Friday, January 16, 2015

Fire Is Catching


No, this post isn't about The Hunger Games. So if that's why you clicked, I'm sorry. Please stay anyway, because I need to take a load off my chest. I need to talk about something that's been weighing on my mind ever since Stacey Jay opened up her Kickstarter and everything exploded. But I'm not here to rehash that. And I don't even know why I'm bothering with this post since Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner said everything I've been feeling and thinking and then some. She's been doing this for over five years, and I cannot imagine the changes she's seen and been a part of in this community. But since I haven't been around as long, I don't have as much input. I only have the knowledge that has come from being a part of this amazing, wonderful, and sometimes exasperating community for a little over two years. Sometimes I wish I'd have been doing this longer. I could have used book blogging my senior year of high school so badly. It was an awful, awful year of my life, and I wish I'd had this outlet. And sometimes I wonder what it'd feel like to have been blogging for as long as Jamie has and to have literally been a part of all the good and bad and inevitable changes that have happened in book blogging. But then I wonder: would I still be doing this if I had started back in 2010?

The answer? I don't know. And that kills me, to not have an answer. So many older bloggers are quitting, some are thinking of quitting, and some (like Jamie) I'm afraid we might lose in the next year if something doesn't change soon. And I don't want to lose any of their voices, because they are what I consider pillars of this community and have paved the way to make book blogging what it is now. I think everyone should read Jamie's post because it's eye-opening and true and needed to make people understand that something has to give. And going off of that, I really want to talk about my experiences and what it was like when I started blogging and now, after the first shit storm of 2015.

I started this blog in November of 2012, but it wasn't a book blog. I honestly don't know what made me create a blog, except that I wanted a creative outlet for my writing. Something cathartic for me to use when I felt like I didn't have many people in real life with whom I could talk about things. And then I started following book bloggers and I thought: yes, this is what I want to do. I changed my name in maybe December (The Fox's Hole) and I only posted a few reviews throughout the next five months. I don't even remember my posts from back then and honestly am scared of looking at them because they're probably terrible. So anyway, I didn't really start blogging about books seriously until May of 2013, which is when I created Part of that World (er, well, my friend came up with the name). After that, I barely stuck my nose even an inch into the community. I'm a shy person in real life, and this came through in my early blogging days. I don't even remember if I made any friends in that time, although I definitely visited and commented more often than I do now. And I didn't realize the amazingness that is Twitter and didn't use it that much and certainly not to connect with people as I do now.

I did a lot of blog tours and promo posts; I delved deep into the heart of self-publishing. But as much as I was finding new authors to love and fangirl over, I wasn't discovering bloggers or making friends. I don't think I made any "good" friends until this past summer. I know, right? That's kind of terrible, considering I had been a part of the community for over a year (still unsure whether I should count my non-book blog in November as my real blogoversary or not, but I don't think it matters except to me). But that's my pace. I'm shy, so incredibly shy and also not very open. Blogging has changed that for me and also given me a confidence that I didn't have before. Sure, I'm still too intimidated to tweet the "big" bloggers and hesitate to jump into conversations even if I have something to add. But I have made some incredible friends through this experience, and I wouldn't change that. Even if I could go back and start blogging in 2010, I wouldn't because I think the place I am at with this blog and this community is somewhere I'd never thought I'd even reach, let alone be happy with. But there are days when even the positive that comes from book blogging can't overshadow the negative.

I'll be the first to admit that I can be pretty quick to the negative. I'm not a happy go lucky person in real life, and I'm not an optimist. And I'm not going to censor my tweets or not complain when I want to, because Twitter is my safe space where I can rant and vent and just let stuff off my chest that are weighing me down. But I do have to remember that people read my tweets, and that I can hurt someone's feelings without ever knowing it.

That happened with Stacey Jay's Kickstarter. I know I wasn't going to talk about this, but I meant that as in that this post wasn't about that. And it's not. But to bring it around to the point I'm trying to make, this is inevitable. So, when she opened up the Kickstarter, I was part of the bloggers in the beginning who didn't like it. And, to some degree, I still don't care for the idea of it. But I am guilty of adding fuel to the fire. I am also guilty of essentially "subtweeting" instead of being upfront about my confusion. To be fair, I didn't think I was attacking the author or even being that negative. I was discussing the issue with a few friends, and I've come to the conclusion that next time I will use private messages (seriously, less pressure since you don't have to publicly state your opinion without fear of reprimand). But what makes me feel incredibly bad is that I judged too quickly. Whenever there is blogger drama, I tend to stay out of it (unless it was the Hale thing, in which I'm sorry but I couldn't keep my mouth shut). I listen and read tweets and silently disagree or agree. I never voice my opinions, especially not that early, so I don't know why in the world I did that with Stacey's Kickstarter. I'm not saying I totally regret my tweets. But I do regret that I made judgments before listening to both sides of the argument. Maybe it's the counselor in me, but I'm always able to see and understand both sides of an issue, even if I disagree with one of them. And to be honest, I've never used Kickstarter and have only seen it in action once, and so I didn't even know what it was about exactly. Anyway, after her first initial blog post, I felt really bad, more so after her final one (because one of the comments she was talking about was one of the ones that I had said, and inevitably she could have seen that from me because she was following me on Twitter). My point is that I've learned my lesson. I hope you don't think I'm a coward who can't handle voicing an opinion without wanting to retract it at the slightest bit of tension. That's not me. I don't voice my opinions often, but when I do, I believe them wholeheartedly and will not waver. But the thought of even contributing to Stacey's hurt feelings, to know that I added fuel to the fire, and to think that I could have been part of the reason for her tears, makes me feel like the shittiest person ever.

Sure, Twitter is my space and I have the right to rant about something I don't agree with. But I also have to remember that I don't always have to voice my opinion publicly, or even at all. I rarely do, and the only reason I jumped in was because I loved Stacey's books and so I was invested in what was going on because of that. If it had been an author I didn't care about, I wouldn't have said anything. But in essence, I am guilty of adding to this shit storm that came about because one author wanted to give her readers a sequel that they'd asked for and wanted.

However, I wasn't the only one who added to this. Fire is catching. And when something happens in this community and all hell breaks loose, it's so easy for sparks to ignite into full-on flames that eat away at the trust and friendships between bloggers and authors, and even among ourselves. I've never seen such tension in the two years I've been blogging, especially between authors and bloggers. I've never seen anything as bad as the Hale fiasco and this Kickstarter tornado. And we have to ask ourselves this: are the situations the problem or is it us?

I promise I'm not talking about any certain blogger! I promise I'm not bashing the bloggers who took a stand against the Kickstarter (I was one of them, at first). You have every right to disagree with it, just as Stacey has every right to be upset over this. But I've been thinking a lot since this happened, especially after reading other tweets and blog posts. I'm just wondering if the way that the negativity fire catches so fast is in part because of us and how we almost break Twitter every time something bad happens. A few tweets of ranting and venting aren't bad. But when you have a whole community (okay, not whole, unless we're talking about the Hale thing because seriously) responding that way, it just feeds off of each other. On Stacey's end, it probably felt like an onslaught, a freaking hurricane of negativity and hate and disappointment. I wouldn't be surprised if she'd stayed holed up in her house for weeks and crying, because I think I would have done just that. Actually, I probably would have quit right then and there. When I'm hurt, I retreat. And I would probably still be in retreat if I were her.

But I'm not. I'm one of the bloggers who contributed to all of this, and for that, I'm deeply sorry. And we may all have the right to our own opinions, but did it really have to go this far? The Hale situation was bad. So bad. But most all of us were in agreement on that. However, with this situation, it escalated into an awful, ugly mess of debate that should never have gone as far as it did. With the Hale situation, I followed it for days, stalked my Twitter feed, and even put out some heated tweets. But I, the downiest Debby in the history of Debby Downers, had to take breaks from Twitter during this Kickstarter thing. I had to retreat, and I wasn't even the one who was getting all of this backlash. I could not deal with all of the drama and negativity and the explosion of tension between everyone. I couldn't keep watching my timeline be filled with it (and again, I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus here because trust me, I can deal with the negativity, just not always). And honestly, I think this has also helped to contribute to the fact that I haven't written any new posts. 

It's times like these when I wonder if I should keep doing this, if it's worth it. I'm not going to quit, don't worry. But I'm not going to be doing this forever (and yes, that saddens me just as much, if not more, than you guys). And I don't want the time I have left to be brought down with the negativity and competition and stress and worry that comes with keeping up a blog and being a part of the community. You guys are wonderful and amazing and have given me something I never thought I could have. And I can never thank you enough for it. (Wow, I sound like I'm dying or saying goodbye or something). But I can't help but notice that the community has been deeply etched into the negative and drama lately. And what kills me is that there are so many people talking about quitting or saying that they don't know how much more of this they can take.

I hope I don't piss off or offend anyone. All I'm doing is trying to understand this and figure out what could be done to make this a more positive place, a safe space where people aren't afraid to share their opinions. I think so many of us keep them to ourselves because of all of this. Hell, it's why many authors tiptoe around us. They have to be so careful of how they say things in tweets. But even if you're careful, it's hard to convey what you really meant through a tweet or a blog post. Everyone takes it differently. And I think, when you have a bunch of people talking about the same thing, there are bound to be tones and tweets misread or taken out of context.

I didn't pay much attention my first year of blogging and I certainly didn't go on Twitter often, so I can't say how much it's really changed since then. But I can tell you that the beginning of 2014 was much better than the end. I can tell you that I've felt the negative as much, if not more, than the positive. No, I haven't been personally involved in any of the drama, and thankfully I've never had a bad experience working with an author. But this much negativity can affect anyone, even myself. And that's what I hate about all of this. I started my blog on a whim and it has since become a place that I escape into when reality is not so great. It's always been a positive experience for me. And lately all of what's happened has really affected me, more so than it should, more so than I should let it

I've been thinking a lot about change and how I can make my blog better. I want to keep this a safe space where people are free to share whatever they want without judgment. I want to be more positive, something I've been striving to do in real life in the last year. And that means that there are some things that need to change. Don't worry, I'll still be me. I'll still snark and fangirl in reviews. I'll still be the girl who writes really long discussion posts because I can't be concise to save my life. I'm disorganized and I go with the flow. I don't do schedules, and I certainly don't plan much on here. In fact, this post was very impromptu and I wasn't even sure I was going to publish it. I read a lot of self-published books, as well as traditional ones. I don't fit into a mold, and I'm not a marketing tool for publishers. I'm just a girl who wants to share her love of books with people who get it.

And I'm no longer going to stick my nose into all of the drama. In fact, I'm steering clear of it. Drama has never been something I like reading about, let alone watching unfold in real life. And like I said, blogging is a positive thing for me. Something that, no matter how sucky my life is, I can step away from reality and into this alternate world where my thoughts matter, sharing my feelings is okay, and people will be there to listen and encourage me when I'm down and out of sorts. I don't want to be dragged into the negative as I have this past year. Hannah @ So Obsessed With wrote this amazing post about change and positivity and building a better community. I think y'all should read it. I'm not saying you should change or stop voicing your opinions. No one wants you to suppress your voice. But for me personally, making some changes on here and in how I use social media will go a long way to creating a more positive space. And Lord knows I need that in my life.

I've stressed myself out over reviews, ARCs, and not managing my time better. I've been envious of others' blogs, content, and popularity. I've been insecure, uninspired, and tired. I've thought about quitting before. I've put myself in incredible blogging and reading slumps. And I've spent too much of my time seeking out those that bring the negativity.  So from now on, I'm striving to be more positive in all aspects of my life and making blogging more fun than it was when I started. Because when I let myself get tangled up in everything else going on, I lose myself and forget why I kept doing this when I told myself I should just give it up. And I don't want to give it up, because blogging has been everything. It's been a positive, amazing, and inspiring experience that has consistently made my life better. I don't want what's happening in this community to change or ruin that. Because fire is catching, and I no longer want to burn too.

12 comments:

  1. I was under the impression the friend of Jaime's who left, left because of all the book blitzes,.blasts and carnival barking of books and hyping and all the competition, one-upsmanship and back-stabbing that has grown from that atmosphere, not the Hale or Jay "stuff". Things like what happened to me the other day when I asked if some bloggers had read a certain book, and most of them acted cold and stand-offish about it because they automatically thought I was going to hype it to them. I genuinely wanted to know because it was a Netgalley Read Now with a two day achive date and I wanted to know if it was worth the trouble. It is also bloggers not wanting to help other bloggers because it might give them an edge. It's about people blasting and blitzing books they haven't even read! As far as the "drama" goes, no, I don't agree with the people who were name calling and the like, but as far as saying how we feel about a subject, that is what Twitter is all about! Saying you don't agree with something is not bullying! The problem with our "community" isn't a little drama now and then, it is the carnival barker, swamproot salesmen atmosphere, the a$$ kissing of bloggers who run big giveaways, and jealousy that is destroying it's integrity as a community.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I read on many blogs that the book blogging community used to be a much better place, I wouldn't know I wasn't there back then but one thing is for sure. There are still many-many awesome bloggers out there who doesn't blog to get ARCs or to profit in any other way, but because this is their passion. And even though this community has mistakes, I'm still proud to be part of such an amazing group of people.

    You might have made a mistake when you tweeted negatively about Stacey Jay but at the same time why should anyone blame you, or anyone else for that matter, when you weren't doing anything but stating your opinion? You know, realising that you may haven't done the best thing is great enough but admitting that you made a mistake so openly, doesn't only make you a fantastic blogger but surely a great person too.

    Finally, I just want to thank you for creating such a warm and welcoming place in the blogosphere where, I think all of us can express our opinion without being judged. Plus your discussion posts are the bestest. Completely honest and touching.

    I wish you the best luck in the future and STOP THINKING ABOUT QUITTING!

    ReplyDelete
  3. OK, first of all, I love the title of this feature "What does the fox say?" SO CLEVER!

    Now to your post, YES! Jaime's post and this post are spot on. I've only been blogging for a year and I have been overwhelmed by the number of times negative things have happened and how cliquey some bloggers can be. I feel like it's important to be informed (especially about the potentially dangerous stuff), but I agree with you. I want to enjoy blogging and I don't want to get caught in the fire.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!
    Emily @ Follow the Yellow Book Road

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think that part of the challenge with Twitter is that it's a mix of personal and professional. The personal aspect is what helped me develop relationships with bloggers and actually take "oh I really like what they write on their blog" to "oh my goodness this person is my friend." The personal aspect is also what makes Twitter a place to vent, share your thoughts, flail and just get it all out there. But it's also somewhat professional. People are promoting posts, interacting with authors, tagging publishers... all great things! But it can present a challenge. Because then you have personal reactions to "professional" things (like the Kickstarter) it all gets a little muddled. I don't think there's anything wrong with expressing an opinion. But the immediacy of Twitter means that sometimes things spin out of control, as you expressed. People are curious, start discussing, sometimes misinformation spreads, sometimes a few people take it too far, and often it's hard to reel it back in. I think the intention is usually from the right place - to ask a question or express a genuine, thoughtful opinion - but it can be hard when lots of people start chiming in. It can go from discussion to just noise and chaos. I loved your big point - it all feeds off each other! When you're fired up and need to vent, it's hard to pause and step back and ask, "Does this need to be said?" or "Do I have all the facts before I express this opinion?" I think opinions and criticism are a healthy, necessary part of life - but they're only really helpful if they come from a place of knowledge. With character limits and the fast-moving nature of Twitter, there are lots of problems that can result simply from not having enough details. And the desire to find out more info / "what's happening?!" type questions can then contribute to something accidentally getting out of control. It's so hard, even more so when you're talking about "professional" things and not just stuff like what happened on a TV show.

    I don't want people to feel like they can't share their opinion or express themselves. Like I said in my post, people putting on a mask or faking positivity wouldn't be the answer. But I do think it's good to have a filter, and I don't think having a filter doesn't means you're being fake. I'm glad you made this point - it's not about changing or silencing your voice. That would never be my recommendation! For me, it is about figuring out how I define my personal filter - what are the things that I want to share privately vs. publicly.

    I wish I knew what to do about some of the other things the first commenter mentioned - cliques, jealousy, competition, etc. Because I've noticed some of those things, and it's a bummer. But that was one reason I wanted to write my post - I can't police or "fix" those things. Even if I wish I could do more, all I really control is my own attitude and actions. All I know to do is to (hopefully) be the best version of myself and to find ways to mute some of the noise / negativity.

    I enjoyed reading this post, and I applaud you for writing about the way you re-examined your own tweets. Hindsight always offer a different perspective, and it can definitely be a helpful and informative one! I'm glad you offered your take on things - and thanks again for including a link to my post :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oops! Just realized I meant - "I don't think having a filter means you're being fake." Had an extra word in there haha! :)

      Delete
  5. I am someone who started blogging back in 2013, but didn't become a serious book blogger until round about... August. I haven't been here for many of the dramas. And yes, I do think because we let it blow up a lot, it does get bigger. I remember the Hale drama, and I remember not mentioning it on my blog (and generally staying out of it) but also being more wary about how I put my negative reviews and whether or not I should trust the people I am giving my address out to. The blogger world can be a lovely one, but it also can be a scary one too.

    Check out my review: http://olivia-savannah.blogspot.nl/2015/01/the-syrian-virgin-review.html

    ReplyDelete
  6. THIS IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL POST EVER because it is so well written and it's nicely done and Holly you are such a squish. I started blogging after you so I can't say much about the evolution of the blogging community, but as the comments say above (at least the first one), I think many bloggers left because book blogging has become way too competitive (ARC envy) and more focused on marketing rather than just talking about books. I remember the one reason I started a blog was because I wanted a place to talk and review books, but I didn't know there was a whole marketing thing to it as well. Oh well. I don't think I've done a good job at marketing anyways, so HAHA. And yeah. I feel like most drama starts because of a certain group of bloggers and a certain group of authors. I usually hear about drama through my friends, and we use gchat to talk privately about it. SO YEAH DEFINITELY UTILIZE GCHAT HOLLY. OUR GCHAT DOESN'T HAVE TO ONLY BE ABOUT BEA. :P :P I feel like I've also been super judgey about this Stacey Jay thing, but I really think it's unfair that she blames bloggers as a group, when it's really everyone that was discussing it. And plus I think discussing it is fine, I still don't think that Kickstarter was a good marketing technique, but I wouldn't have cared if it worked for her. I don't think anyone bullied her into taking it down or from leaving Twitter/YA/writing. So it's not fair to blame bloggers for that when she was the one that decided on her own.

    OK I AM DONE. UM THERE'S NOTHING MUCH TO SAY. BUT YES PRIVATELY DISCUSS IT I guess. Or just ignore the drama. AND THEN BUY VAL BOOKS. And uh, yes keep writing more posts because they're long and I love reading them and your writing is so beautiful I am jealous. If you publish a book I get dibs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree with this so much Val. I was re-reading Stacey's posts, and while I understand that she is hurt, it is incredibly unfair to blame an entire group of people. What about readers in general? What about other authors who were opposed to it (because I saw members of those groups disliking it as well). Basically, while I DO feel for Stacey's situation, and absolutely hate that someone would threaten her, I still think I, and anyone else, has a right to say they aren't a fan of a Kickstarter. (In fairness, I don't like most Kickstarters anyway. I think I have supported one, ever.)

      Delete
  7. This post should count as a book read on Goodreads ;) (Novella? Please know I am just messing around ;) )

    So. I have thoughts, of course, because I always do. I agree with you on some points, and I disagree on some points. I think there ARE moments in the book blogging community where things get heated. Without a doubt, and not just with these two "incidents". There is competition, and ARC envy, and who knows what else I miss on Twitter ;)

    I am going to try to give another perspective. I think I have mentioned this, but I used to write a personal blog, mostly about the kids, or my life, or just random stuff. I tried to delve into that community a bit, but my goodness, those bitches were AWFUL. No, not all of them, but people were 100% in it to earn money, free stuff, and followers. There was exactly zero loyalty, zero camaraderie, and it is what pushed me to stop. When I started book blogging, I fell in LOVE. Sure, with bookish stuff, but with this community. The book community, on it's WORST day, is far kinder and "together" than the mom blog community on it's best day. So I think I take some of this drama with a grain of salt, because at the end of the day, I know this community is amazing. (BOOM. I decided how I wanted to write my post! THANK YOU Holly!)

    As for the Kickstarter thing... I said I thought it was crap. I still do. I don't even know that I ever said it publicly (maybe in a tweet to you and Val? I don't remember), but I feel that way, and I will say it again. I never said a negative thing about Stacey as a person OR an author, but I don't think the KS was a good idea.

    And that is my point to the whole Twitter thing: If you want to say something about an IDEA, go right ahead! That is the POINT! We say we don't like books on Twitter all the time! Any author could see that. I'd feel sad that they were hurt, but it is my honest opinion, and that happens to be the game we signed up to play.

    But to attack someone on a personal level? NOPE. Not okay. In my opinion, this is how it breaks down:
    -"I think that KS is a bad idea, and there will likely be unhappy readers." "I didn't like the book because of X,Y, and Z"= GOOD
    -"That author is stupid/ugly/bad at writing/whatever else"= BAD.

    Basically, there will always be elements of the book community that are business-like, because it IS, after all, a business. But we are the ones who must live with how we conduct ourselves at the end of the day. So if that means you don't wish to publically express some of your thoughts, then that is 100% what you should do!

    Great post, Holly! I hope this helped you to sort out some of your feelings :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Also, you are never, ever allowed to quit. Thanks.

      Delete
  8. It's great that you've decided that you don't want to approach things negatively, but I do think you're allowed to have opinion, as long as you're not hurtful about it. I know this can sometimes be a fine line, though. And it's really hard not to read someone's post about something they don't like and then think, "Wait, do I do that?" I tend to second-guess myself like that a lot! We all live and learn, so I'm glad you came out of this feeling like you know better how to handle a situation like this in the future!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    ReplyDelete

Comments always make me smile. :) Seriously. Even if you comment on the post weeks or months later, it makes my day! So don't hesitate to leave your thoughts even if it's been a long time since the post was published. I'll try to reply to you, especially if you ask a question, but sometimes life happens. But I do read and appreciate every single one of them because I know how hard it can be to find the time or energy to comment. So a heartfelt THANK YOU for brightening my day when you do. <3