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Sunday Salon: Why Blog?

The Sunday Salon (badge)

Today, in my first post of 2015 — first in a good five months, actually — I’d like to tell a bit of a story.

A Tale of Three Blogs

Erin Reads was the very first blog I started, way back in 2008. I mean, I’d done the LiveJournal thing and all, but this was my first proper for-public-consumption site.

And I had no idea what I was doing.

Fortunately, this awesome community of ours is ridiculously welcoming, and I gradually found a style, a rhythm, and a place in the broader constellation of book blogs. I made friends, participated in events (speaking of which, Readathon sign-ups are live!!), even managed to secure a few advanced reader copies to review. I loved it so much. And blogging for pleasure was all I’d known.

Laptop and mouse on a table (erinreads.com, photo by markus spiske via Flickr)

Fast-forward to 2012, when I started my second “real” site: Remade By Hand (RBH). I started it at a point when things felt like they were shifting, and I wanted a new place to follow that feeling as it unfolded. As I felt my way along, the posts started to get more personal, to feel more vulnerable. It’s hard, finding the line between what you’re ok with sharing and what’s too much. It’s a very individual thing. And when your whole life is up for inclusion, you have to make the decision over and over again.

At the same time that I launched RBH, I found myself connecting with a different sort of community: one of online small business owners. Terms like “content strategy” and “call to action” worked their way into my vocabulary and my thoughts. I started to think about the audience I was writing for, to learn the best way to format a blog post for readability, to pick up tricks for writing snappy headlines that would get people to click on my posts. I explored the art of writing sales pages and web copy. Most of it felt fake to me, disingenuous — and luckily, since I wasn’t selling anything, I really had no reason to worry about all that stuff.

But it was there. It’s hard to unlearn something once you’ve learned it, isn’t it?

Then, later that year, I finally had a reason to implement all this new knowledge: I launched my editing services, adding them to RBH. Now that I had something to sell, I started trying to be a little more intentional, to take tiny stabs at doing things the way I was “supposed” to do them according to the world of internet marketing. I attempted to make a plan, a schedule, to try various techniques and tactics.

Bleh.

I hated it. I hated having to wrap my thoughts in a veneer of salesmanship, to make sure everything I did had an ulterior motive, to think twelve steps ahead and lock myself into a plan. I hated it so much that I stopped blogging, unable to reconcile my personal blog with the professional stuff I’d tacked on to it. I hated it so much that I finally split my services off onto their own website and let RBH revert back to its own quiet self.

RBH was never about selling. It was about self-expression and spanning the miles between people in a way only the internet can do. And trying to give it a different goal backfired in a big way.

But with the new site, I had a place that was all commerce from the start. I wrote a few posts that served double duty: helping readers and furthering my own commercial interests. I had a posting schedule. I had a series of articles mapped out and partly drafted. I was doing it RIGHT, dang it.

Until, very quickly, I wasn’t.

Notebook, pen, and laptop (erinreads.com, photo by derya via Flickr)

It turns out there’s no love for me in writing articles to particular specifications. I know people who quite happily only do that. I know others who flip comfortably between writing for themselves and writing to teach and sell. I can do the latter when I have to, but I don’t like it.

To me, writing is an act of self expression. Plenty of people write to persuade, or sell, or disclose, or contradict, and why shouldn’t they? Those are perfectly legitimate uses. But that’s not me. I write to process and organize my thoughts, and I write to connect with other people in a genuine way. (Even when I work with clients, these whys are at the heart of what I do.) I say what I want to say, in the way I want to say it. It’s an art, of sorts, and even the simplest sentences can feel like soul craft. Writing has never been a tool to me, to be wielded one way or another depending on the desired outcome. And when I forced it to become one, I lost my love for it.

What Became of Them?

The blog on that third site is gone now, replaced by a list of articles (once posts). Maybe I’ll add to it. Maybe I won’t. Here’s the thing: I finally realized I don’t need to produce “content” to run my business. I have a handful of wonderful clients I love working with. They know where to find me. And if a friend of theirs gets into writing a book or needs help with website copy, my clients are quick to bring up my name. I lucked out with them. They don’t need “content” from me. And I finally realized I needed to adjust my actions accordingly.

And RBH? I haven’t written on it since the day I unveiled the new services-based site. It’s dormant, for now. There’s too much ick still there for me to know what to do with it. The muck has to settle, and then maybe then I’ll be able to see more clearly.

Which brings me back to Erin Reads.

Heart-shaped book pages (erinreads.com, photo by Kate Ter Haar via Flickr)

Yes, I’ve had my bouts of burnout here. I’ve pushed myself too hard, posted for no good reason, slipped into trying a thing or two to achieve an end I didn’t actually want. It’s had its dormant spells, too — once when I turned my attention to starting RBH and again more recently, when I simply fell out of the habit of reviewing the books I’d read. And sometimes now I find myself falling into marketing habits, looking at this blog the way I learned to look at writing meant to sell.

But really, this site is pure. It’s never been a commercial enterprise. It lets me bare one part of my soul without grappling with how much to reveal in this ever-more-public age we live in. And it allows me to talk books with other readers — one of the things I love to do most.

I need to keep reminding myself of that.

There is a point to all this, I promise.

Here it is: Know your intentions, your why. When you sit down to write a post (or anything else, for that matter), know why you’re doing it. Is it to share your opinion? To connect with other people? To grow your blog readership? To make a name for yourself? To sell something? Some combination of those, or something completely different?

There is no right or wrong answer, of course. We all have different goals. But if you’re working toward a goal that doesn’t really matter to you, you’re going to meet burnout, and frustration, and disappointment. I’ve done it — twice. Both times I fell hard out of love with what I was doing. And even now, as I think about coming back to Erin Reads, sometimes my plans and ideas run away from me.

Everyone else is doing readalongs…I should coordinate something! Maybe I should bring back Reading Buddies!!

Do I need a posting schedule? Without one, will I post enough?

Holy cow, there are so many new bloggers I haven’t met. I need to reorganize my Feedly AGAIN so I can keep up with everyone!

Is there anything wrong with these thoughts? Of course not. I’d love to get into readalongs again (and really enjoyed hosting Reading Buddies). Posting schedules have, at times, worked for me (though they’ve also accelerated burnout at times). And yeah, there are a LOT of bloggers I haven’t met! (If you’re one of them and you happen to stop by, introduce yourself, would you?) But my, how quickly the pressure edges in when I start to let my mind run its circles — all before I’ve even posted a review this year.

Remember, self:

You blog because you love it. You blog to have a record of what you read, to engage more deeply with books, to keep them from slipping away as soon as you’ve turned the last page. And you blog to talk about books you’ve read (or want to read) and related topics with fellow readers. Start there. Add and subtract as feels right. But never, ever lose sight of your core, your reason, your why.

(If you haven’t guessed it yet, this advice is at least as much for me as it is for you. Keep me honest, will you?)

Now let’s get back to talking books!

Your Turn!

What are your core reasons for blogging (or other writing), whether you write about books or something else?

Photos adapted from the CC-licensed work of markus spiske, derya, and Kate Ter Haar.

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://www.stillunfinished.com/ Bryan G. Robinson

    Welcome back. You were still in my reader…and I’ve been there with several blogs (not for business, but for personal) so I can semi-relate to what you’re saying. Bottom line: Glad you’re back.

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Thanks, Bryan! Nothing makes you feel un-forgotten like a “welcome back” comment and a share within hours of publishing the first post in six months :)

  • stu06bloc9 (Snailzpace Daily)

    Hi, found your blog while checking #bloggiesta Tweets. Your articles are interesting reading :) I’m still quite new to blogging and not a book blogger. I don’t usually read book review sites but have found some quite interesting while browsing through Bloggiesta participants and have a slightly better idea now of what they’re about and why. I most enjoy those with a clear personal voice and read as if the blogger is speaking with the reader.

    I blog for a way of practising writing, there’s something different about writing online or for online spaces than simply writing in an isolated never to be seen fashion – I’ve three current blogs with different formats for different types of writing – I do need to keep them seperate or I get muddled and lose focus! I started a few weeks ago with the aim of developing skills and trying to understand web content and the like, so ‘up-skilling’ if you like. But I am a snail, of the dinosaur variety.

    Although there was a project in mind when I started blogging, I put that on hold because it was soon clear that it will turn out much better if I get used to things first, become familiar and comfortable with blogging and social media and everything those entail. So, I’m blogging for my personal learning mission, to keep writing and hoping to improve my skills and gain efficiency perhaps toward better employability or self-employment eventually, when health recovers enough.
    Best wishes :)

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Thanks for stopping by! The book blogging community, in my experience, is kind of unique, so I’m glad you’ve been able to learn a bit from it. I’m with you — I love it when a blog has a clear voice, like by reading it I can get to know the person writing it.

      I can also understand needing to keep things separate in order to keep them straight! That’s part of how I ended up with three different sites, too. I know people who can do it all on one site, but that’s definitely not me — and I think it can be confusing for readers, too.

      It sounds like you are super clear about why you’re blogging at the moment. Awesome! Best of luck in your blogging adventures :)

  • http://greenmushroom1up.blogspot.ca/ Caro G

    I started blogging to have a record of what I thought about the books I read and to practice my writing, but all along as a hobby, a relaxing thing to do. As time passed by, I did fall into self-impossed stressed at a certain point, but I think I’m getting better at leaving that to a side and just doing it because I like the community and love the discussion it has.

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      I can relate, Caro! I think it’s really easy to fall into self-imposed stress even if you started for fun — especially when it seems like other hobby book bloggers can churn out the posts, be on Twitter all the time, run a million readalongs and challenges, and still keep their regular life going :) I’ll be practicing keeping community and discussion forefront right along with you!

  • Laurel-Rain Snow

    Wow, great post! Thanks for sharing your journey—and yes, that overused word again—and while my experiences have been different, I, too, started out in 2008 with one thing in mind (marketing my novels) and ended up in a different place. A good place. Now I just love blogging for the connections, for the conversations, and the chance to express my thoughts and feelings.

    Thanks for sharing yours! Here are my


    MY WEEKLY UPDATES

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Thanks for adding your two cents! I didn’t realize we’d started in the same year :) Interesting, too, how your path shifted from purely marketing to loving the blogging and connecting itself. It’s a tough community to resist :)

  • Kristen M.

    Erin! Hey! I actually need to reevaluate why I blog. It’s definitely about the books but also about the community. I need to find ways to reengage and to build more excitement around my blog, both for myself and others. This is something I’ll probably be thinking about for the next couple of months.

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Hi! I hear you. I think sometimes, though, the “building excitement” is what gets me into trouble. More posts! More projects! More enthusiastic commenting on other people’s blogs so they come back and comment on mine! –> Burnout. There has to be a way to get that energy going without driving myself into the ground…

      I hope your thinking is fruitful :)

  • Ti Reed

    Burn out has been an ongoing thing this year with lots of bloggers. I feel like the ones who had it all together, had the most structure and all, are the ones that suffered the most. Therefore, I have no structure and seem to be okay. LOL.

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      It’s when I get all plan-based that I eventually start to lose it. That can be with a posting schedule, or with projects and challenges, or by forcing myself to keep up with X number of blogs on a daily basis. Must be careful! I think I’ll give the no structure approach a shot for a while :)

  • http://readingtheend.com/ Jenny @ Reading the End

    My core reason for blogging remains the book blogger community. I love the people in this community so much, and I’ve known a lot of them for years and years. It’s hard to imagine stepping away from that, even if I did have some alternate and bottomless source of book recommendations. :p

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      That’s definitely what I miss when I step away. It’s like I’ve stopped talking to my friends. Of course, I still haven’t figured out how to keep up with ALLLL the people I want to follow without spending every waking minute online…

      Also, when I’m not paying attention to book bloggers, I find it much easier to keep to my TBR-pile-only resolution. Though then I feel supremely uncool for not knowing about the latest releases…

  • Jackie Bailey

    Welcome back! I was about to say exactly what Jenny @ Reading the End said, but since she said it so well I’ll just nod in agreement and eagerly await your next post!

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Thanks, Jackie! And thanks for stopping by. It’s so nice to hear from people after being away — such a great community :)

  • http://imlostinbooks.blogspot.com/ Becca

    Amazing post and yay welcome back! I think breaks are good for the soul sometimes. I felt weird coming back but also I feel invigorated and refreshed. I hope you will find yourself the same!

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Thanks, Becca! I so missed writing about what I read and talking books with this awesome community. Actually, coming back feels just about the way you described it: a little weird, but also I’m excited and refreshed. And people are so welcoming, which helps :)

  • Care

    Welcome back! */*

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      Why thank you! :)

  • http://gilmoreguidetobooks.com/ Catherine

    My core reason is because I love reading and sharing reviews of the books I love but it’s easy to get caught up in the self-induced pressure of blogging. For awhile I had my reading and writing scheduled out a month in advance. Now, not so much. It’s hard to find a balance.

    • http://erinreads.com/ Erin K

      I’ve definitely scheduled myself way in advance, too. I found writing bad enough, but scheduling my reading really didn’t work for me. Similarly, there have been times when I’ve felt like I have to read faster! more! in order to get reviews up, which also takes the fun out of reading for me. I wonder why it’s so hard to find that elusive balance when it comes to reading/blogging?