I really don't like being told what to do with my blog.
I mean, really.
Others have posted about this -- about people literally telling you what to blog or not to blog or when or how to do it. MotherReader mused about unrealistic expectations some people have of bloggers. My Friend Amy posted about being a public reader. I thought aloud about what happens when we move from reading in private to reading in public, a few weeks ago and yesterday.
First thing: the single person who shoulds me the most and I just want to say "shut up already?"
Blogging for an extended time period requires serious self-motivation. Statistics are nice, comments are wonderful, review copies are awesome, but at the end of the day or the weekend when it's the blogger and the book and the computer, the only person making that blogger sit down, log on, and write is the blogger.
People who don't blog wonder at the time (as if they don't have areas in their own life that take up time!) but rarely realize the personal drive it takes, the discipline, to continue week after week, month after month, year after year. My fellow bloggers who survive the critical time periods (three months, a year) I salute you!
Which means I am my worst task masker, telling myself what I should read, what I should blog about, how often I should blog, what blogs I should read, etc.
So when someone comes along and basically adds to the loud shoulding in my head?
It makes me tired. It makes me sad. It can overwhelm, actually. And it annoys me.
Blogging for me (like most bloggers) is on my own time -- not work time, on my own time, carved out around work and family and friends and real life. And call me selfish, but I also like to go on vacations. Or spend time off-line. And, well, -- you may not believe it -- spend time on things other than blogging.
So when someone says what a blogger should be doing, especially in a "you're doing it wrong" way? Especially in a "here's more work for you" way?
It's like going into a person's home, looking in the pantry, and saying "you should be a vegan. Oh, and grow your own vegetables."
I know it's not that simple. I know that blogging is a voluntary, public act. As I said yesterday, one should have a thick skin about blogging and intellectually I know that includes shoulding.
But, still, blogging and writing and sharing about books and reading doesn't mean it's OK to have someone else say, "you should be grading your reviews." "You should have longer posts." "You should have shorter posts." "You shouldn't have a lot of your post be about plot." "You should write about older books." "You should ..." "You should..." "You should..."
Well. You get the picture.
Here's the thing. Most bloggers are thinking about what they are doing. Really. They are considering what they are doing, and how, and when, and why.
I'm not saying there shouldn't be discussions. Discussions are great! Discussions are fun! It's good to be open to and listening to different opinions. You may even realize you may not have thought of something. At the very least, you'll get a better understanding of where someone else is coming from and (hopefully) respect that point of view. Blogging, like life, is a process.
Some valuable dialogues have been held in the blogosphere, such as the ones that have played out over the last few months about books about and by people of color. Other good conversations include the many (sometimes heated) online talk about ethics. There have been, and will continue to be, great conversations about book blogging.
But back to "shoulding" instead of talking.
There are certain universal truths: spellcheck is your friend. Proofreading is good. Don't steal content. Give proper credit to others.
But beyond that... put two bloggers in a room, you get three opinions on the best way to do something. The dialogue is valuable but there is no One True Way That People Should Follow. (Other than spellcheck is your friend, etc.)
Maybe I'm just overly optimistic and positive in how I think about bloggers and what they do.
I know! Me, the cynic! The questioner!
I think bloggers take pride in what they do and contribute, and do so while looking for ways for ways to do their best and be better.
I think I'm not the only one who "shoulds" myself.
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
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