Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Get Past a Blogger Slump

*This post isn't so much of an advice post as it is a meandering collection of my thoughts.

How to Get Past a Blogger Slump: What Happens When Blogging Becomes "Work?"


I started Alison Can Read almost two years ago. Since that time, I have posted over 600 blog entries. I put up 5-6 posts per week. I think I took one week off when I went on a cruise, but otherwise I scheduled posts when I was out of town. When I started blogging, I told myself that I would stop blogging as soon as it stopped being fun. I can say without hesitation that I love blogging today far more than when I began.

However...In the last few months, I feel like I'm slogging through my blog. It's not really a chore per se, but more like a job - an unpaid job, but a job nonetheless. I am incredibly fortunate to have grown into one of the larger YA book blogs. Along with the many benefits comes some obligations. For example, as the co-host of Follow Friday, I have my post up at 7 PM Pacific time every Thursday. Last Thursday, I was off doing my weekly mall/Barnes & Noble outing when I realized that I had forgotten to draft and schedule the post. So I cut my shopping trip short to get home in time to have the post up by 7. I could have let it go live an hour or two late, since Rachel's post would be there, but I know a lot of people count on a timely Follow Friday post (and to be honest, I count on it for gobs of blog traffic). It's funny...I didn't even mind leaving early, but it's an example of how my blog has become more than a hobby.

I can't really pinpoint what specific things that are holding back my enthusiasm for the blog. But I do know that I have a whole bunch of reviews I need to write (I like writing once I get started, but I have to force myself to get to it). I've been lazy about e-mails lately. I was out of town a lot the past few weeks so haven't been able to comment as much on the Follow Friday or IMM posts. I did more last weekend, but still not as much as I usually like to do. I also forgot to post a blog tour post yesterday until I was reminded. I was really irritated with myself about that, since I usually have a Google alert reminder for tour posts.

The easiest suggestion would be to take a break. Distance makes the heart grow fonder and stuff like that. But I do not consider than an option. Book blogging is a huge part of my identity now. I can't really think of many other hobbies in my life that I both loved and was really good at. There are four things that has made my blog what it is today: (1) Quality content; (2) Consistent content; (3) Strong presence in the community; (4) A boatload of work. If you want to excel at something, you have to put in the effort. It's not always going to be fun. But you have to push through the tedium and know that the pay off is out there. I feel like if I took a break, all of the good points of my blog would suffer and ultimately, I would be less happy.

Part of my current blog woes may be because I don't have a concrete goal for my blog right now. A few weeks ago, I hit 2,000 followers. Yay!! I know that it's a fairly meaningless number, but I've been working towards it ever since I hit 1,000 followers last May. Now that I've hit 2,000, what do I aim for? 3,000 would be nice, but it doesn't feel as important to me for whatever subconscious reason. It would be nice to make at least a tiny amount of money off the blog if I could do so in a non-obnoxious way. I also want to continue building relationships within the blogging community, with authors, and with publishers. But I don't have a giant target to aim for.

It helps to think about all the wonderful things that blogging has given me. The community is the best part. I've made "friends" who I've never met but feel as real as my local buds. I have a group of people who share my biggest passion. I've discovered so many books that I never would have known about, squealed with people about many wonderful novels, commiserated with my fellow bloggers about the disappointing stories. My love for the community is the reason that I spend so many hours each weekend commenting on FF and IMM posts. I wish I had time to comment on more people's review posts. I try to comment back to anyone who comments on my blog with large, but not perfect success. Unfortunately, I'm not able to spend as much time during the week commenting, so I try to at least visit through the weekend meme's.

Aside from the community, I enjoy reviewing books. I formulate sentences in my head about how I will review the book once I'm finished (many of which I forget by the time I write the review). I like writing. I'm a bit wordy, but I think my reviews are interesting and informative. Reviews are somewhat like exercise. I have to force myself to get started, but I always have fun once I get going. And of course, there's the benefit of free review books. "Free" is a loaded word though, since nothing is really free. I don't get nearly as many review books as many other bloggers, but I definitely do not lack for reading material. I am grateful for any review copies that I receive and just as grateful for my library and local bookstores.

Despite my current apathy, I plan on blogging for the long haul. I love having a purpose behind every book I read and a group of people to share it with. I just hope that I get beyond this slump quickly.

What keeps you motivated to blog?

How do you handle blog slumps?

Do you have any advice for a long term goal to shoot for?

25 comments:

  1. Hey Alison

    My blog is not as huge as yours but even I find myself thinking along similar lines at times. I enjoy blogging, but it takes up a huge chunk of time and is a big commitment. I keep on top of posts/reviews but don't get as much time to comment as I'd like.

    My long term goal is to keep building my blog and trying to structure my content in such a way that people know I am a writer as well as a reader. My blog has become too much about reviews and not enough about my own books, I fear. I need to find that balance.

    Perhaps a goal for you could be to find ways to help promote new authors more and to establish connections with better known writers and publishing companies?

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  2. My blog is still basically in it's baby stage and I even find myself struggling with a blogger slump lately. Takes a lot of work and dedication. What keeps me going? the amazing books I come by and the community (fellow book bloggers/authors) and I have a passion for books and I've learned so much through blogging.

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  3. Alison, you have a fantastic blog that a lot of people read because of it's content and because of you. You inspire and encourage community among book bloggers, and that is what I really love and appreciate about you.

    As I am only in my thrid month of book blogging, I haven't really hit a blogging slump yet. (But this past week when I only wrote one review I felt a little behind and kind of got onto myself a bit.) But I will say that I keep myself motivated to blog by keeping myself motivated to read. There are just so many books that I want to read, and reading keeps me motivated to continue blogging. Blogging has become an outlet for me to share the books I read (for better or worse) not only with my friends but to the community of book bloggers I have connected with. I like to add to the realm of opinions and thoughts about the books that are being read. But if that means I only get one review out in a week, then I only get that one book review published. But at least I am sharing my love (or dislike) of that book with others, and that is why I started blogging in the first place.

    So go back to why you started blogging in the first place and focus on that for a while. I think it'll make you happier and feel a little less stressed. =)

    And as for a long-term goal, I would tell you not to focus on the numbers (because girl, you got the number now! ;-) ). Find a way to make the time you spend blogging worth it for you, whether it be to allow some people to advertise on your blog to make a little bit of money, or pick a couple of blogs a week to focus on commenting on their reviews/building a blogbuddy relationship with. And maybe find some ways to help promote YA authors and their novels, especially because you are a big YA blog that many people read (though I have NO idea how you would do that).

    Just ultimately remember that you blog for yourself, not anyone else. And that your readers love reading your blog.

    Jennifer @ A Librarian's Library

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  4. This is a great post and I can relate totally! My Blog also just turned 2 and right now I can say I'm enthusiastic as ever to run the Blog. Last year, I was finishing my PhD and ...didn't have much time for community, replying to posts etc. I felt the blog was skipping away from me.

    Beginning of this year I made some changes, moving to WP; new layout and I have a new layout how to put my posts together. This makes so much fun, that I'm finally back on track!

    I look at my reviews now and despite the review itself I think the posts look cute.

    So, I changed a few things and so now I'm happy as ever and I agree with you Book Blogging is part of my identity! and .. it feels good!

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  5. Your blog has been around for a long time. I remember reading it way back when. I did a clean out of all the blogs I read to narrow my focus and yours is one of the ones that survived the cut.

    For me, I wasn't motivated to blog anymore. Many of the books I was reading were just not good to me, even though tons of people seemed to enjoy them. I just didn't feel enthusiastic about writing reviews anymore because (1)the length of the review had gotten longer. (2) the books I was reading were books that I didn't really like (3) I ran out of things to say and the things i did have to say have been said better than I could have said them. (lol, does even make sense? see what I mean. XD)

    I can understand your frustration and for me, the best option was to just step away and narrow my focus. That's my theme for this year is to narrow my focus. I decided that I just wanted to read for the fun of it because keeping a consistent schedule for reviewing books just took the joy out of reading just for reading's sake.

    But obviously taking a break isn't an option for you and that's good. (I tend to jump around from thing to thing as I get bored with them) Maybe you should narrow your focus to things that you really want to do. Maybe you want to do it all, then maybe just take the pressure of yourself that people won't kill you just because you missed a post.

    And as far as a new goal? I don't know. Maybe just staying as cool and as awesome as you already are. (or maybe moreso, I don't know if you can get anymore awesomer. =] )

    Do you have any advice for a long term goal to shoot for?

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  6. I just think of my blog as a commitment, and I feel bad if I give up on it. I don't feel terrible but I wanna give my readers (however many there are) a reason to be following.
    To get out of a slump I take a break, but I seem to be doing that a lot lately and it sucks.
    Maybe you should stick to a bare minimum of posts/content so if you post extra, you'd feel better that you're dedicating more :)

    Steph: Short & Sweet

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  7. In two weeks, my blog will also be 2 yrs old. At first, my focus was raising my numbers but I realized that I wasn't doing it so with the right intentions. I want readers who will stay, comment, or lurk because the info I provide is useful to them. I've noticed my numbers go up when I do a giveaway and I realized that those numbers will quickly disappear once the giveaway is over.

    When I started blogging, I had a void of not working in a library. Blogging was my outlet for doing reader's advisory and keeping current on reading trends. It helped me become a stronger writer, but now I view it as not a blog but a resource site for teachers, parents, and readers to learn about new authors, genres, etc. It's been rewarding but also a lot of work.

    As for advice, I think you need to figure out what you want your blog to be (just reviews? branch out to new features?). Sorry for the slump and I hope things get better. You're blog is great and I enjoy visiting it everyday!

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  8. I don't think I am qualified to answer that first question since you know I am currently taking a break from my blog which then answers the second question. I've been blogging for two years as well but haven't posted anywhere near the same amount as you or as consistently and I feel burned out, you're practically super girl to me if you're just starting to feel a slump coming on. My suggestion would be, since you don't want to take a break, to cut back on the amount of posts you do per week so you have more time to do other things not blog related or at least not blog posting related, that extra time you gain could be used reading other people's blogs and commenting on them since you wish that you could comment more on people's posts :) or you can spend it on other things you wish you had more time to do. OR (and this just occurred to me) you can get a co-contributor that way the workload is split up, and you can split it up anyway you want. It can be 50/50 or they can just make the occasional review post, or they can just be in charge of making sure posts are scheduled and you're on track, or be responsible for emails (like an assistant ;). Anyway you want it really.

    During my little vacation I am currently haunting my friend's media blog by posting book covers, music videos or reviewing movies and when I am not doing that I am reading books and constantly telling myself it's OK not to review the book if I don't WANT to (which I am finding very hard) and when I am not doing that I am wasting time looking at pictures on tumblr and deviant art or making graphics :). I do miss my blog very much, I haven't forgotten it, I've been thinking about the design and layout changes I've been wanting to do now that I have time to work them, I've been thinking about how I want to run it when I come back, what I want my blog to be about, what I want to target. I suppose I have been thinking of a goal for it as you've pointed out. I don't know what it is yet but I do know the number of followers I have isn't nearly as important as the number of comments, I don't care too much for review requests since I can't keep up with them and most of the ones I get don't interest me. I do however want to keep the ties I've made with other book bloggers, and want to keep being able to take the button and banner requests I receive for giveaways and such. I want to be able to make consistent posts and be influential in a little way :)

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  9. This seems to be a popular theme lately, and I know I can definitely relate.

    Personally, I've decided to back off of blogging a little. I participated in several weekly memes and I decided that the effort expended to pick up a couple new followers (this is after hours spent commenting on posts and linking back to my own) generally wasn't worth the time or energy.

    I decided to focus on creating better quality posts, over quantity, because I felt like I HAD to post something everyday to keep my followers engaged, and I'm starting to think that, for me, that's not the case. I'm down to about 2-3 posts a week, with one of those posts being a review, and it's a schedule that I'm much more comfortable with. I'm sure there will be weeks where I post a bunch, but I've decided to forgo scheduling posts because then it does start to feel like a job.

    You've accomplished a ton of things I'm striving for. I don't think I've ever seen a post by you that hasn't also had a ton of comments, and I would love to have that - an engaging discussion of something I'm passionate enough about to blog about. I don't know what you should aim for from here, but if you can be happy with what you're doing, then I'd keep doing that!

    As always, great post Alison!

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  10. I've definitely been in this place lately Alison! It seems like it happens to a lot of bloggers around the 2-year mark when some of the newness and everything has finally worn off and the pressure to keep up with reviews and posts is at its highest.

    For the first year and a half it was all meeting other bloggers, trying to establish publishing contacts, and really growing the blog traffic and follower numbers, but I've reached a point where I'm more content with the blog as it is and the drive to keep pushing is not as strong. I know if I take a break it will be really hard for me to come back, so lately I've been trying to get ahead on the blog so I can take a week or two every now and then and just read books I want to read and don't have to review. Once I get to read 4 or 5 books that I don't have to think about reviewing, I'm ready to pick up a review book again. For me, it's not so much about the review books themselves, I want to read every single one I have-like you though, I have to force myself to write the reviews. Once I get going I'm good, but it's definitely a job sometimes:)

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  11. One thing that really helps me is that I made it a policy to take the weekends "off" from blogging. In fact, I hardly get on the computer at all on the weekends. Sometimes it makes me a bit sad because I miss out on a lot of fun stuff like IMM, but it really helps my sanity to just step away from it all for two whole days, and just use the time to hang with family or for shopping or just relaxing with a book.

    When I get back to it on Mondays, I feel refreshed and ready to start the week. I (mostly) love that I have a pile of e-mails to respond to because it makes me feel important (ha)!

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  12. Something that REALLY helps me, Alison, is scheduling my posts ahead of time. I'm sure you probably do that when you can. Generally, Sundays are my "blog day," where I TRY to get all my posts for the week set up, so that I can check my Google Reader throughout the week without the added pressure of trying to check other's blogs as well as get a post up and running.

    My blog is turning one year old tomorrow, and it feels surreal and awesome. As far as a goal...I used to think I wanted 1, 000 followers. I'm hovering right at 700, and now I'm thinking that I want READERS more than followers. So I'm concentrating on doing everything I can to raise my percentage of returning readers, building relationships with my fellow bloggers, and with publishers. But I definitely agree with you, I've also had moments where I felt that I didn't really know where I wanted to take my blog.

    What has helped me stay motivated was cutting WAY back on memes...only doing 1 a week, with the occasional IMM or WoW, and shifting my focus to more reviews and discussion posts. I hit a BAD reading slump for about two weeks and I'm trying to find new books to read to push out of my comfort zone a little bit, to hopefully get back on track.

    I wish you lots and lots of luck, Alison. I sure do love your blog, and I know I'm not the only one. Here's to hoping blogging starts feeling a little less like a job and more like a fun hobby. :)

    Molli | Once Upon a Prologue

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  13. I love this post. It was well thought out and very thought-provoking. Blogging slumps are hard to get through. I've found that I have to be passionate about the topic I'm blogging about to keep up with it. And, I have to have the time to do it. So, even though I'm passionate about books and reading, I don't have the time to read that I want to so I don't have time to blog about books as much as I want to. It's one of the main reasons I've decided to take a different direction with my blog.

    I hope you will continue to blog because I love reading it. You do have great content and I love the discussion it creates.

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  14. I've been feeling sort of the same way! I was just thinking about it while typing in the URL for your blog, actually! What a coincidence! Well, not really the same, but I'm only twelve years old, and I have schoolwork, Chinese, flute, and I have a song and book blog, so it's definitely stressful when you get to think about it to balance all that stuff on a pretty little plate. I've only had my blog for half a year, though, and I love it to pieces because I love sharing my opinion with everybody and love the thrill of having somebody tell me that they love my blog and think that my review's really good.

    If I ever got into a slump, I'd probably shorten my posts for a while and only write reviews for the books that I really liked and just post maybe a short and concise review on Goodreads to share my opinion until I get motivated to blog fully again. My long term goal is probably a little different, since it's just keep blogging and loving it and include a lot more song posts on my blog.

    I hope that you get out of your slump soon, which you probably will! I love your blog and probably check it thirteen times a day! Anyway, I hope that you continue because you seem to be really passionate about books. If cutting down your posts for a few weeks or limiting the blog tours and books you take for review is what it takes, I'd do it because you're an awesome blogger and blogging shouldn't be work unless you don't really like books—but you obviously love them—or you're just overworking yourself. :)

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  15. 'I formulate sentences in my head about how I will review the book once I'm finished (many of which I forget by the time I write the review)'

    I do the exact same thing!

    I had a blogging break there for a while, and it really helped! I was going through a blogging slump and it was fab because I caught up on my TBR pile greatly! I think you should do the same! :)

    And about what you were saying about making a little bit of money off the blog, maybe you should try putting official ads on the sidebar.

    Great post!

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  16. Totally agree with you Alison. The bigger your blog gets the more work you have to do. I find myself slumping cause usually I have post up to a week ahead scheduled, not I am just a few days ahead. I find to help me get over the slump is to read a book I want to read rather than what I must review. I also take a break from blogging. Though you may see it cause I have post already schedule, but on my days off from work, I don't blog. I don't log on, don;t comment, etc. I just let myself rest with my family. And then when I go back to work, I got back to blogging.

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  17. Okay, first off, thanks for such an awesome post! I've only been blogging for about a year but I can definitely relate to what you're going through.

    What keeps me motivated to blog... I think most of the reason is just the amazing friends that I've made through blogging. I never expected to actually make that connection with people even though you hear about it all the time in the blogosphere but I've really made friends with a lot of people. It's great to have that common interest and I've found that bloggers (readers in general!) kind of rock. That's definitely a huge reason that I blog and something that actually keeps me wanting to do it. Hopefully I'm here for the long run because this has been so much fun so far!

    I've stepped away from my blog in the past when it's gotten too much to handle. It works for me when I have that distance to just take a breather and discover, hey, there are other things outside of blogging I can be doing! Of course, I'm always quick to return to my laptop but the brief break is nice ;) Then there's all this infectious excitement and enthusiasm in the blogosphere. Sometimes just reading a couple of posts from other blogs is enough to make me want to read, want to blog, want to review again.

    Again, thanks for such a great post! :) I hope you have a fantastic reading week.

    Sonia

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  18. You've been doing this longer than I've been, although I've been at it for 9 months now. I love blogging about books, as well. I haven't hit a blogger slump and I'm grateful for that. But, I do have trouble with what to blog about and putting up a lot of content. Should I just post about something every day, or wait for the quality ideas and blog a bit less?

    I decided on the latter, and so far, it's working out for me. My blog has grown even with a bit less posting. But, my posting is consistent. I want this to be fun, so when it becomes a chore, I know I'm doing something wrong. It nearly gets like that, but I'm good about fixing the problem before it gets out of hand.

    I love that my blog is MY place to talk and be heard, and no one else can out-voice me there. I have that problem in real life--it is the story of my life! But, not on my blog. What I say goes and it's very gratifying. Like you, I've made so many amazing bookish friends/authors. I feel blessed. I'm really happy I started doing this!

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  19. Such a great post because I'm kind of there, too. I'm nearing my two-year anniversary and have about 500 posts, which is very cool. I also have a great bunch of people who I trade comments with and love to visit their blogs but I do get slump-y, too. There's absolutely nothing wrong with taking some time off, even if it's just a day or a weekend or a week. Do it. Recharge. Refresh.

    I have to remind myself that this is a hobby. One I enjoy but a hobby nonetheless. I'm in charge. I read what I want, review what I want (though, of course, I do hope people respond and enjoy!). However, I'm not looking to be a big dog blogger. I'd like to be known as a blogger who writes consistently interesting reviews and loves books. My numbers aren't the highest (I'd say they're probably average) but I get a good # of comments and I'm happy with the status of my blog.

    Do what you have to do--we'll be here whether you decide to take a vacay or keep on keeping on! Love your blog!

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  20. It's true. No matter how small or large the blog, it's a lot of work. Sometimes I've found myself in a slump and sometimes working on it takes me away from other slumps in my life. I did make one rule for myself in January though. I wouldn't do anything that caused myself unnecessary stress. Anytime something's too much for me in my blogging or reading, I just stop doing it. For me, blogging is mostly an outlet. I love when people read it and comment. I really enjoy interacting with others about books, but I use my blog primarily to organize my thoughts on the books I read. I've really loved it most of the time since I started looking at it that way.

    I know it's not as easy when you're running a blog with a larger following. A lot of people expect your consistent content. That's just how I stay out of the blogging slump.

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  21. My blog has recently turned 1 and I love every bit of the blogging experience. Yes, it's hard work to keep up a standard I want to be proud of, but it is very rewarding. Looking back over the last year of blogging I have learned so much and met some amazing folks in the blogging community and the publishing industry.

    Having said that, I am also experiencing a bit of a slump. I'm not posting regularly and I feel like I'm letting myself and my readers down. Unfortunately the slump is partially due to events happening in the rest of my life and I hope once that all calms down again that I can come back better than ever! Hopefully my readers will still be around to read what I have to say when I do pull through it all.

    I hope that your slump works itself out Alison!

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  22. This is a great post, Alison! I've been through a few blogging slumps, but I have a ton of reviews that I scheduled in, just in case that happened. I think blogging and reading slumps go hand in hand for me -- I'll burn out from reading too much one week and then nothing catches my interest the next. I've been struggling with my blog lately after getting an assessment done which told me all the things I should do ... then I spend three days on the blog worried about stats and whatnot, only to remind myself that I started the blog for me and that's how it should remain.

    I love that blogging has connected me with other bloggers, authors, and publishers and I only hope that the more I do it, the more fun I have.

    I do a lot of pre-posting -- feature discussions get written at least 2-3 weeks before they're posted, other features I'm usually 2-3 weeks ahead on, and reviews are always there, though I know one day I'll catch up on myself and will post 2-3 reviews per week like a normal person!

    Anyway ... hope your slump works itself out! Over 2,000 followers is amazing! I only hope to reach that one day. :)

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  23. I haven't really got in a blogging slump but I have trouble getting everything done. My husband doesn't like me blogging cause he thinks its a giant waste of time (clearly he doesn't get it) so I don't work on it when he's home. But when hes not here the kids demand so much time.... its just hard. But I think a strong presence along with good, and constant, content is important. Its important to me anyway. So I manage. I just keep lots scheduled ahead.

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  24. To be honest, I go in and out of blogging slumps all the time. Though it's mainly related to schoolwork - I get overwhelmed sometimes with handling both responsibilities, blogging and school, and I end up completely rejecting blogging in these times. And then have a hard time getting back into the swing of blogging, even when I've only taken a week or so off. I'm like you, I have a hard time getting started on reviews (though write fine once I've started). Still, there's something that always keeps me coming back and wanting to blog: I still feel the excitement when it comes to planning out posts and reviews (I also can't stop myself from writing out the review in my head and don't think I ever will) and getting feedback. I love having a hobby to call my own (and I'm happy to work hard at it) and I'm quite proud to be a part of the book blogging community!

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  25. I'm pretty green in the blogging world. Trying to get my name out there really isn't a priority as much as just having fun chronicling my writing. At the moment I'm having trouble staying consistent due to some life changes and health problems. I have to say that you are an inspiration to me. I smile when I get my subscription in my inbox saying that you've posted or reviewed something.

    As it stands I've made two friends through book blogging and I love them both dearly. They're great girls and it's nice to have people that I can talk about books to that will give me honest opinions and not argue about how theirs is better. It's also nice seeing that they don't have the consistency problems that I do.

    I'm definitely at a reading high point at the moment. I've read about seven books in the course of a week and I'm still going. MY reviewing is suffering though because sometimes I'm scared to have a strong opinion, buut I'm getting to the point where, honestly, if you don't like my review then that's your perogative. I did this for me, to have a place to voice my thoughts. I'm not going to let anything change that.

    If you ever need ANYTHING or need to talk or just want to vent? My e-mail is always open: makeyoubec@gmail.com

    Remember that you're awesome and that you are soo much more than just a book blogger.

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