I’ve been mulling over Janssen’s blog post all week. If you haven’t already, please go read it.
What she talks about is something I think about a lot and something I think relates to blogging, as well as something that relates to reading and reacting to books. I’ve talked at length about how challenging it can be to blog, and how challenging it can be to review books. But what it all comes down to, I think, is that little word: authenticity. Blogging and thinking about reading are challenging because they require you to be authentic in how you approach what you’re thinking about and in how you say what you hope to say.
When your blog is your voice and that — in conjunction with Twitter and other social media — is how people get to know who you are and determine whether or not they care about your thoughts and how you present them, authenticity is all you have to bring to the table.
I think there is tremendous pressure to always be “on.” I remember even talking about one of the tips to being successful (however you measure that) with blogging is by always being on, even when you’re not on. Many bloggers I know and respect are just this way. Because what you’re passionate about is what you write about, you keep your eyes and ears aware of whatever’s going on, even if you’re not working on something. Because finding fodder can happen by chance. I find a lot of times my best thinking comes in those moments where I accidentally stumble upon something interesting or worth discussing, rather than when I seek it out (especially when it comes to things like writing book reviews for a blog tour). This is a big reason why I say no to a lot of opportunities that come — unless I’ve already read the book or am eager to read it, the chances of me finding a lot of fulfillment in meeting a review deadline are slim. It’s not the book’s fault. It’s not the blog’s fault. And it’s not my fault either. It’s just a matter of being authentic and true to what it is I want from my work blogging and reading.
As April pointed out and I keep returning back to, blogging isn’t a competition. We’re all doing our own things here. Just because another blogger has found success tackling one topic, that doesn’t mean I can’t tackle a similar topic here with my own spin. And vice versa. Likewise, I have no reason to worry about how many reviews I write and post per week or month. I blog the way I want to blog because that is being authentic. It’s being true and honest about myself and what I think, as well as how I want to express my thoughts on anything. Sometimes I read a slew of books in a row that don’t speak to me enough to merit a lengthy blog post or even a short blog post. Sometimes I purposely dig to find those books which aren’t getting much attention, both new and older books, in hopes of being able to talk them up a little bit.
Sometimes what I want to write about cuts across into deeper issues or things I’m thinking about. Things that as I write them, I find myself feeling incredibly vulnerable for putting it down and then putting it out there. What scares me is far less what the words say (because I wouldn’t write them if I weren’t being true and honest) but more about what the perception is thereafter. I don’t particularly worry about what people think of me as a person because I’ve reached a point in my life where if people don’t want to like me, so be it. But I do worry about what the perception is in those situations where people are interacting with me in another forum. Am I the same person elsewhere that I am here when I blog? Or when I find myself in a heated discussion on Twitter?
The only time I ever feel I’m not being myself is when I’m not being honest. Or when I’m not finding myself worrying and stressing out about little things like this. Where I’m not biting my nails about a blog post I have scheduled for this week that puts a lot of stuff out there about which I’m still working through intellectually myself.
This blog is my work. I make it that way because I love it being that way. But like any work, it comes with baggage, too. There’s a responsibility in knowing when I’m being authentic and when I’m not, and there’s a responsibility in knowing that some things will be worthwhile and others won’t be. There’s ups and downs, regrets and disappointments, and there’s plenty of good things, tangible and not. Even when it’s lonely work, there’s a community to call upon and one which totally gets what you’re going through. Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like the blogging world has been down lately. That there’s been a lot of feeling down and pressured and overwhelmed. That we’re all feeling a bit of a slump with reading, with writing, with sharing.
Because it is hard to be on all the time. Because it is impossible to be on all the time and be true to who you are and what you are getting out of this.
Authenticity is stepping back, evaluating where you are and what it is you’re pressuring yourself with, and making choices about how to proceed from there. And honestly? I’m having a hell of a time with it lately. I am exceedingly happy with what this blog is and what it is to me, but there are so many times I worry about whether it’s good enough, whether I’m doing enough or whether I’m doing too much or whether it’s becoming noise. It goes both ways. I worry about when I’m putting too much out there and when I’m not giving enough context. Because I want it clear where my thinking is and where it comes from. I want it clear what it is I am bringing myself.
I’m not the kind of person who feels in competition with others. I feel immense competition with myself. It’s one of those things I constantly wish I could push through — if I could let myself be off for a bit, would I feel better? If I quit worrying about whether I was being at my best all the time, would I feel better? If I chose to blog less during the week, would I drive myself crazy because I’m not producing as much? Or would I feel better because I’m letting myself have space? At what point would I be making things better or worse for myself?
I am the only person who has the ability to answer these questions. But figuring out the answers is tough because nothing is right and nothing is wrong. It is only what it is to me.