June 09, 2011

Changing philosophies on blogging, reading, and writing

This is a bit of a long (okay, long) post. I hope you'll read it all, but if not, I've broken it down a little so you can read what you want to read.

Writing blogs

Like everything in life, there's a progression to blogging. I used to have so much to say, but as this blog has gotten older, I've covered so many topics, to the point I feel I have less to say, and thus, am doing a disservice to my followers by trying to maintain a semblance of a 'blogging schedule.'

I'm tired of feeling guilty because I don't post 3-5 times a week on this blog like clockwork. Which isn't to say I don't absolutely love those type of blogs, because I do. But I don't love them because they post 3-5 times a week like clockwork—I love them because they have something interesting to say 3-5 times a week like clockwork. Good examples of this type of blog are Kiersten White's and Natalie Whipple's. Both of them, I'm sure, would also tell you how hard they work to be as interesting as they are as often as they are.

Because let's face it: no one's life is always interesting. I'm pretty sure even the president has days where he sits in boring meetings and signs boring paperwork and reads boring briefs. And maybe it's important work, but it's boring.

The rules, the experts, say set a schedule and stick to it. And in an ideal world, I would post interesting, funny, thought-provoking posts every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, like I used to (I hope the posts were interesting, anyway).

But. Where I am now in life, blogging—or trying to blog, anyway—when I have nothing interesting to say is draining me, taking vital time and creative energy away from my writing. When I try to force it, my blog ends up resembling one of those cheap Easter baskets you get at Wal-Mart: there's a few cool things in the basket, but the majority of it is candy nobody eats and toys that break within 5 seconds of being opened.

Filler, in other words. I don't want my blog to be a few great posts strewn amongst bloggity filler.

So where does that leave me? Hopefully somewhere close to StephaniePerkinsland.

You see, Stephanie Perkins, awesome author of ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, does not blog regularly. Sometimes no blog for a month. Sometimes a couple in one week. But every time I open my blog feed and see a post from Stephanie, I get excited. Her posts are always interesting, informative, entertaining, poignant, funny, silly, cool, and sometimes all of the above. So regardless of whether I 'hear from' her for a month or a week, I stay subscribed to her blog, stay interested in her, because she blogs when she can be interesting.

So from now on, THE TABBY CATT is scheduleless. I worry about this a little. But I also know it's what is best. You might hear from me a couple times a week and then not at all for a few weeks. The only rule I'm giving myself is not to let 2 weeks go by without blogging because... well, I'm afraid I'm probably not as interesting as Stephanie Perkins, so maybe her rule-breaking awesomeness won't apply quite as well to me. However, what I can promise you is you'll be getting interesting Abby, not Abby scrambling to find something interesting to say. And no filler.

Reading and commenting

You have to be careful that in blogging, you don't lose yourself in the contests, the cliques, the memes, the following just to follow, the reading just to read, the commenting just to comment. When I comment on someone's blog, I want to be thoughtful. Occasionally I get comments on my blog that I know are perfunctory—the well, I haven't commented on that blog in a while, better do it or they'll stop commenting on mine type comments. I know I'm guilty of this sometimes, too. Those types of comments, though, we all know them when we see them. And they don't put a smile on your face, or offer insight, or do anything really except add a +1 to the number of comments at the bottom or the top of your blog post.

I don't need those, and I don't want to write them. So last week I went through and pared my blog feed down to my favorite 50 or so blogs. That's a lot to keep up on, but I also got rid of a lot—a lot of blogs that are good, quality, interesting blogs. But you just can't read them all. When I open my Blogger feed, I want to be excited about what's there, not overwhelmed! I don't want to go... oh, gosh, I took a few days off and now I have to slog through 37 blog posts. After reading 20 or 30 blogs, none of the posts are going to interest you.

Reading diversely 

I came into the YA game less than 2 years ago, so I've spent the better part of the last 2 years 'catching up' on the multitude of YA out there. In fact, 35 of the 62 books I've read since 2009 were YA, and since January, 11 of the 15 books I've read are YA. I just finished FLY AWAY HOME by Jennifer Weiner. That book came out almost a year ago, but I just got around to reading it because I'd been trying to stay up on YA. I shouldn't be putting one of my top 3 favorite authors to the side to read ARCs that I probably wouldn't have picked up in a store, except for the fact they are YA and I feel like I have to read every YA book I can get my hands on in order to stay up on the market.

We talk a lot in the YA community about diversity. I think that should extend to the books we read, too. Not just one genre, not just one market, not just one age group. I read adult books long before I was an adult, so why should I only read teen books now that I'm an adult? I want to read Tony Blair's autobiography and Jeanette Walls' "non-fiction novel," and EAT PRAY LOVE and AN AMERICAN WIFE.

So I'm going to. I put a lot of pressure on myself to do the 'right' thing, and it doesn't help that there's a lot of experts out there telling us what we must do—many qualified, but plenty not. But you know what? From now on, I'm going to do what works best for me. I'm going to treat YA books like any other type of book—if it looks interesting to me, I'll read it. I'm not going to allow myself to get caught up in the 'oh-this-is-the-next-big-thing-you-must-read-it' buzz. If it doesn't interest me, I'm sure someone else will love it, but I've got shelf after shelf of books that I hand-picked waiting to be read.

So what?

Please don't take any of this as a judgment against anyone. If you want to read only YA, knock yourself out. It won't affect me, and I won't mind. Boiling it down, I basically have just been thinking a lot, have rewritten the philosophies that I've developed regarding writing blogs, reading blogs, and reading books over the past few years. I just thought I'd let you know... in case anyone else felt the same way. :)

The good part

As a reward for getting all the way to the bottom of this long, winding, and occasionally whiny post, I'd like to say thank you. I'm clearing out my bookshelves again (so many new books just keep coming!) and giving away a gently used set of YA (and one MG) books:

The usual rules apply: comment to enter, must be a follower, extra entries for tweeting/putting it on your sidebar. No links necessary, I trust you. ;) US & Canada only this time. (:()

Giveaway ends 6/23.

Thank you all for being such awesome followers. Blogging and being part of the YA writing community has had a very positive effect on my writing, my confidence in my abilities, and my life in general. Please know that.


Rachel Bateman said...

Good post, Abby! I think it's important that each of us finds what works for her and then does it, no guilt involved. We are all different, so none of us should try to do things the way another does. For instance, I use my blog mostly for myself, as selfish as that sounds. It's just a sounding board for things I'm thinking. Sometimes it's helpful, but more often than not it's just random filler. Which is not what you want on your blog, but it's totally fine for me. It's great that we each can have our own focus for the blog!

I've never minded the random, just-stopping-by comments, but I think that also has to do with my blogging style. Since I am not out to be helpful or spark discussion with every post, I don't mind if someone just stops in to say HI and doesn't really add anything to the comments.

The reading diversity thing makes me think of some of the comments people were putting on the article Maureen Johnson wrote for the Guardian earlier this week. They were all like, "I would feel guilty reading this YA stuff when there's still so many great works of literature I haven't read." YA or not, the genre you write in or not, classics or not, I think each of us needs to just read what makes her happy. Period.

Also (and I swear my comment is gonna be as long as your post soon, so I'll quit now), you rock! Thanks for another fun giveaway. I tweeted it.

Abby Stevens said...

Rachel: I love your long comments! I really do feel we each have to find our own purpose, our own niche. I actually find your blog to be one of the most interesting that I'm subscribed to, even if I don't comment as often as I should. I don't think I've seen much filler on your blog, as I would define it. For me, filler is hard to define, but easy to spot: it's just those things you see people posting just to post, just to reach their blog post count for the week. I've done that, and I don't feel happy with it. I don't need to be particularly helpful, but I want it to be that, if I blog, it's for a reason besides checking off, 1-2-3 blog posts per week, you know?

And I didn't catch Maureen Johnson's article, but I will have to look it up. I really do feel like people should read what they want to read. I think I enjoy so much of YA, that I will stay up on the market by simple merit of, there is SO much YA I do love and does interest me. But I've found myself pressuring myself to read more more more YA, even when other types of books are calling my name.

And you are very welcome! I know the soldiers probably don't want to read PARANORMALCY, as awesome as it is, so I figured why not give these books to someone I know will enjoy reading them? :)

Remilda Graystone said...

I second the great post comment. You do you. Do what's best for you, and if it's paring down the number of blogs you follow and commenting on only those you like and not posting as often, good for you. I say go for it!

I stopped blogging nearly a year ago because I just didn't like it. I never enjoyed it but I felt I had to because everyone seemed to be saying you had to. But you know what? I'm a writer. Blogging isn't the career I'm looking to have. (Plus, not having a blog is freeing because no one can expect you to comment on theirs just because they commented on yours.) I only follow about thirty blogs, and I don't comment on all of them everyday--sometimes for weeks--because it's exhausting and takes too much time out of the day. And I don't read as much YA as people say you should, or even read that often.

I think different things work for different people, so it's great that you're doing what you want and enjoy. There are no guarantees in this business. At the very least, everyone should enjoy their journey to their destination.

Holly Dodson said...

I hope you'll be able to find that perfect balance for yourself, Abby. It certainly sounds like you've put a lot of thought into it. I look forward to your posts no matter when they come about. :)

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I've thought about some of these same things. I recently started using a blog feed to read all the blogs I follow. I didn't know how many I was actually signed up for until I opened the feed and saw 100+ posts waiting to be read. Do I even read all of them? No. I skim a lot. And I comment even less than I used to because I don't go to a blog to comment unless I'm *really* feeling it.

I've taken short breaks, long breaks, been scheduled. Avoided schedules. What I'm doing right now works for me because I always have something more I want to say. If that changes, I'll re-evaluate like you are.

All this to say, do what works for you. I'll read you whenever you post.

Kathryn Packer Roberts said...

I feel the same way. And who are these people to say that they are experts anyway? Blogging about books only really became big a few years back. It's growing and you're right, there are too many to keep up with (which is why I have less than 100 followers =) because I'm not published, so why should anyone give a darn about me?) I also agree that a lot of what people write is reduntant. I've finally got to the point over the past two years (same here) where I have heard it all before. Unless it is book-being-made-into-movie news or something, the blog posts are all just good reminders of rules I have already learned. I still feel guilty that I don't post regularly, but I don't especially love the blog posts of other who, you can tell, are struggling to find something interesting to say. I HATE the word MEME. It's obnoxious (no offense anyone), and I especially can't stand it when people use their blogs to rant and rave and swear at everyone who is different from them. (today's issue) =)

Anyway, sorry that was long. Glad there is someone else that feels the same way.

Meredith said...

Good for you for taking the time to reflect on your blogging! I agree, it shouldn't have a schedule, especially when you're doing it as a hobby. When it gets scheduled and starts taking you away from other things in life, it's not fun anymore.

meredithfl at gmail dot com

Gracie said...

I am very glad there is someone else who feels this way... I feel so pressured sometimes to make a schedule for myself but I know I can't post until I have ideas. It's way more interesting anyway, not knowing when a favourite blogger of yours is going to post next!

Thanks for sharing some of your blogging/reading journey. Those were definitely some interesting thoughts!

Jessica Lawlor said...

Great post, Abby! I remember we met last year at the Jennifer Weiner signing and I have to guiltily admit that I STILL haven't read it. I can't believe I've let my favorite author's latest book get dusty on my shelf, but like you, I've been caught up in a YA frenzy. Thanks for the reminder to be more diverse :) I think I'll pick up FLY AWAY HOME soon! Hope you enjoyed the book.

Aleeza said...

great post, abby! i really do find it hard to come up with interesting things to blog about...and end up just doing reviews after reviews. BUT! now i just write out the posts any time i get some cool idea, and they come often enough to make a regular blogging schedule. so yeah.

and as for the contest, i tweeted about it. :) and of course, im a follower.

Vivien said...

I definitely try to not get caught up in the hype of a genre. The next big thing. If I don't like it, I just don't. I won't force it.

deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

KO: The Insect Collector said...

This is refreshing Abby- honest and insightful. I think this all sounds like a great plan.

I don't think it does YA any good to have us all reading YA exclusively-- in my perfect world people would read a bit of everything. I think we can understand the trends without reading EVERY book out there.

I think the advice began as, "you can't write YA if you are 30 and haven't 'read' YA since you were 14." Like a lot of things, it has been misconstrued until the story is, "you must read only YA, and you must read EVERYTHING ever published as YA".

It's like a bad game of telephone.

I have some books in my TBR pile that I'm (honestly) not interested in. How crazy is that? What am I thinking? I need to send those back out into the world!

Oh- and I happened on the Friends of the Library book sale and found a ton of great books for operation paperback. I am really excited about it!! Will post on it soon.

Alicia Gregoire said...

Very thought out post. You've said a lot of things that we touched on multiple times at WOA. I particularly agree about the diversity issue. As much as I love YA, I love chick lit and I think reading outside of the YA market helps make you a stronger writer.

Kristy said...

I'm not a much of a reader....(honestly, I just skimmed over the first part of each paragraph in this post). ;) I do LOVE your writing/blogging/thoughts. When I DO happen to pass through, your blog almost always holds my attention--which is hard to keep at times (ask Charles...{mid conversation} "Look a Bunny!"....he gets so mad... ;)

But yes, I totally agree with not blogging for the simple fact of blogging. I have a few friends that blog every day, and I find myself wondering if they're treating it more like a journal, and if anyone actually finds it interesting. ;) Maybe so. Maybe it just bores me. I think this is a fine choice for you! (and knowing you, you'll probably still be blogging 5+ times a week;)

Miss you bunches!

Claire Dawn said...

Wow, you were right! Long post. lol. But not pointless. And well organised. So it was fine.

On ideas, I'm full of them. I have an overactive brain. I actually have to keep a diary because I have too many ideas. lol. Thursdays (with my giveaways/reviews) and Fridays with the cultural posts are often draining- and that's why I don't hold myself to posting every Friday. But I make a point not to miss Mondays and Wednesdays.

I agree with not following for following's sake. I read every blog that I follow- it means that every 3 or 4 months I have to go through and un-follow a few. I just can't read 80 blogs a day. (I'm going to have to pare down again soon, I'm 4 days behind now.) On the reverse, about half of my followers never come by my blog, and it's slightly annoying. Like proclaiming a political affinity but not voting- what really is the point?

I support reading diversely. It's good to know what's going in your market. But it's also good to see shortcomings of YA, and what is happening in other genres that you can bring across. And once in a while, it's good to just be a reader. I read mainly YA, but that's not because I feel I have to. I just feel like a lot of adult books take themselves too seriously, and at least half the time I don't like them. I have to make a greater effort when deciding which ones to read, when it comes to adult novels. But I've found a few gems recently.

Waiting eagerly for your next post. I hope you'll still be active around the blogosphere!

Yahong said...

I think your blog doesn't need a schedule to stay fabulous (because it IS *hugs Abby's blog*), and I totally support everything you said in the "Reading and commenting" section. Blogging can be looked at in so many ways -- as a marketing tool, as a platform, as a way to get your name out there. But in the end, the best blogs are the ones that have real people behind it -- both the blogger and the followers, the real followers.

PS: "Perfunctory" is such a sterile word. *shudders* :P

Abby Stevens said...

Remilda: I remember when you were struggling with blogging. You had written a post (I believe) about how hard it is to put yourself out there into the blogging world. I agree about the comment aspect. That's definitely a plus of having no blog - you can comment who you want, when! And you're right, commenting is exhausting. And I couldn't agree more that if we aren't enjoying the journey, something's amiss.

Holly: Thank you! I really appreciate hearing that. :)

Kayeleen: I know what you mean. And I hate skimming. I feel like I should either read all or none, which is the main reason I cut down on my blog list. And thank you so much for reading!

Kathryn: That's a good point I hadn't really thought of. Of course, there are experts, and then there are "experts," but in reality, we all know a blog/Twitter/platform of any kind is a bonus, not a necessity. And YES to the redundancy. That's one of the things that brought me to my decision: I was tired of rehashing the same topics (with very little new to add on my part) that I'd seen others dicussing on their blogs over and over and over again.

Abby Stevens said...

Meredith: Thank you so much. I couldn't agree more.

Gracie: Yes, the pressure is insane sometimes, isn't it? I never realized when I started blogging that it would morph into such pressure to produce, not only progress on my WIP, but post after post of interesting content. And that's a good point. It is always really exciting for me when I see a post from Stephanie Perkins, for example. I go to it straight away instead of 'getting around to it.'

Jessica: I think you will enjoy it! I read it in two sittings and I was sooooo happy to be reading something because I really really wanted to read it, not because it was a book on my TBR catch-up list. And I'm looking forward to Jen Weiner's new book coming out next month!

Aleeza: I actually love reviews, and do plan to continue doing them as time allows. I think you've got the right idea to blog cool ideas strike. It's much easier and a lot more fun!

Abby Stevens said...

Vivien: That's definitely how I plan to roll from here on out!

KO: Thanks! :) I completely agree. It is like a bad game of telephone, and things get so twisted and advice morphs so much from one source to another. We really have to think hard about the spirit of the advice and read between the lines.

I am the same way - there are books on my TBR pile I'm not interested in, either. At least, there were. I do plan to find a better home for them in the future so I can better spread my time between the YA I am excited about and everything else I'm excited about in the book world!

And YAY for Friends of the Library! I'm so excited you've gotten involved in Operation Paperback. It means a lot to me! Thank you!

Alicia: I'm glad to hear other people feel the same way. I so wish I could've made it to WOA this year. I think reading outside your market makes you stronger and more diverse, too. :)

Kristy: Ha ha ha, I love you! I responded to your comment via FB, but just wanted to say I agree and you aren't the only one who gets bored by people's humdrum life. Our lives are interesting to ourselves, but for everyone else, we gotta work a little to make it entertaining, which in turn is pretty hard to do on a daily basis. I miss you, too!

Abby Stevens said...

Claire: I imagine your cultural Fridays are draining, but I LOVE them. They are actually one of my favorite posts of anything I read online. I think that your rule of going through and deleting whatever you don't read is a good one. And this - "once in a while, it's good to just be a reader" - yes x a bajillion. I think that's what I miss most of anything! How often I feel I'm reading as part of my 'job' instead of reading because I love to read.

And thank you! I do plan to remain active around the blogosphere, just on a slightly toned down level. :)

Yahong: THANK YOU! :) And yes, the best blogs are the ones with real people behind them. You are one wise cookie.

I hadn't thought of it specifically as that, but 'perfunctory' is awfully sterile, isn't it?

Sarah Allen said...

Very well thought out. I feel like for me its always good to hear things like this, because I can get so into the blogging/networking/marketing thing that it starts edging its way into writing time, which is infinitely more important. Way to stick to your guns and do what you know is right for you. I really hope it turns out well.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

erica and christy said...

I think a lot of people have expressed similar feelings about blogging lately. There are just SO MANY and it's hard to even find everyone, it's nice to reward by following because you really like them rather than to get someone else to follow you (which is just some random number that doesn't necessarily mean anything to an agent or publisher).

We blog because we enjoy it, because we do feel connected to some of the other bloggers, to keep up with publishing news, and to maintain a daily writing schedule (even if it is blog posts!). But sometimes inspiration just doesn't hit - we haven't blogged daily for a couple months now.

We're giving away some books, too, if you want to stop by and enter (and some of them are new YA and some are gently used general fiction). :)

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