Warning: This post is the result of word vomit. It’s my thoughts (mostly) unfiltered. They’re disorganized, ranty, and ridiculous. And I curse sometimes.
I’ve never moved (or even traveled) across the country. I haven’t started a business (yet…you never know :P). The only marathoning I do is of the Netflix variety, though I must say I think I have serious binge watching skills. So when Jessica Lawlor announced the first annual Get Gutsy essay contest last year, I couldn’t think of a single gutsy thing I’d done.
This year? I still haven’t done anything major. But the fact that I’m much more okay with that than last year is how I got gutsy. I came to terms with the fact that, at least for now, I need to focus on celebrating small wins; spending more time with hobbies and less time stressing about all that I wasn’t doing. The result? Book Bumblings.
I Got Gutsy By Accepting That I’m Not Super Gutsy…Yet
I think ambition can sometimes be more of a burden than a blessing. There are so many things that I want to do in life. Some of them…yeah, I think they’ll happen some day. Others probably won’t ever be accomplished. And for a perfectionist, Type A, competitive gal like me, realizing that hits you right where it hurts.
Jessica says getting gutsy is about stepping out of your comfort zone. And acknowledging that I’ll never meet all the goals I want to, that I will have hobbies and desires left unfulfilled? That makes me pretty damned uncomfortable.
I’m not even reading the other entries for this essay contest yet, because I know it will hurt. They will be stories of people accomplishing amazing things, and I’ll see green, feel inadequate, and delete this draft….I might delete this draft anyway. I’ve already re-written this intro so many times that I’m not letting myself proofread this version because I’m afraid I’ll lose my nerve to publish it (so, sorry for the typos and the rambling).
I’m incredibly uncomfortable admitting that one of my main goals for this year was lowering the expectations I set for myself.
But It’s Not As Sad as It Sounds
Because I’ve learned how to feel accomplished: 1. Celebrating small wins even if they seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things, and 2. Finding a hobby that truly makes me happy, so that the things making me unhappy don’t weigh me down as much.
I found that hobby first in reading, and then in blogging about it.
How the Idea Came to Be
Once I graduated and could kiss textbooks ‘goodbye,’ I started kissing novels ‘hello.’ Lots of novels. As in, I read about 400 novels and novellas in 2013. On weekends, I would wake up and just read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
They were the perfect escape, except for the fact that I wanted to talk about them. I’m the kind of person that gets super excited about something they like. For me, it’s not enough to enjoy something. I want to share in it with others.
I’m that person always recommending a book, a TV show, a new song. My sister calls me an “entertainment pusher” because of all the things I’m always telling her to read/watch/listen to.
None of my friends or family really loves books the way I do. And they definitely don’t appreciate my favorite genre: romance (which I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, but this post is embarrassing enough anyway, so why not just lay it all out there).
I roll my eyes at the schmaltzy, Fabio-esque covers as much as the next person, but contemporary romance? Romantic comedies that would cast Kate Hudson in the film adaptation? New/young adult? I eat that stuff up.
That genre has a huge community online, especially in book bloggers. So one day, it just hit me:
“Two of my favorite things are reading and blogging. Why the hell aren’t I blogging about what I read?”
I’d like to say that I had a blog up and running that day. But I’m not that gutsy. It sat in the back of my mind for months. I came up with the name, even bought the domain and secured the handle on social media platforms, but I still sat on it.
But then one day in June, I was messing around on my laptop in the employee lounge on my lunch break. I decided to create some logos and put up a “coming soon” post. The next day, I wrote the About page and set up a MailChimp account. The day after that, I wrote my first review as a book blogger.
Becoming a Book Blogger
The past six months, I feel like I’ve really become a member of the book community; more so than you can by writing Goodreads reviews or following an author on social media. It has it’s stigma…which makes this book so funny because all the satire is so true.
It’s changed the way I read. I’m much more critical of things like character development and line editing. I no longer highlight every quote that amuses me, because I know how hard writing the review and picking out pull-quotes can be when I have 10 pages of notes to scroll through on my Kindle. I put books that look okay ahead of books that I’m dying to read, because the okay books were advanced review copies and I owe the author a review. I have 32 pages of unread books on my Kindle.
And sometimes, it feels more like a job. Especially when I was working with a lot of publicists and signing up for slots on scheduled book tours. Definitely when I was really focused on my earnings from Amazon Associates. I was delusional enough to think that it wouldn’t be too hard to offset the cost of the domain name and hosting. Hahahahahahaha. What an idiot I was.
But when the blogger burnout started to hit, I refused to give up (another example of getting gutsy…in the past I’ve been kind of a quitter). I figured out how to run the blog so that it was consistently fun, and found my niche as a book blogger.
Here’s Where I Really Start Getting Gutsy
I found my fit as a book blogger who also helps other book bloggers. Through Facebook groups I was in, I realized I had a lot of answers to a lot of questions other bloggers had about blogging, marketing, social media, etc. Aka some of the things I love as much as reading.
Then the ideas just started coming.
First, I launched BookBlogWriMo. I think a lot about writing a short novel or novella, but I knew I wouldn’t be anywhere near ready by this year’s NaNoWriMo. But the writing challenge has always intrigued me, so I decided to start a similar challenge for book bloggers.
As a new kid on the block, still getting just 50 or so pageviews a day. Not a big social media following or email list, either. I was totally prepared to be the only person participating in the challenge, and surprisingly, I was okay with that.
But then people loved the ideas, and I loved that. I decided I needed to up my goal to 25 participants, even knowing that a lot of people wouldn’t follow through from start to finish.
In the end, over 50 people originally signed up for BookBlogWriMo and at least 15 actively participated (blogging almost every day of the daily challenge). I was stunned! So many people have come to me and told me how much they loved it or wish they could’ve done more with it that I’m already thinking over changes for next year and looking for co-hosts so we can grow it.
In the middle of BookBlogWriMo, I came up with another idea that excited me to no end. Most of the challenges I see for book bloggers are focused on reading and reviewing, but writing blog posts is actually such a small part of what goes into growing and managing a blog.
So the Be a Better Blogger Challenge was born.
This one requires more work, since it’s a monthly challenge instead of a once-a-year thing. I’m really nervous, and probably should’ve given myself more of a break between this and BookBlogWriMo, but I was determined to kick it off on January 1. But I’d been feeling a little burnt out and spent the past week and a half straight up relaxing and unplugging, so it might be more like January 5.
I’m also starting to guest post on other book blogs – my first post was published this month and I have another draft in the works!
It’s felt really good to have a hobby again, and to have a community to talk about books with. I can’t wait to see where the blog goes in 2015, but I know now that I’m slowly getting gutsy, it will definitely go somewhere.
Some of the ideas I’ve tossed around are:
- Some kind of Facebook group or forum for book blogger besties to hang out, but that’s not 100% focused on book blogging.
- Ebooks and guides on how to grow your book blog with email, social media, and that other marketing fun that I love.
- A planner for book bloggers, because omgggg I want one for myself and I haven’t found any I’ve loved.
Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.