I’ve agonized over this for way too long. It’s time to finish it.
It’s over. Done.
No more Bibliotropic.
I know, I did this before. And I came back. And to be honest, I came back for the wrong reasons. I started reviewing again because I was tired of people making “funny” little comments about oh, you said you weren’t going to review anymore, I guess you just couldn’t stay away, hahaha. Only I’d said even then that I’d probably still write full reviews now and again, when a particular book struck me as something I really wanted to talk about. It would just be very uncommon, maybe once a month, and that’s exactly what it was. Until I tired of the comments and just figured fine, I’ll just start writing more reviews again so people can stop saying those things.
It was the wrong reason to do a thing.
I started this blog over 7 years ago, the idea stemming from the wacky notion that I read books and had thoughts about them, so hey, why not put those thoughts on the Internet? Over time I improved, narrowed my focus, learned better ways to critique. I gained a lot of skill in writing and analysis by just reviewing books. My roommate and fellow writer noticed a big jump in my writing skill after I started reviewing, even though I so rarely have the time or energy to write anymore. What I do write has been improved and refined by seeing what others do, and figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t, and why.
But over the past year or so, I really haven’t been feeling it. I’ve had my health struggles, both physical and mental, and the hardest part of this blog isn’t continuing to read books, but in sitting down and sorting through my thoughts and actually writing the review. Knowing that task is ahead of me makes me enjoy reading less. I think I’d rather just read. And it makes the reviews themselves that much harder to write; even when I’ve finished saying all I can think of to say in a review, I still feel that I haven’t done a good job, that I’m being unclear or repetitive or just giving less than my best, even when I’m doing as well as I can. It’s not the level it used to be, and I know it, and thanks to struggles with mental illness, seeing the lackluster reviews I’ve been putting out these days is just… It makes it harder, knowing that I used to do better. Each accomplishment is still a reminder that I’m still not as good as I once was.
Add to that the feeling that I’ve become increasingly irrelevant… I was never particularly relevant, if I’m being completely honest. I wasn’t some breakaway hit, some blogging star. I was just one in a crowd. And that was fine. I didn’t necessarily want to be the centre of attention. But I always felt that slight bite of envy when I’d see bloggers who started after I did get further in the field, growing their blogs so much more quickly, going from reviewing to getting proper paid work within the publishing industry. That isn’t to say none of them deserved it or worked for it; every person I know who did that had and has skill, and they’ve earned what they’ve gained. I don’t wish that any of them didn’t have that, and I wish them the best with turning what they’ve learned into excellent and enjoyable ways to pay the bills. But some of it is also the luck of placement; just about every one of them is in the US or the UK, where major book-related stuff happens, and with me not being in either of those places… Let’s just say that plenty of people want a Britpicker or a set of US eyes proofreading their books, but there’s not much call for someone to check for accuracy in Canadian English. Most people writing books set in Canada are already in Canada themselves and so know how we speak and spell, and we either get British or US editions of books anyway and just deal with the spelling and dialect differences as we go.
I feel like I peaked a while ago, and that any work I put into the blog from here on out isn’t actually going to yield anything. Not in building skills or contacts or employment or anything like that.
I used to hate this mentality so much. My father, when I first started doing this, asked me a few times what doing the blog was going to get me. Would it get me a job in publishing? Would it get me paid work? What was my goal for it? What was it worth to others to have me writing reviews? And I told him that wasn’t the point, that I was doing reviews as a hobby, because I enjoyed doing them, and really, I still stand by that. I didn’t start this with the intent of climbing up some publishing-industry ladder. That, like other stuff I mentioned, isn’t always a good reason to do a thing.
But where I stand, I have to admit, it’s not going anywhere else. Not even in a self-contained way. I’m not going to build a bigger audience, I’m not going to get paid work, and the reviews I write are a drop in the bucket compared to bigger bloggers. I don’t say this to be self-pitying, but really, if I stop reviewing, it’s not actually going to make that much difference to anyone. Reviews will keep pouring in from bigger sources with greater readership that will help people more than I can.
Plus, I have the oft-mentioned reviewer problem of having too many books and too little time in which to read them. On one hand, this is awesome and I kind of love it. A lot. Okay, a whole lot. On the other hand, it long ago created a sense of responsibility whereby I feel like I have to read Book X before Book Y, and Book B’s publication date has long passed so the hype’s gone so the review won’t have as big an impact… A lot of the time now I read a book not because I really want to read it, but because I’m interested in it and it’s due out soon. I took a chance on making 2017 the Year of the Backlog, focusing on books that came out before this year so that I had an excuse to read books I’d missed, and it helped a little, but because of the SPFBO I still had that schedule to maintain, and argh, in the end, reading what I had to instead of what I wanted to resulted in one more stress in my life that I feel increasingly incapable of handling.
I feel guilty wanting to take walks to the local library, because I have too many books at home that I should read that I can’t afford the time to borrow something from elsewhere. Seriously, this feeling of responsibility (which I know is entirely something I placed upon myself) has prevented me from taking enjoyable walks on nice days, because I feel too guilty to go where I want to go and do a thing I want to do.
(I never claimed I wasn’t a great big mess…)
And if all that wasn’t enough, that stress is contributing to a great big creativity-vacuum, in which I have ideas for things I’d probably enjoy, but I can’t even summon the energy to give enough of a damn to do them. It’s like… You have 5 heavy things in front of you, and you know you can manage to carry 4, but just knowing you somehow have to carry 5 anyway makes you sit down and stare at the pile, doing nothing, because you’re too preoccupied trying to figure out how you’re supposed to do everything-plus-one.
So all of this combines into a giant mess that really makes me think I’d be better off closing down the blog and stopping doing reviews. I don’t relish it. I wish I had the fortitude to keep going, along with everything else I want to do. And if it wasn’t for the mental health issues, I’d probably be fine to keep going; those 5 things weigh even more than usual when you’re struggling with depression. Take 1 thing off my plate, and the rest of the load becomes something I can handle. And the thing I remove may as well be the one that’s been bringing me the least joy lately.
It’s been a good ride. I regret only that it had to end. I regret none of the experience itself, because I learned so much and met so many wonderful people during this journey.
So with that in mind, I want to take this moment to mention a few people in particular who I feel contributed to me getting this far. Whether they did so intentionally or not.
Jo Walton, for consenting to let an utter newbie do their first author interview with you, and for tolerating how ridiculously awkward those questions were.
Kersten Hamilton, for directing me to NetGalley all those years ago.
Paul Weimer and Sarah Chorn, for rekindling my interest in photography. (And an extra shout-out to Sarah for inspiring me to improve my cooking so that I could make as many delicious things as she does.)
Courtney Schafer, for showing me extra stuff you wrote, even when you didn’t have to, just because you knew I’d like it.
Teresa Frohock, for inadvertently pandering to my love of nephilim in same-sex relationships. (No, seriously, this is absolutely a concept I’ve loved for years and have toyed with writing and RPing multiple times!)
KV Johansen, for all our talk about the similar weather we must endure.
Mark Lawrence, for starting the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off and letting me be a judge in it. (Maybe some year I’ll be brave enough to submit my own work to it.)
Amanda Rutter, for remembering a far-off Canadian on a World Book Night that isn’t actually worldwide, and for the surprise book to celebrate it.
Foz Meadows, for the Supernatural fanfics that I just could not stop reading!
And so many of you for just generally being awesome friends.
If you want to keep in contact, I’ll still be around of Facebook and Twitter. Feel free to add me on either of them. I’ll still be more than happy to talk books and tea and other geekish stuff, and to rant and rave about the stuff I’m reading, and to recommend books to all and sundry. That I won’t be writing reviews here anymore doesn’t mean I’ll be leaving the community entirely. It just means that you’ll probably see me talk more about art projects and my own writing, because now I feel like I have time for them both again.
This feels bittersweet, the closing of a book, and it hurts a little bit to do it. But I really do think it’s best for me right now.