Today’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!