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Random Thoughts: What Motivates You?

If you’ve been blogging for any length of time, on a consistent basis, you probably have discovered that it takes more than just a love of books to keep going day after day. This stuff isn’t easy. Whether you have work or school or family or friends, or a combination of any or all of them, there are things in your real life that demand your time.

But if you’re serious about blogging about books, you have to push yourself to make that time each day, or if not daily, then a few times a week. And that’s just the blogging part. The part where you sit down in front of your computer, ignore Twitter, ignore your email, ignore the shows piling up on your DVR in order to come up with something to say on your blogs. Something to make readers want to visit, to comment and possibly to come back another day.

There’s also the reading part. And as book bloggers, that’s probably our favorite part. We wouldn’t be blogging about books if we didn’t love reading them in the first place. But even as book lovers we don’t always want to be reading. Or we don’t always want to be reading the book that’s staring at us from the top of our reading piles. Sometimes we might want to sneak one in from somewhere in the middle of the pile. And sometimes we just want to go off pile completely. Book lovers can be rebels too.

Getting lost in a book is a wonderful thing, but sometimes we don’t want life passing us by as we’re buried in a fictional world. Every so often we might want to be out there doing and living, seeing and experiencing.

Once again, though, blogging is not only about creating posts and reading books. Well, let me rephrase, for many of us it isn’t only about reading and posting. There are book bloggers who are simply in it for reading and posting and calling it a day.

For others, like me, there’s a component of our day that needs to be spent marketing our blogs. While the term “marketing” makes this sound like a business – and we all know that there are very few, if any, of us that get paid – it really is the most appropriate term to use to describe what we do.

We spend time getting the word out that we have a blog, that we might have something on our blog worth reading, seeing, or stopping by for. We spread that message across the social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google +. We post our reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, LibraryThing. We visit other blogs and leave comments in part just because we want to, but being social and leaving our name around the blogosphere helps to get us noticed where otherwise we might not be.

So, it’s not just simply a matter of waking up in the morning, grabbing a coffee before we head out for the day and spending a few minutes writing up a review – and oh how I envy those that can write their reviews quickly – hitting “publish” and walking away. Not if we want our blogs to become successful. There’s real work involved.

We have to make connections, network, develop relationships with other bloggers, authors and publishers. We have to get our name out there. And while the core of all of this may be because we love books, that love of books isn’t typically enough of a motivational factor for us to put in the amount of time, effort and money it takes to keep our blogs going.

So, before we even get to that point where we’re just about to hit the wall, burn out or think about giving up, we should have a clear idea of what motivates us to do all of this.

It’s important to know why we are doing this in the first place. The real reason. Not the one we may tell everyone else, but the one we tell ourselves. Because without something to drive us to do this day after day, even when life gets in the way, even when we’re not in the mood or even when the burden seems like it may be too much, the scales will tip, we will hit that wall and we will decide that it’s just not worth it.

So, if you’re not sure what your motivation is, or if it changed from when you first started doing this – I know it changed for me – you may want to take a few moments to think about what motivates you so you have that answer in mind for those times when it all seems so stressful.

Do you have a goal in mind or did you start blogging just for fun? Is it still just for fun or has that changed? What do you hope to accomplish by doing all of this? Is it to get your foot in the door in the hopes of someday become a writer? Is this a stepping stone for a career in the publishing industry? Are you testing the waters to see if you might one day want to become a paid reviewer?

If you find that your only intent is for this to be a fun distraction, a chance to connect with other people and talk about books, to be a part of this great bookish community, and yet you’re stressed out about meeting deadlines and getting content up on your site, you may want to think about how you are marketing your blog. If what motivates you is being social and making friends, then maybe you shouldn’t accept books for review, or maybe just one or two per month. If you enjoy spending time talking with others on Twitter, sharing book and author news then maybe you don’t need to have a daily post.

If the motivation is much more career oriented – becoming a writer or reviewer or working in publishing – then those are hopefully strong enough motivations to help you to push through. To drive you to  keep your content exciting, to write those reviews, to make sure your site speaks for you and showcases you in the way you want it to. Because if the motivation is to have this be a stepping stone for your career, the payoff down the road can be well worth it.

If you’re driven simply by the fact that you want to have something just for you, something that you are proud of, something that you can call your own and something where you can get positive feedback about what you’re doing, then it becomes a little bit trickier to stay motivated. When feedback doesn’t come, when the feedback isn’t positive, or when the drama of blogging overshadows its positive aspects, staying motivated when it’s just for you can be a struggle.

It then becomes a bit of a balancing act. When your motivation isn’t enough to keep you plodding ever onward, you have to keep those positives in mind and remind yourself of those times when an author commended you on a review, when a reader commented to let you know they thought your review was great or when they just let you know how much they love your blog. Because if you decided to stop because it was just too much, all those lovely benefits of blogging will go away too.

And of course I just have to go there, because this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention it. What if your motivation is – dare I say it – for the free books?

Now, I don’t believe that any real percentage of bloggers are motivated to do this for the freebies. Or at least that’s not their top motivating factor. It can certainly be a nice perk if or when you actually get one or two. But, there’s just too much work required to do this just for the benefit of getting a few free books. Anyone could make more money, and spend much less time, working for minimum wage and just buying those books rather than hoping to get them for free.

If what drives us is a need to get free books, it just seems to me that the cost outweighs any benefit.

What’s my motivation? I am motivated by the fact that I want to have something for me. Something that I enjoy doing (most of the time) and something that makes me feel like I have a creative outlet. It’s what keeps me going (for now) as I ride those highs and lows and as I receive all the benefits and drawbacks of putting it all out there for the world to see.

Has my motivation changed? Somewhat. I think when I first got the idea into my head about blogging, I thought it might make me passionate about writing again. Or at least that’s what my family and friends thought and hoped and why they pushed me toward this in the first place. But they never thought of blogging as a money-making endeavor and believed that I should try to do something that would actually lead somewhere. They thought blogging might be that stepping stone.

I was never so sure. And while I love writing on my blog – I have all sorts of ideas for post topics and such – I don’t really have any ideas about writing-writing. And I haven’t actually spent any time thinking of any – though I should because I’m supposed to be a writing buddy for a friend for NaNoWriMo next month. But I’m much too busy enjoying (again for the most part) blogging about and reviewing books.

It’s enough to keep me going through the tough times. It’s enough to keep me up at night, true, but it makes it worth fretting about my huge stack of books to read just knowing that I’m taking a risk, putting a piece of me out there for the world to see (and sadly sometimes to steal) and taking a chance where before I wouldn’t have dared to try.

But I would love to know…. What motivates you? Are you doing this as a stepping stone to something more? Are you a future author that I should keep an eye on? Are you using this to get your feelers out there in the industry? Or are you simply motivated by the fact that blogging allows you to be a part of this wonderful bookish community?

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