Blogging Outwards

Blogging Outwards

After spending most of Sunday in bed feeling like death warmed over, I dragged myself to the doctor on Monday morning, just in case there was anything they could do to speed up the recovery process. They told me I didn’t have the flu (thankfully), but ‘just’ an upper respiratory infection, likely to make me feel crappy for about a week. I guess that’s… good news? I mean, it’s not ideal, but it’s better than having the Aussie flu, which I slightly feared because of the cough.

Also, I’m feeling a hell of a lot better than I did on Sunday. I mean, I even managed to do some dance yesterday, because I had a practice scheduled that I really didn’t want to miss, which is a far cry from not having the energy to move the day before. But I’m feeling pretty exhausted again today, and I think I might take the doctor’s advice to get some rest, after all. And it looks like this relaxed day is going to take the form of catching up on blogging.

See, I’ve been thinking about my blogs. Partly, I’ve been thinking about my own incompetence at keeping them running on a regular basis (for those who aren’t aware, I have a book blog as well, where I post reviews), and whether it might not be easier to combine the two. I’ve also been thinking about the general shift in blogging culture and the lack of on-site engagement like comments that comes along with increased engagement on social media.

Did you know my comments last year amounted to less than a quarter of what I received in 2014 — despite the fact that I shifted servers in April 2014, and so it wasn’t even a full year? I received 945 comments in 2014 — which dropped to 413 in 2015, and then further to 256 in 2016 and 214 in 2017. I think this is partly a general change in the blogging world, as I’ve seen other people report similar phenomena, but I also think it might be because I’ve changed how I blog.

I used to participate in the Teens Can Write Too! blog chain, which no longer exists, but even if it did, I haven’t been a teen for two years now. That had a culture of commenting on everybody else’s posts, which tended to mean my TCWT posts had the most engagement of anything I’d post each month. I also used to talk a lot about pop culture, and books, and media I was interested in at the time, and I’ve drifted away from doing that.

Partly, that’s because I’m not quite so up on pop culture as I used to be — I don’t have a TV, so I tend to watch things on Netflix or Amazon Prime, many of which aren’t recent releases and therefore aren’t topical enough to write about. I’m also more aware of spoilers when I do watch something that’s recent, and I don’t want to write spoilery posts, so I just avoid talking about them at all. As for books, well, I’ve shifted over to talking about those exclusively on my book blog.

I also tend to post most of my shelfies on Tumblr (@miriamjoyblogs)

I do still talk about books here, in a more general sense, but specific book reviews all go over there. And, well, maybe it would be easier to combine the two blogs. I’d certainly post more frequently if I had both scheduled reviews and life posts on the same blog. But I kind of like the separation.

Partly, it makes it easier to find all my book reviews, because they’re all in one place without any interference from other content. Partly, I enjoy the separation of “Miriam who reads books and has opinions on them” from “Miriam Joy, a writer”, because I hope that one day some of the people I’m reviewing will be my peers, and I feel the degree of separation is helpful there. I’m even wondering whether, when I eventually change my professional name, I should leave Miriam Joy Reads as it is, just to increase that feeling of distance, but that might get confusing.

The thing is, I don’t review books as a writer — I review them as a reader, and as a once and future (?) librarian.1 But this is my writing blog. Hopefully, one day, I’ll have readers, and that will mean my opinions on pop culture have a lot more weight than they do at the moment. I’m not sure if I’m ready for that. I don’t enjoy conflict or arguing, so I tend to just feel like it’s safer not to express opinions.

I think that’s why there’s less engagement now, too. Because I’m afraid to rock the boat. I try and avoid potentially controversial topics. I miss when my phone would buzz with comments a dozen times in the hours after I posted something, but I don’t miss the clenching of my stomach when I was afraid to read what people might have said, just in case it led to confrontation.

So I just talk about my life. And while there are a handful of regular readers who often pop in to leave supportive comments and express solidarity, and many others besides who comment on Facebook in response to these updates, fundamentally there is just less to say about that kind of thing. It’s difficult for people to have strong opinions about my life, I guess, so they don’t have any comments to leave.

In the near future, then, I’d like to try and be more outward-looking. I think I’ve retreated into a little introverted, frightened shell, where most of what I write is too personal to be controversial on any meaningful level, and I don’t intend to become provocative. But I would like to start talking about things other than myself, and to engage more with the outside world.

Engaging with the outside world

This, I think, should also mean commenting on other people’s blogs on a semi-regular basis — made more difficult by the fact that I’m nearly always on mobile, and sometimes mobile versions of sites make commenting inordinately difficult, but I’ll try. However, I don’t follow many people who also follow me; the two circles don’t overlap much. So if you’re one of my readers and you also happen to blog, please leave a comment letting me know about it, and I’ll check out your blog. No guarantees that I’ll do so soon, but I will do it.

I also might start participating in more blog chains and memes, too, but that’ll depend if I find any that seem to suit this blog, and whether I actually have the energy…


1I don’t know whether I’ll go back to being a librarian or if that opportunity will present itself, but it’s a distinct possibility, so I’m keeping it in mind.

8 thoughts on “Blogging Outwards

  1. As a published author, I’ve had the same discussion with myself about how (and whether) to review books, and whether to express strong opinions on other matters.

    Some people (whether the author or a fan) will behave vengefully if a book is criticised, and politics and religion are always a negative opinion to someone. So, the common wisdom (which is this case I’d suggest is valid) is that the safest course for authors is to avoid sharing contentious opinions on anything, but to share positive comments about books that they love.

    After some thought, I decided that popularity was less important to me than social change and that – after decades working in law – I could cope if I was targeted by someone who attempted to trash my career because I’d expressed an opinion they disagreed with.

    The key things to remember are that – whilst some people are interested in what you say – you don’t have an obligation to share your personal life with your readers if you don’t feel like it; and there’s no shame in deciding that you don’t want conflict.

    If you want to see the way I blog, I’m here: https://davidjhiggins.wordpress.com/

    1. I’ve had retaliation from authors for negatively reviewing their books even as a relatively unknown blogger (and I always do it politely) — it’s impossible to win with book reviews. I always try and be as positive as possible, but also be honest, and I get a lot of books as review copies where I’m sort of obliged to review it whether I liked it or not, which makes things a bit more complicated. Sigh. I don’t think there’s ever a way to win — nobody likes negative reviews, but I’m never going to love every book I read. So I either have to share a mixed bag, or not review things at all (and then I wouldn’t get free review copies!). Bleh. For now I think things work okay as they are, because I’m still fairly unknown, but I might have to reconsider in future…

      1. There is a middle ground of sending the author a copy of the review for confirmation whether or not they want you to publish it; that way, the people who only want puff pieces can simply not agree publication and the people with a more mature attitude can still have their review.

        There’s also a certain protection in describing your issues one way rather than another: for example, I strongly dislike the “pretty girl who thinks she isn’t has to cope with two really hot guys liking her” trope, but call it something some readers might find irritating rather than calling it a flaw with the book. That way, readers who have an opinion on the trope either way know that it’s present and authors are less likely to read it as a negative.

        1. I always try and be fair and make it clear why I dislike something (e.g. that I have a particular response to certain issues), but if I genuinely think a book is hurtful and transphobic (as in the case of one particular review), I’m not going to pass that off as a difference of opinion, because it’s not. I won’t be rude about it, but I’m not going to be dishonest either. I also don’t usually bring the reviews to the authors’ attention either, unless they’re super positive, because they’re not written for the author as much as for other readers, and I don’t see the point in directing people towards lukewarm responses to their work.

          Since I rarely have any direct contact with authors (I get books from the library or via NetGalley), it’s not usually feasible to send them a copy of a review, and I still feel that takes away from the honesty of the process. I try and focus on books I liked, but if I receive a review copy, I’m going to say what I think of it. I wouldn’t trust a reviewer who only shared unwaveringly positive reviews.

          1. I don’t seek the author’s approval prior to publication either: however, I know a few people who say it helps them avoid retribution, so mentioned it. Based on the responses I’ve received from authors whose books I didn’t love, most authors prefer a genuine review that isn’t positive to no review so it potentially wouldn’t cut down on the breadth of reviews that much.

          2. Yeah, I might change my approach once I start getting more well-known. But to be honest, the bad responses I’ve had have been for short Goodreads reviews, not stuff on my blog — but then again, Goodreads is a hellsite in many ways.

  2. I don’t feel like I’m very involved in the community, especially for my second blog (daylightdifferentials.wordpress.com), which is about all sorts of interesting things, but doesn’t have a niche, so only committed people who follow my book blog like it. And I like blogging and I like commenting, but I’m on holiday right now, and i haven’t started uni yet, and I’m still finding making the time difficult, which is annoying. Because I like blogging, but I also like so many other things. I can see how doing memes and tags helps too, but I hate tagging people and doing memes somehow feels repetitiv? I don’t know, it’s all so complicated. But I appreciated this reflection anyway, so thanks!

    1. I feel that. I often find the questions asked for book memes just don’t work for me because that’s not how I approach reading, and then I don’t know how to answer them. Occasionally there are some that suit me, so I might end up doing those, but they’re mostly hard and not entirely worth doing, from my perspective.

What do you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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