BBAW: Beating Burnout

BBAWToday’s BBAW prompt is “One of the unfortunate side effects of reading and blogging like rockstars seems to be a tendency toward burnout. How do you keep things fresh on your blog and in your reading?”

Teresa: I’ve been blogging for almost eight years, without a break that’s longer than a week or two, yet burnout has never been much of an issue for me. Why is that? Limits. I know my limits and live within them.

Yesterday, I noted that I don’t follow as many blogs as I’d like or participate in high-commitment events. I used to be more active in that way, but as soon as it stopped being fun and started being overwhelming, I rethought my approach. It’s the same with accepting review copies. I don’t accept many, and I make no promises when I do. It took a while to figure out what works for me—and what works has shifted over the years—but I feel no guilt for only doing what I can do. (OK, a little guilt when I don’t comment on others’ blogs as much as I’d like to, but I try to tamp that down.) It helps, too, to have a co-blogger, so I know that if I step away for a longer period than usual, the blog won’t go silent—although if it does, it’s no big deal!

We also don’t self-host, although we’ve talked about it, partly because I thought I could learn some things that might be useful in my work. But I know that spending a lot of time on getting the blog to look just so and having to fix things that go wrong could end up taking more time than I wanted to spend. So we’ve stuck with a simple layout on free WordPress and only made a couple of major design updates in the last eight years. And it has been fine.

The other way I avoid burnout? By not giving a hoot about keeping things “fresh.” At heart, this blog is and always has been a reading journal. I sometimes see bloggers talking about how they need to vary things, to get beyond just reviews. Phooey on that, I say! Reviews are what I like to write, so that’s what I write. They aren’t always formal reviews. Sometimes I have no idea what I’m going to say when I start. Sometimes I get into personal connections, and sometimes I dwell on some minor aspect of the book. Flannery O’Connor is often quoted as saying, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” That’s why I write book reviews—because writing reviews is how I figure out what I think. The fact that I’m making my book journal public just brings the benefit of hearing others’ thoughts and thus enhancing my own views.

That’s not to say that other bloggers need to take my approach. If changing things up helps you avoid burnout, then change things up! It’s just not necessary for everyone. And it’s not as if I’ve never changed things up. One big change I made a few years ago was stopping writing weekly topical posts. Those were some of our most commented and read posts, but I got bored with them. So I quit. And I’ve had no regrets. I blog for myself, and I think that’s the real key to avoiding burnout.

Jenny: Teresa has said everything I wanted to say (especially “phooey.”) I’ve never felt burned out, because I only write what I want to write. I only wish I had more time for both the reading and the writing! I will say, too, that I find that our commenters and the community of bloggers help keep it fresh for me, with lots of great recommendations. There are always other books coming along, so there’s always something new to write about!

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26 Responses to BBAW: Beating Burnout

  1. I agree with so much of this! Because I am only reading the books I own, I’m quite grateful not to be caught up in having to read and review all the latest books.

    • Teresa says:

      I admit to getting caught up in reviewing the latest books sometimes, but it’s almost always because that’s what I’m wanting to read at the moment, not because I have to.

  2. Lisa says:

    I agree with so much of it! I wonder sometimes about “keeping things fresh” – but my blog is essentially a place to express my thoughts on what I’m reading (which functions as a book journal too). And the not committing to too much has been crucial for me.

  3. Naomi says:

    I love what you say about the need to get beyond reviews. Talking about the books I read is the reason I started blogging, and as long as I am reading and have something to say, then that will be the main content of my blog. I love that quote from Flannery O’Connor – I often feel the same way.
    I also agree with less ARCs accpeted, less stress. Because my main focus is CanLit, I don’t have a lot of books for review coming in, so most of the time I can read where my mood takes me.

    • Teresa says:

      I feel like with a review blog as long as I’m reading, I’ll always have content! And I have actually changed my mind about a book as I’m writing a post. Reflecting on my reading and working out my thoughts in writing has become an essential part of reading for me. A book doesn’t feel done until I’ve written about it.

      • lailaarch says:

        Oooh, I like that, Teresa – “a book doesn’t feel done until I’ve written about it.” That strikes a chord with me. I feel like something’s missing when I’ve finished reading a book but not yet written about it.

      • Teresa says:

        Writing has become an essential part of reading for me. (It’s also why I write reviews quickly after finishing–so I can move on to the next.)

  4. I like writing reviews and about books too! I think I could be a little more creative with posting formats — for instance, doing the Not a Dumb American series has been super fun. But in general, I also like to keep my blog as a reading journal. And I’m glad you do as well, friends! Y’all have given me many, many excellent recommendations.

  5. PHOOEY! Aw man, I feel WAY more stressed trying to shake things up and be creative than I do just chatting about books. When it feels like too much, I try to get back to that.

  6. priscilla says:

    “That’s why I write book reviews—because writing reviews is how I figure out what I think.” Smart. Simple. That’s why I’ve been reading your posts all these years.

  7. Stefanie says:

    “I blog for myself, and I think that’s the real key to avoiding burnout.” Yes! I love comments don’t get me wrong and I love all the interaction that goes along with it, but even if I didn’t get any comments I’d still keep going because, like you, writing reviews helps me figure out what I think :)

    • Teresa says:

      I do wonder if I’d keep it up if the comments dried up entirely. I think I’d want to do something, even if just bullet points on paper.

      And I truly think you’re one of the best testaments out there to how blogging your own way is the key to longevity. I can’t think of anyone who’s been blogging as consistently and as long as you have. And your posts remain fun to read because your interest in what you’re writing shows.

      • Agreed on Stefanie and like what you and Jenny said here. While I don’t do book reviews on my blog, I respect and admire those of you who continue to do so and so unabashedly. And your use of the quote from Flannery O’Connor is perfect. In case you were wondering. ;)

      • Stefanie says:

        Golly, you’re making me blush! I must say I always find such inspiration in other blogs in how to write about books but also the passion and energy makes keeps me excited and interested in my own undertaking. And you, of course, are part of that :)

  8. Literary Feline says:

    I love what you said about it being okay to stick to reviews. It goes along with my feeling that blogging the way you want, what works best for you, is the way to go. And I know what you mean about keeping up with comments. I don’t comment on every blog I read as much as I might want to. I do what I can and try to be happy with that.

    • Teresa says:

      I find it fascinating that the conventional wisdom about burnout is often to shake things up and try something different when that’s exactly what I don’t want to do. I know that it works for lots of people, and that’s great, but it causes me more stress.

  9. Kay says:

    Your blog belongs to you. It’s your blog. That’s the whole deal. We just all have to come to that place or I think things often go wrong. :-)

  10. Rebecca says:

    I confess that I don’t often branch beyond review posts either, and I don’t read very many non-review posts either. I used to read more books coverage in the paper or magazines but now I rely on other blogs. I want to know about a book before I go browsing at a bookstore or library.

    • Teresa says:

      I read lots of different kinds of posts, but the blogs I read most tend to have reviews (or review-like) posts pretty regularly. And it’s rare now for me to pick up a book that I haven’t heard about through a blogger.

  11. florinda3rs says:

    My blog started as a reading journal, and one way or another, it always comes back to that. And if you’re happy with your blog fundamentally being exactly that, then you’re doing what works for you…and probably at very low risk for burnout. Yay!

    • Teresa says:

      I really think doing what makes you happy reduces the risk of burnout–or is a good cure for it when it comes. It’s not always easy to figure out what makes you happiest, but when you do, it’s the best way to blog!

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