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Random Thoughts: Pressure

Book bloggers do this for fun. We do it for free. We do it in our spare time. We do this because we love to read books and share our opinions about them. We do this because we want to be a part of a community. So it should be easy, right? It should be stress-free, shouldn’t it? It should. Ideally. But it isn’t always either of those things. Most of the time, actually, it’s not.

It’s complicated. It’s hard work. It’s stressful. And there is a ton of pressure.

Pressure to create our daily/semi-weekly/weekly posts. Pressure to stay on top of what’s going on in the publishing world, what’s happening with our favorite authors, what’s being buzzed about and what’s going on in the community. Pressure to read the books on our piles. Pressure to produce new, original and exciting content. Pressure to keep readers coming back to our sites. Pressure to be social. Pressure to write informative and honest reviews. Pressure to respond to comments, questions, emails, review requests. Pressure to do it all, really.

Most of us are not seeking to be writers. We are not all out-of-the-box creative thinkers. We are not, all of us, skilled marketers. We read books because we love them. We take a chance and share our thoughts. We hope to keep up with, at the very least, our blog posts. And we try so very hard to stay relevant.

But the pressure to perform can be enormous. And the pressure to continually improve, to come up with new ideas, new post topics and new features, and to continue to churn them out day after day, week after week, can be overwhelming.

Add this to the pressure most of us feel because we think we need to keep up with those bloggers who have more time, better ability to market themselves, better social skills and a seemingly easier time creating their posts and reviews, and the pressure can be overbearing.

How can we hope to be creative when we’re bogged down by all these internal and external pressures? How can we hope to keep doing what we do when we’re feeling too overwhelmed? How can we hope to find joy in what we do when we’ve heaped on so many responsibilities, expectations, stressors that we can barely breathe let alone smile?

We can’t.

But how much or how little pressure we feel is up to us. It’s our choice. No one is forcing us to do any of this. No one is holding that proverbial gun to our heads. We can choose not to focus on any other blog but our own. We can choose to keep doing what we’re doing without adding any new gimmicks, features or other lures to get new readers in. We can choose to refrain from the social.

We can choose to take a break.

While we feel a responsibility to our readers to keep posting content, if the content we do post suffers because we’re forcing ourselves to do it, is that the best thing for our readers?

And while we feel responsible to the authors and publishers whose books we accept for review, if we’re under too much pressure to enjoy those books in the way we might if we weren’t under the gun to get those reviews posted, is that being fair to them, either?

If the pressure we feel is causing us to lose our passion for books, dulled our love of reading or taken away our positive outlook toward those books before we’ve even read them, are we even the same bloggers that those authors or publishers thought they were reaching out to?

And if the pressure we’ve put on ourselves to keep up has caused us to behave in ways we never would have otherwise behaved – snarky, unkind, jealous – or have resorted to things we might never have otherwise thought ourselves capable of – lying, cheating, stealing – is it worth it?

If we don’t have time to blog daily, we don’t have to. If we don’t have time to read all the books we’ve accepted for review, we also don’t have to, though letting the authors or publishers know why is a courtesy they deserve. If we want to reduce the number of features or memes we do each week, we can. And if we want to limit our time spent responding to email, comments, Facebook messages or Tweets, we can do that too.

Not that there won’t be consequences for our actions. We may lose a few followers. Our traffic may slow. We may get less interaction on our blogs than we once did. We may find we get fewer new followers than we otherwise might have. And we may get quite a few less requests for review.

But is this a bad thing? No. Because those followers that do stick around are interested in what we have to say. They understand that we can’t keep running as fast and as hard as we have been without burning out and they’d rather see us in it for the long haul.

Fewer comments also means fewer responses we’ll feel guilty about not having the chance to give. Slower traffic is just that. If we’re posting less frequently, it’s only natural there will be fewer site visits. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the number of readers who visit our sites has decreased.

And unless we are trying to grow our blogs to such a level that we’re making money from them, fewer new followers and slower traffic aren’t the end of the world. Besides, if we can’t handle the books we do have to read, we probably shouldn’t feel the need to get so many more from authors and publishers.

While some pressure is a given – we can’t possibly expect to do this without feeling some pressure to keep us forging ahead – it doesn’t have to be of the lung-crushing variety. It doesn’t have to make us hate what we do. It doesn’t have to turn blogging into an all or nothing endeavor. And it doesn’t have to make us dishonest.

It’s a choice. All of it is. The choice to blog or not to blog. The choice to feel pressured or the choice to feel relaxed. How much pressure we choose to incur is all up to us. So, the question really is how much pressure do we choose to put ourselves under?

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