Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Reflection on the Past Year of Blogging

When I celebrate my blogoversary, I always like to do a small reflection on the past year of my blogging journey. So that I can see just how far I've come and how much I've done. And I always hope that, by doing so, it keeps reminding me of all the good things that have come out of this passion. Because sometimes I definitely need those reminders, when I'm not at my best and feeling like a failure. When I let myself lose sight of why I do this. But I'm happy to announce, that for Year 4, those negative feelings have not been nearly as loud or as often as they have been in previous years. 

In August of 2015, I was ready to quit. I'm not ashamed to admit this. I was having a very difficult year, and there was much going on in my personal life (and still is) that my blog suffered because of it. And the summer was so very terrible that by the end of it, I could not see beyond all the bad. So, I took a break. A really long break to recover from health problems and figure out where the hell my 3rd year of blogging went wrong. After much time, I knew I didn't want to actually quit. But I did want to find my passion again and make blogging fun, when it hadn't been for so long. And by the time my 3rd blogoversary celebration came along, I was already feeling so much more positive about all of it and ready to make my 4th year even better.

I'm so happy to say that my 4th year WAS even better than my 3rd. I'd even go so far as to say it was the best year I've had in blogging. In numbers and with myself. There are still times where I'm insecure about this, and where I feel like I'm not even sure what the point is in continuing to blog. There have been a few instances in 2016 that have made me feel like complete shit as a blogger. Instances where I've questioned my own value and worth in the publishing world. Instances where I've learned that not everyone thinks bloggers have value, that they don't deserve to be part of conferences such as BEA and ALA. I'm not going to get into the BE situation. But I do want to talk about what it means to have had those doors open to me, as just a blogger

I didn't have any expectations about being a book blogger when I came into this. I'd seen a few blogs, remembered how I had no one to talk to about books IRL, and thought: hey, this looks fun, I'll start one too! I knew nothing about how publishing worked, certainly not ARCs. I've learned SO MUCH, so much that I'm thankful I'm aware of before I become an author. Especially in regards to social issues that I'm more conscious of as I write. But as of right now, I'm not a part of publishing in any sense of the word. I'm not a librarian or a bookseller, even though either one of those would be a DREAM job. And I'm definitely not an author yet; you kind of have to finish writing a book to be one. ;) So to be invited to not only BEA, but to a publisher party specifically for bloggers, it's been an honor. I've enjoyed my two years at BEA, and how many authors and bloggers and publicists I've met. It makes me feel like I'm actually a PART of this world. It makes me feel valuable. That what I say and what I do matters. I can't even begin to describe how wonderful it is, and I hate it when the negative outshines the positive.

I can't always see that value, especially when I'm feeling insecure about my stats and comparing myself to others. I still do this way too much, tbh. It's HARD when numbers are the only concrete way of measuring success. And it's hard when you see others being given all these opportunities and receiving ARCs or promo packages you'd love to have. It's hard when publishers make the competition feel even bigger and worse, and you feel like you have to keep doing more and be louder just to be seen. That you have to constantly be at the top of your game with content and ideas. That you have to be consistently social and interactive and always in the present on Twitter. It's so hard when this feels like it's not worth the stress and pressure, this need to be more. But for me, you know what? My blog has GROWN in the past year so much more than I ever thought was possible that I feel really good where I'm at.

I couldn't say that in 2015, so the fact that I can say that now feels AMAZING. But it wasn't until I was rereading my 3rd blogoversary celebration posts that I realized just how much my little blog had grown. If we want to talk and look at just the numbers, it's been a successful year. All my numbers (save for comments) have gone up. I *almost* hit all of the number goals I had made last year, woo! I do receive a lot less comments on posts than I have in the past, which I know is both because I've been absolutely terrible at commenting back, and because it has seemed to be down in the community. I think it's just a lot easier to interact with people on social media, and respond to posts there. I don't feel so insecure about having less interaction on my blog as much anymore, but I do feel bad it took me a long time to get back into commenting because I've missed it. And a big part of my upcoming 5th year of blogging is going to be spent on making time for others' blogs and posts! What's funny is that my views haven't gone down. In fact, they've risen. And when I was comparing stats from last year and this year, my growth went from 80,000 something views to 200,000!! omg, it's pretty cool and it's awesome to know that people are still reading my blog. <3

And as for my New Year's resolution of being more positive, I've done a whole lot better with negativity this year. Like I said above, I'm not as insecure about the blog after such a great year, and my own passion for it again. Not only that, but I've found the fun in it after so long without it, and I've enjoyed doing a lot for ME than for others. I've had a better balance in the books I read, and I don't force reviews if I just don't have much to say about a book. I DNF or say I'm not interested in a book without feeling guilt. And I've taken on very few promotional posts and publisher-oriented ones so that I've been able to control all of my content. I do what I want. ;) And even with that attitude, I've made contacts with publishers! I was so nervous I never would given how long it took me to request physical ARCs and how many bloggers who had started around the same time as me or later seemed to have great relationships with publicists. But over the course of the year, I've received some amazing opportunities and ARCs, and I've gained contacts with a few publishers. I've been invited for some fun promotional gigs. Not to mention, Macmillan's Happy Hour!! It's been so INCREDIBLE. I can't wait to see what Year 5 brings in this regard. :D

I've been less social on Twitter, but it's been good to spend time away from social media for me. And I've been cultivating friendships over the past year, as well as making a few new ones. I have a close group of friends I love and who I can't imagine living without, and I generally just have a lot of fun chatting every so often with even more people on Twitter. And I've gotten REALLY good at not dwelling on the negative here. I obviously keep myself informed of what's going on, but I don't seek it out as much as I used to, which is deeeefinitely a good thing for myself. I mean, part of the reason I was so ready to quit in 2015 was because I couldn't see beyond the negative. I couldn't find even one reason why I should continue blogging. But I'm so fucking happy I did, because the past year of it reminded me exactly why this has been the best decision I've ever made.

Insecurity is normal, you know? And so is comparing yourself to others. But I'm so fucking done doing that. There are some publishers I may *never* work with. There are some publicists I may never work. And there are some bloggers I may never become friends with or even like. But none of that overshadows all the good and positive that has come out of this experience. The friends I've made. The opportunities I've been given. The social issues my eyes have been opened to loud and clear. The things I've learned about myself, and about others in my life. The better writer I am because of all of those who fight every day to be seen and heard in books. The blog that has given me a safe place to land in rocky times. The past four years of a journey that is NOT going to end anytime soon. The Fox's Hideaway is here to stay, and so am I.

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