Armchair BEA Day 5: Blogging about Blogging

Today is Day 5 of The Armchair BEA. I’m a little late posting today because I was doing a book tour and did not want to post competing content. But it is the end of the day, and I thought it was safe to post now.

The Book Blogger Convention is happening in NYC today, and so the Armchair BEA organizers have asked those of us at home to share something about blogging. I decided to talk about finding the balance between blogging and one’s personal life.

Last year when I was at the BEA, I was a little astonished that authors and publishers did not understand that the vast majority of book bloggers actually have a life away from their blogs (I wondered if they pictured us sitting in a dark basement, glued to our computers, pounding out our reviews in between reading 3 books a day). The truth is, most bloggers have very full, rich lives which include families, pets, jobs, hobbies, and travel. Learning to balance all of those “real life” things with the time spent keeping up our blogs can be a challenge.

I will readily admit that I sometimes find the balance in my life seriously out of whack. Sometimes I wonder what I was thinking when I committed to five (or more) review books in one month. One night I found myself up at midnight, after working a ten hour day, trying to craft a coherent review for a book tour. So, finding that perfect balance is not always easy.

But, after five years of book blogging, I am starting to develop some general guidelines which help keep me sane and remind me that there is a  life far removed from my blog which I need to enjoy.

Keeping a Reading Schedule

This is really simple. I have a loose leaf notebook organized by month. I list books by title under the month that I either committed to reading them, or when I hope to get to them. This gives me a visual reminder of how many books are in my TBR pile each month. I *star* the books that I MUST read that month or if they are due to be read by a certain date (example: book club reads, book tour reads, etc…).The idea behind my binder is to give me a reality check. I honestly cannot read more than 8-10 books a month, so if I get tempted to commit to another book review and I already have 8 MUST reads on my list, it is that much easier to just say “no.”

Pre-Writing Posts

When I have extra time, or if I just feel like writing, I create posts for a “rainy day.” Sometimes I create a post with a title and jot a few notes on it that will remind me of my posting idea. Other times, I craft whole posts and save them. For Mailbox Monday, I start a draft each week and as books arrive, I add to my draft so that on Monday it is ready to go.

Shutting off the Computer

Yup, sometimes I do this. I completely power down. Doing this keeps me from constantly checking email or Facebook. It allows me to spend time with my husband and animals without the ghostly glow of a computer screen intruding.

Limiting my Social Networks

There are hundreds of social networking sites. It is very tempting to open accounts all over the place…and I did that initially. But, now I am very, very selective about the sites I am on. I love Library Thing, and I do have a Facebook account (although I try to keep my “friends” manageable by only adding those people who are truly friends – not just followers of my blog). I have a Twitter account, but I rarely go on there and only opened it because several publicists asked me to tweet reviews. Other than that, I don’t do a whole lot of social networking. That is one area of blogging that can eat up HUGE amounts of time that could be spent on doing other things.

Google Reader

Oh, my…this is a huge time-suck. Lately I have been trying to delete some of the blogs I follow – blogs that are not really active any more, or ones that I find myself marking “all read” more often then reading them. I used to feel like I had to read every single post. Now, I skim. Sometimes I just mark them all read and start over. I no longer feel like I have to comment on every single post – I comment when I really have something to say. This is probably the hardest thing about blogging to balance – and I am still working on finding the right balance between connecting with other bloggers and feeling completely overwhelmed.

Finally, Just Say No

No one can do it all. I certainly can’t. And it is okay to admit that. Sometimes I just am forced to prioritize and let things go. Sometimes I just have to say “no, I can’t do that.” I have learned that it is more important to focus on my family, my crafts, my “down time” from work, and say no to some of the temptations in the blogging world. Too much digital content can start to feel like overload. So sometimes I say no. I bake a loaf of bread, or work on a quilt, or take a walk, or simply sit and read a book that I want to read (not one that is scheduled). It is good for the soul…and ultimately good for my blog.

How about you? How do you balance blogging with real life?

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    • Nise' on May 27, 2011 at 17:55

    Keeping a notebook or calendar is a great idea that I utilize as well. I try not to accept more than 4 books a month. It makes for hard choices, but the stress is not there to get the books read. I am getting offline to bake some cookies ;o)

  1. I love your idea of keeping a binder for all of your reading and reviewing commitments. That’s something I might try. Balance is a challenge-my work as a teacher places extreme demands on my time periodically (beginning and end of the year or the grading period). I also have to do a fair amount of reading for my work (materials I’m going to teach, professional development, essays). Sometimes there just isn’t time for it all! Thanks for sharing the way you manage all the demands.

    • Lena on May 27, 2011 at 19:13

    Great tips. I like the idea of a rainy day post. I try to schedule my post in advance when I have time which frees up more free time for me and my family time. I do several off blogger sites like goodreads, which is very useful for networking. I do Fb and Twitter as well. But I limit it to weekends or when I really bored or have time. But I think it is good to get off Blogger sometimes and branch out to see what other readers think or what they are reading because not everyone visits blogs or owns one. Great tips. I really need to use your tip about the Google Reader and just mark as read and move on without feeling guilty or obligated.

  2. Love your tips. I also keep a notebook for my books otherwise I’d be all over the place. I also enjoy the fine art of just saying “no”! ;O)

    • Lori L on May 28, 2011 at 07:36

    Thank you for sharing your very timely list of helpful tips. Even those of us who have been blogging for years can certainly use them or need a reminder that it is okay for us to have a real life. We can just mark blogs as read if we don’t really have time for that long session with Google reader. The reading schedule is a great suggestion. It’s always nice to read validation from another blogger that blogging is suppose to be enjoyed rather than simply another chore that adds more stress during a busy work week.

  3. Hallelujah! What a wonderful list. I had just been sitting here mentally composing a Sunday post thinking I’d like to solicit ideas for controlling the uncontrollable, when a stroll through the Google reader brought this wonderful post. I’m going to link to you in my post. I agree that social networking can really sap the time – even on LibraryThing I’ve made myself look only at those threads that are apt to contain something substantive. You can spend hours just saying Hi and waving. Too many good books, too many beautiful days to walk (although one can listen to an audio book while one walks!) and too little precious time with loved ones. Thanks for a coherent and cogent list.

  4. I definitely had to step back from the blog a bit and find some balance and the biggest thing for me was not to write posts just to put something up. Instead I now post when I have a review or thought ready. If that’s only once a week, I’m okay with that. If it’s a full week like this one, that’s alright too. It will all balance out in the end to give me time for life but also let me enjoy my blog.

    And saying “no” was definitely one of the hardest things for me to learn!

    • Kathleen on May 28, 2011 at 13:43

    These are some great tips for striking a balance between blogging and everyday life. I struggle at times since I want to read and comment on everything and I just can’t. If I did, I would never have any time to read!

  5. I think balance is a real challenge for everyone. I used to feel great guilt whenever I had to mark all as read, but I got over that last year when my dad’s health declined. I keep a calendar with commitments but like the idea of a binder.

    • Wendy on May 30, 2011 at 15:33

    Nise: Sounds like you are more restrained than I have been – but I need to try to limit my acceptances!!!

    Lisa: I have no idea how teachers and people who bring work home have time to do the reading/reviewing thing on blogs! I admire that. Glad some of what I shared was helpful!

    Lena: Thanks for stopping by – I love seeing what works for other bloggers!

    Pam: The art of saying “no” – yup, it works if you can pull it off!! 🙂

    Lori: I think it has gotten harder and harder to remember that this is supposed to stay fun – there are so many blogs now, and so many “free” books…finding that balance is really hard!

    Tina B.: Thank you for making my day! *smiles* And thank for the link love as well. I do think we all need to remind each other that there is life away from the computer!!

    Kristen: I totally agree. I have no rules about how often to post – I post when I have a review, or something I really want to share…

    Kathleen: I am probably one of the worst bloggers for leaving comments – it can just get so overwhelming…although I go through spurts when I leave a lot, then nothing for awhile!

    Kathy: *nods* When family health becomes an issue, I think it helps to put what is really important in perspective.

    • Trish on June 5, 2011 at 12:24

    Such great great tips Wendy! For me the hardest part is shutting down the computer (well, have gotten much better about it the past year) and marking all read. Problem is I can find something to say about everything and usually want to! But just have to draw the line somewhere. Good for you for staying off twitter. It can be a lot of fun but it is a huge timesuck! 😉

    • Wendy on June 6, 2011 at 09:49

    Trish: I think unplugging is probably a huge challenge for most of us!

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