BBAW Day 5: Don’t Overthink It

16th September 2011

Before talking about today’s topic, I just want to thank Amy of My Friend Amy who began Book Blogger Appreciation Week. If you’re not a blogger, it may have gotten a bit tedious (I hope not!), but it has been a huge shot in the arm for me. Blogging is work, and though I love it, it can be difficult to tack on another few hours of behind-the-scenes blog work each day. So thank you Amy for creating some time for us to share more deeply in the community!

Today’s topic….

The world of blogging is continually changing. Share 3 things you think are essential tried and true practices for every blogger and 1-3 new trends or tools you’ve adapted recently or would like to in the future.

Hands down, the absolute most difficult part about blogging (for me) has been reviewing. Take a look at my older posts: they are incredibly long and unwieldy. Hell, I’m an academic. I was writing freaking essays. And I labored over each post. I mean, I seriously was a crazy, straight-up neurotic in those days. One day my sister told me, “I love your blog, but you sound so smart, I never have anything to add.” I say this, not so you’ll tell me I’m smart; there are plenty of smarter people out there. I tell you this so you can understand the WHOA-slow down, I’vebeendoingthisallwrong-damn moment I had. Because who wants a blog no one feels they can comment on? Not me. I love comments. I mean, to go out on a limb here, I check my email all the time after I post. Talking to you guys about books is awesome.

And the crazy academic in me is still here. Hell, I can’t kill her totally, I’m a teacher. BUT (p.s. can I copyright the all-caps “but” because I need to). I can harness her. Reign her in. And when I get particularly twitchy, I go to Twitter where people like Sean from Read Heavily tell me …butbutBUT how did the book make you feel?? And I stop everything and revise the review. Because isn’t that what you really want to know? It’s what I want to know. Did you connect with this book? Did you like it? Why? Did you hate it? Why?

I tell you what I think. You tell me what you think. If that means you think I read the book upside down and backwards and that’s why I didn’t like it, tell me. Because sometimes I do read books upside down and backwards. [Only if I’ve had lots of champagne. Or am exhausted.]

I won’t and don’t apologize for getting a little analytical and twitchy from time to time about things like structure that drives me up the wall or why. authors. use. so many. awful. similes. It’s who I am.

So what am I saying? In shorter terms: be yourself. I know it’s the most catchall phrase and pretty trite at the same time, but it works.


  • Be yourself.
  • Have fun.
  • Tell the truth.
  • Don’t be a jerk.
  • Make friends.
  • Interrupt a conversation. That’s why bloggers blog.
  • Post when you can.
  • Use gadgets if you like.
  • Don’t use gadgets if you don’t like.
  • Stop pressuring yourself.

Everything else follows, and you’ll have a space you can live in and live in well. I don’t have 50 million followers. I don’t have 100 comments on every post, but I do have community. I do have regular readers and people who comment, and I love that.

P.S. Did you miss my giveaway post? I’m giving away two graphic novels: The Arrival by Shaun Tan and City of Glass by Paul Auster. Head to this post to comment and enter.

  • Nicole @ Book Lush

    I don’t have 50 million followers. I don’t have 100 comments on every post, but I do have community. I do have regular readers and people who comment, and I love that.

    I like this part especially. I don’t have a ton of followers either — most of this is my own fault because it seems I’m actually not that different online than I am in real life, i.e. I literally start to get uncomfortable in groups of 3 or more people and stop talking, I’m not very social, etc. But I do love the regulars and semi-regulars who comment and even though that number right now is small it feels manageable for me personally. I admire people who can respond to a ton of comments and get involved with each and every one of their followers. I’m not sure I could ever do that. But I think as long as you’re comfortable with the results you’re getting there’s no reason to do something that isn’t “you” because you think your blog has to be like X,Y, and Z blog. As your first bullet point says, Be Yourself!

    • You and I strike me as similar bloggers in that way. I’m comfortable with that. Perhaps if our goals were different, we would feel differently, but my original goal was to get writing again and to have thoughtful conversations about books.

  • mel u

    when I look at my posts from 2 years ago when I first started my blog they seem awkward now-your post was interesting to me as I was once an academic also-eons ago

    • I understand that feeling well. I don’t often look back, but when I do, it’s pretty revealing.

  • Chrisbookarama

    I love all your advice! Especially the ‘have fun’ part.

    • Why not, right? 🙂

  • I think the “stop pressuring yourself” is what I needed to hear. It’s a bit overwhelming to jump into it and do just that.

    • Totally. It’s definitely easy to get overwhelmed, but you have to remember: you do this for you. Above all. Let’s be honest. I blog because I get pleasure from it. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. As long as I do, it’s something I put effort into.

      So yeah – stop doing that!

  • I love the advice about being yourself. I think that’s really important.

    • I agree. As simple as it sounds, it’s not always an easy thing to do. The Internet is such a public sphere that you can be very self conscious about what you put out there.

  • Love how you shared your personality in this post. The blogger’s unique self shining through is what draws me back to a blog…over and over.

    I agree about reviews. I tended to be dry and analytical in the beginning…and then started reading reviews that showed how the reader felt and how he/she connected to the book. Awesome!

    Yes, we all can learn from one another, which is why community is so great!

    Here’s MY BBAW POST and

    • Most definitely, and I have really enjoyed the enhanced sense of community this week.

      I’m so glad I wasn’t the only dry reviewer out there.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • My reviews have changed, but I’ve always tried to keep them conversational. I did enough academia at school (I started during undergrad and carried on through a Master’s degree) to want to avoid it perpetually on my blog. I do actually like reading some of them, but I love conversational reviews.

    Also 100% with you on “have fun”. It feels like a job – but it’s not! If you’re not enjoying your hobby, you should change it up until you do.

    • Yes! If it feels like a job – something you dread – don’t do it anymore.

      As for the academia part – with a Master’s in English, it’s hard for me to get rid of that all the time. Though I love pulling apart a text, the writing ain’t easy. But I realized the blogging, for me, was and is a conversation, not an essay to be turned in for a grade.

  • Yay! Disqus likes me today. 😉

    I think my reviews have gotten much longer since I started blogging. Actually, I know they have. But they’re less about what the book is about and more how the book made me feel. At least that is my goal. I NEVER read a plot summary and if that’s all a post is then I’m likely to just skip it. You’re right that we all want to know the same things (well, except for high school kids who are googling for summaries). 😉

    And yes, having a community is certainly more important than having a million followers or comments. Great great points Jenn!

    • So glad!

      Isn’t that odd how that works? Yours got longer, and mine got shorter. I do like to have a short plot summary, though, because it tells me a lot about whether or not I’ll like the book.

      Thanks so much for trying again and commenting!

  • Joy Renee

    i’ve been struggling with pickyness my whole life. i haven’t posted many reviews this past year but it isn’t because i’ve not been writing them–in my note ap I’ve got dozens and dozens in some state of prep many are far from ready being yet just notes but many are just a tweak or two away from good enough if i could convince myself that good enough was a viable concept. because of this issue coupled with the pressure i put on myself to post daily, i lost the joy of blogging as a reader/writer around this time last year. this week has been my attempt to reconnect with it as well as with those who still have it.

    pardon my capless typing my eyes and shift fingers are wimping on me

    • I go capless all the time. 😉 No worries here.

      Honestly, some days I just sit, title posts, add pics, and jot a few notes in there. Then when I come back to it, I’ve got SOMETHING written, even if it’s little. I hope you find that joy again, even if it means just posting some of your notes. It can be difficult, but if you once found pleasure in it, I hope you do again.

  • Why yes, I did miss your giveaway post. 🙂

    For some reason, I’ve never had a problem with writing academically on my blog. I think it’s mainly because I hardly ever like books I have to read for school, haha. 😉 But then I don’t really consider myself an academic, either.

    • But here’s the thing – I read the types of books I’m reading now for school. Plus, I teach my students how to write that way. So it’s difficult to step away from.

  • Love this — exactly. When I originally started reviewing books online, it was literally for myself — a locked Livejournal — and so it was very ramble-y, lots of spoilers, etc — who cared, it was just me?! But once I started blogging to share my thoughts with others, I realized I had to share in a really different way — and I sweated making it ‘perfect’! I wanted to be intelligent (or at least, sound intelligent), convey my thoughts and opinions without shutting down convo, etc etc. I still stress about it but have found other bloggers to be so friendly, I’m a lot less angsty about it!

    • I agree. Occasionally I get all angsty about it, but then I go to Twitter and someone smacks me upside the head, and I come back to the real world.

      It can be really difficult to balance your audience with your review. At least, I’m much more conscious of that fact. But you’re right, bloggers are friendly, and I’m certainly not shy about my opinion… 😉

  • gary moon

    loving this list, great advice.

    • Thanks so much!

  • Meagan

    In the spirit of posting comments and not feeling self-conscious about it. (I had to fight the urge to spell check self-conscious.) I always enjoy the blogs with more from you. That’s why I love your Friday posts so much. : ) I’ll try to keep in mind that you and your blog followers do not judge me.

    • I’m so glad you did because honestly, your comment brought me out of myself and made me enjoy blogging so much more now that I’m not paranoid at every turn. And thank you for the input. Always always helpful. 🙂

      • Meagan

        Glad I could help with my awkwardness of commenting. I think it’s just me not being very good with words. I’m much better in person. ; )

        • Whatevs. You’re good with words. Just not so much with the ‘confidence in your words’ part.

  • Kailana

    Good advice! If someone simply follows your bullets they will be fine.

    • Thanks! I wasn’t attempting to be flippant (though sometimes I come across that way). Those are honestly the bullet points I work with. 🙂

  • Debbie Rodgers

    I’m not an academic, but I’ve laboured over my reviews too, thinking that I need to sound halfway intelligent. But you’ve just changed all that by repeating Sean’s question – “how did it make you feel?”

    Oddly enough, I feel liberated – thank you, thank you, thank you!!

    • Debbie – so glad I could help in some small way – or that Sean could. 🙂

  • theliterarylollipop

    Tell the truth. You can’t get any better than that! 🙂 Happy reading!

    • Thanks! And so true.

  • This is utterly fantastic! I’m not an academic but I do overthink stuff. There are times that I overthink myself into incomprehension. And I really should interrupt conversations more. Thank you so much.

    • I so know the feeling, Kinna. Sometimes being aware of your audience is totally inhibiting. But your audience really wants you and your thoughts/feelings.

      Thank you!

  • Stacey Cisneros

    Your advice is so wonderfully non-picky. I’m a fan.

    • Thanks, Stacey! Non-picky – that may be the first time anyone has called me that. 🙂

  • Yvette

    Great advice. My own feeling is: when it stops being fun, I stop blogging. 🙂

    I really enjoyed this post, Picky.

    • Thanks, Yvette, and I agree. No point if it’s not fun.