get paid after all! A “better late than never philosophy” seems to be a pretty common theme. I found the concept that anything received is “for review consideration” interesting as well — when more comes in than we expect around a certain date, some books are going to end up being a better fit for your blog than others. My personal downfall is entering ARC giveaways/Shelf Awareness request forms — so I REALLY don’t know what might arrive — I’ve cut way back, but have been trying really hard to find that balance between doing the *right* thing and not letting myself get overwhelmed by obligation. Good luck!
That balance is so hard to find — between doing the right thing and not getting overwhelmed. And you’re right, not every book is going to be a good fit for me personally or for my blog — so even if I like the sound of something when I request it, that doesn’t mean I’ll want to read it once I have it in front of me. Thanks for your thoughtful comments! It’s nice to know we’re all in this together. 🙂
Take care of yourself! Sometimes you just need a break from the madness and just do you.
Very true — thank you! It made me feel so good on my vacation to read what suited me without any other considerations, and I’ve definitely learned from that experience that that’s what I need!
I was nodding my head as I read your post today. Oh yeah! Agreed. I abandoned my previous blog and started from scratch with this one last year, and I went into it with a different mindset. I call myself eclectic now, so I’m not tied to just one genre for books, for book groups, for book cliques. I won’t do book tours anymore and I request less new titles from NetGalley.
You hit the nail on the head–your line about did I really want to read it, or did I just want to be in on the next big thing! I still buy e-books impulsively and spend more than I should, but if it is my own book I can decide if and when I review it. I no longer feel obligated to review every single title I read, or to take part in every meme every week. Thanks for reinforcing my desire to my blog my own way 🙂
Thank you! I appreciate the supportive comments! Blogging our own way is key, isn’t it? If it’s not enjoyable, what’s the point? I agree, it’s much easier and less pressure to make decisions about what to read when, when I’m dealing with books I either own or have borrowed from the library. Lesson learned: Fewer obligations = more freedom to read what I want!
That’s one of the primary reasons I don’t really request ARCs. It took me a very long time to join Netgalley and, now that I have, I barely request anything. I’ve read about 8 Netgalley books so far and have just been approved for one more. That’s over the 6-7 months since I joined, so it’s pretty low-pressure! I hope you can work out something that works for you!
Thank you! I think you’ve got a great approach. I went a bit hog-wild with NetGalley for a while, and I think it’ll work much better for me if I take a more selective approach and cut way back on my requests.
Yes! Read freely! I’m really thankful that I never fell into the ARC trap. I’ve read 27 ARCs in the year and a half I’ve been on NetGalley, and even so I feel overwhelmed sometimes. I can’t imagine what it would feel like if I let them completely dominate my reading. But, I really know where you’re coming from feeling overwhelmed by social media and blogging in general. I just took a mini-break myself, and it’s kind of shocking how little I missed it, how easy it was to fill that time with other interests. I’m not quitting either, but I do want to figure out a better way to balance everything.
“Shocking how little I missed it” — wow, do I relate! It took me a few days into my vacation to realize that I had so much more time to myself and so much less to worry about! I do enjoy blogging and don’t intend to stop, but achieving balance and keeping it in perspective is one of my new goals. And cutting way, way back on ARCs. I think I’ll be a much happier camper if I can manage to achieve that.
Good for you! I stopped blogging when it felt like more of a chore than a hobby, and I haven’t regretted it. I think the same thing happens to me with reading. I have to read what I want when I feel like it or I started to feel resentful. It’s just one of those passions that I want to remain joyful. 🙂
Oh yes, I can become very resentful! That’s why I’m usually a terrible book group member — I don’t like “having” to read something, even if I’ve voluntarily joined the group. As soon as I start feeling like something or someone else is dictating what I read, I start getting very grumpy. I love your statement about reading being a passion that you want to remain joyful — that’s exactly how I feel, and why I need to make some big changes in my approach!
It’s so great to be free! 😀 I used to be so caught up with trying to do all the memes and post post post that it sucked the life out of me. I feel so much better now that I’ve managed my commitments better.
I salute you 🙂 for getting your commitments under control! It really feels so much better to have the freedom of not doing too much. It’s crazy that I had to actually even think about scaling back as if it were a big decision! I skipped two memes this week that I used to always do no matter what, and the earth didn’t stop turning. Amazing!