Other than hosting giveaways and posting book-related news, I haven’t blogged much in the past . . . months? I used to blog pretty regularly, and I feel kind of strange about the fact that I haven’t been. I feel guilty, maybe. Definitely something along the lines of guilt. Which is silly, because it’s not like I have an obligation to blog, and I don’t think blogging affects sales very much, if at all.
Blogging should be for the blogger — as an outlet, a means of expression; as something fun, a form of writing that isn’t under contract or deadline.
And the truth is, I haven’t felt much desire to blog this year, and that’s fine. But I’m starting to feel the urge again. We’ll see if that actually manifests as some kind of regular blogging from now on, but in the meantime, I wanted to explain where I’ve been and why I’ve been so quiet.
A few months ago (can’t recall the date just now), I attended a panel at the New York Public Library. Authors Rebecca Stead, Jeanne Birdsall, Adam Gidwitz, and N. D. Wilson were on the panel, with librarian extraordinaire Betsy Bird as the moderator. The panel was about middle grade literature — how it’s not young adult literature, no matter how many people might erroneously lump the two together, and what makes middle grade so special.
As you might imagine, attending this panel and listening to these talented people speak was quite the inspiring thing. But the moment that most affected me didn’t occur during the panel itself. This moment came after the panel, when I and a couple of other authors spoke with Rebecca Stead.
We were talking about writing pace — how some people write quickly, and others slowly, and how it can be difficult to feel good about your pace, whatever it might be, when everyone is so plugged in and connected, when we can see one another’s progress and word counts and book deals with the click of a mouse.
And Rebecca Stead said something that stuck with me. She confessed she wrote slowly, and said part of that is because she makes a point of making time for the margins of life. The white space between work sessions. The lazy days. Not just the time spent away from writing, but the time spent away from the computer entirely — no social media, no blogging, no promotional efforts, no noise.
The margins of life: the time spent living.
This point really resonated with me. I’ve never been good at making time for the margins. I’ve always had this fear that any time spent not working is time wasted. That if I’m not writing, or tweeting about something clever, or mailing promotional materials to readers, or any other number of tasks that are always buzzing urgently at the edges of my mind — then I will fail.
The books I want to write will get written by someone else before I can get to them.
My sales numbers will drop because I’m not blogging enough.
I’ll miss out on crucial connections with someone online because my tweets aren’t noteworthy enough to get the right kind of attention.
And on, and on.
I can look at the above statements and see how silly they are, but they are nevertheless very real, albeit irrational, fears that used to plague me constantly.
The past few months have been artistically challenging for me.
I think part of the reason I stepped away from blogging is because I kept finding myself wanting to talk about these artistic challenges in great detail — and I knew I shouldn’t.
First of all, that’s not the kind of blogger I want to be. I want to talk about fun things, about storytelling in a broad sense, and fandom and music and unicorns. I sometimes want to talk about serious things too, but in a way that can apply to many people, not just me. Some long-winded blog post about my specific writing woes is not the kind of thing I want to write about. But I kept almost doing it anyway, as a kind of desperate grasp for comfort, so I stepped away.
Second, I didn’t think that blogging about my artistic challenges was a particularly healthy way to cope with them. Maybe it would have been, for some people, but not for me — me, who used to scroll through my Twitter feed and read everyone’s blog posts and book deal reports, etc., and compare myself to them, and bemoan my lack of online cleverness, and agonize over what to blog about next — something that could send me into some kind of viral fame, perhaps! — and agonize over the fact that I don’t write quickly, and agonize and agonize and agonize until falling into a spiral of anxiety.
It seemed to me that blogging about these challenges might have simply compounded the issue and fed this self-destructive cycle.
Instead, over the past few months, I’ve been working on making time for the margins.
I’ve been making an effort to blog less, to tweet less, to resist comparing myself to others (which is so hard). When I feel the old anxiety rising, I step away from the computer. I go on a walk. I go for a drive. I eat my lunch outside in the sunshine. I run and exercise regularly. I eat well. I have a healthy sleeping schedule. When my boyfriend gets home in the evenings, I close my computer and ignore my phone. (For the most part, anyway; sometimes one just has to tweet about Breaking Bad.)
Basically, I’ve learned how to read myself more closely, how to recognize those moments when I’m veering into unhealthy behavior, and how to then step away from that behavior and channel its troubled energy into something kinder to myself — attending a local street fair, perusing the stalls at a farmer’s market, catching up with a friend or family member, or maybe just dancing around the house singing Britney Spears at the top of my lungs.
This is a work in progress. Sometimes I still feel anxious when I’m out socializing and not at home working. Sometimes I find it hard to truly relax. And I’ll always have to work on not comparing myself to others — and using what I see to beat myself up.
But I’m making a conscious effort to change my attitude about work, to change my attitude about living, and to make time for that glorious white space.
So, all that to say, that’s why I haven’t been blogging as much. Although I would like to start it up again, I think — carefully, and at my own pace. Because that is nothing to be ashamed of.
And I wonder: How do you feel about blogging, and social media in general? How do you find a balance between work and life? What are some things you do when you need a break? How do you like to fill in the margins of your life?