I discussed my reading resolutions last week and have been mulling my blogging ones. If I am honest, in the lead up to Christmas and the New Year, I was feeling a bit cheesed off with blogging and so was not in best of places with it. Before we go on I should say that this is not a navel gazing post, in fact it could paint me in a bad light as opposed to the martyrdom or woe-is-me navel gazing writing aspires to. Basically before Christmas I was wondering if in fact the whole book blogging world had really got a bit/gone to shit. Oh, I should say this post may contain some swearing and is quite long! Do bear with it though as it means a lot and try not to judge me, ha.
I noticed I had distanced myself from the blogosphere somewhat. I have blogged for over six years now and followed some book blogs for a good while before that and so I have seen how it has changed. For me last year I just felt it had become to ‘grabby’. I was sick of seeing bloggers desperately begging for books on Twitter or showing off how they had the latest hyped book (because it was the latest hyped book, rather than actually loving the author or really wanting to read it) yet seemingly never reading or reviewing them. I was fed up with how competitive it had become (and indeed bitchy as I saw this morning when bloggers were tweeting how they thought some other bloggers – being vague – were only writing reviews to please publishers – WTF? I completely disengaged from it especially as two of them were two of the biggest offenders), was bored of seeing the same books flying everywhere, seeing bloggers feeling offended because they hadn’t received a certain book that was ‘so my blog’. I could go on…
I was particularly sick when on occasion I noticed that I myself was joining in. Yes on a couple of occasions I found myself thinking ‘erm, why on earth have I not had a copy of X when X has?’ and indeed emailing/tweeting publishers vying for a certain book they were showing off on Twitter. The moment I realised I had done it once or twice I felt rather sick with myself. What was happening that made me get like the people I was getting so disappointed and annoyed with? And why was I also feeling so negative to the people who were multiply offending? I suppose I felt it was giving book bloggers a bad name.
So here comes the truth about blogging for me personally – though I bet lots of bloggers have been through this in varying degrees, they just might not say so. And it all gets a bit dark. Back when I started blogging there weren’t many book blogs. You didn’t get free books, and so you certainly didn’t feel entitled to get free books because you had written a few dozen posts, let alone three or four, which seems to have become the case. No one really commented on mine, I didn’t expect them to. For me it was like a reading diary, a place to put my thoughts and stop boring all my friends. Simple as that.
Then a few people started to pop by, then a few bloggers started to comment and more came and I started to read them and a lovely network formed. Then publishers who were sending me books for work started to send some for the blog, lovely. Then a few non bloggers started to comment and follow, even more shockingly they weren’t my family and friends. I started to meet bloggers. Then my followers went up into their hundreds each month, and I was really chuffed, even a bit excited, (even when another blogger told me they got a few hundred a day – so there maybe has always been competitiveness about). I even got quoted in some books. I started a book podcast with Gav. I worked on some literary festivals, went to some blogger parties. It was all lovely.
By the end of 2012/start of 2013 somehow I was getting thousands of readers/hits a day. Somewhere at that point I started to believe Savidge Reads own hits hype. Somewhere I started to want more hits and more readers and more books and I needed to be reading more and more books and writing more and more posts. It had become a monster I was spending all my spare time thinking about and feeding. I was checking my hits every few hours and where I was in the ebuzzing Literature charts every month. There was even a tiny bit of my egotistical side, we all have one, who was thinking fame must surely beckon. I was talking about the blog all the time to family like it validated me, not my journalism or things I was doing socially weirdly. It was unhealthy. See, told you I would be honest even if it makes me look a right nutter. Judge me all you like, I am aware it is on the spectrum of crazy.
Some of all this unhealthy madness I put down to needing a diversion, which became a sort of coping obsession whilst my marriage broke down, I left London, was rather ill twice, Gran suddenly got ill. Some of it was just ego and believing my own hype. Then as Gran got more and more ill and I started spending more and more time helping to care for her as much as I could whilst getting a new job, I just couldn’t keep it up. I tried; blogging at night, blogging between Gran’s naps but my reading was out of sorts and so I had to stop. No choice. And I started to see, and even feel as the itch to blog was still there for a while and returned a little by September I was over the hits but wanted the content higher and better, the monster that had been created online and in my head. It wasn’t good. Then I started a new job and the Christmas madness was looming so I knew I needed to have a word with myself; blog less, read more, think on.
Note: Blogging has been brilliant for the wonderful people I have met, chatted to and started projects and podcasts with, the support when things have been a bit shit etc has been amazing, the books I might not have read without it and publishers have been great finds in the main, all the authors I have met which has been lovely, – I don’t want you thinking I am an ungrateful bookish bastard, ha!
So over Christmas I was mulling it all and I admit I was wondering if enough was enough? Yet then Gran intervened, from beyond the grave in a way, as on New Year’s Eve my mother gave me a bag of things of mine Gran had kept and in amongst the postcards and pictures and letters was this…
One of my very first book reviews, of R.L. Stine’s Night of the Living Dummy, from when I was 10. Way before I had any idea about the internet or blogging and when all I wanted to do was write my thoughts on the book I had read. It seemed like a message, or the answer to the question I had been mulling subconsciously… Get back to the books and just writing about them. Forget everything else, enjoy the chatter and stuff that comes with it but don’t take it too seriously. Life is too short and there are too many brilliant books to read.
I think there is an illusion somewhere that getting lots of hits, which people seem to think getting lots of the latest free books equates too, might make you famous (it won’t), get you a job in journalism (unlikely), make publishers and authors fawn over you (get real, especially if all you are doing is being sent books and not reviewing them – which again I admit I have been prone to do on the odd occasion, sorry). It won’t even make you respected if you look desperate or obsessed about it. It is not what blogging is about, it should be fun and enthused, it should be about loving whatever it is you blog about. Anything else is a bonus.
So that is where I am at. I am ditching the negativity, not giving a toss what people think or how many hits I am getting, cutting all the “bookish bullshit” out of the equation and ignoring, or switching off/disconnecting with the book blaggers and whinge-bags. It is time to get back to simply reading the books I fancy, enjoying them, enjoying talking about them when I feel the need and just doing my own thing and not feeling the need to talk about book ALL the time, shocking I know! Ha!
I have pressed the restart/reset button and it feels very good to go back to basics and the books, speaking of which I out to get cracking on with reading a few and writing a review for later in the week. In the meantime who else is ready to join me in a positive fresh start?