THE STICKY NOTE OF NEWS

I'm on Instagram now! Yes, I've finally joined the twenty-first century and acquired a smartphone. If you like pictures of books, cats, books, food and books, with the occasional detour into pretty scenery, you can check out my photos so far by clicking here, or my handle is blondebookgirl. :)

Friday, 25 January 2013

Right, I need some feedback - crisis management time, folks!

As you may have twigged from my Top Ten Tuesday post a week or two ago, I am... uncertain... about my book bloggery feelings at the moment.  I don't know whether to stay or go, take a proper break (my last one kinda died a death when our house move was called off, and I ended up posting more than ever, oops), or change how I do things, or just let things drift and see what happens.


On the one hand, I absolutely ADORE all of my friends and the community I'm a part of as a book blogger.  That's my biggest fear about not blogging.  I know I can still Tweet and email and read other people's blogs, but what about my little corner of that world?  I finally feel like I've found a bunch of people who actually 'get' me, who like reading and books as much as I do, and appreciate my *cough* more interesting quirks as, well, interesting quirks, rather than character flaws.  I also really like sharing what I'm reading with people who'll talk back instead of telling me to be quiet already.  Over the last two and a half years I've built up a collection of bookish thoughts, random posts and fun features that I'm really proud of, and sometimes I love to go back over them all and remind myself how much I've created during my time as a blogger.

On the OTHER hand, I feel like my blog has lost its sheen in the past few months.  I genuinely have no desire to review books right now, for example.  I've not finished rounding up my MIU2012 challengees for the final giveaway.  I haven't posted my Monday Music since the New Year.  I haven't written any of the discussion posts I have stashed in mini-format in my draft folder.  I sometimes find myself dreaming of the days when I could just read a book and move on, without constantly thinking about how I was going to write about it later.  Is this just a winter-lethargy thing, or is it the inevitable result of trying to combine reading, box set addiction, working a lot AND blogging into one life?  And this is coming from someone who doesn't even have any semblance of a social life (agoraphobia killed that stone dead, oops) - I'm not sure how that would fit into the equation!

 
Yeah yeah, woe is me, world's smallest violin, etc etc.  I know people cram a lot more than that into their days and still manage to blog like a dream, but just bear with me here.  As you've probably noticed, I'm trying to address the reviewing failure by changing the way I write about the books I'm reading.  Instead of a full review at the end of each book - requiring ongoing thought, collecting my points together, structuring and drafting and rewriting - I've started chronicling my reading in a journal style instead.  When I finally FINISH a book (*coughs*) the plan is to write a MINI review, just to pull everything together definitively at the end of that particular reading experience.  This arrangement has definitely eased the pressure somewhat, showing the ups and downs of my reading week but also allowing me to talk about the books as I go.  I don't have to wait until the end because I can pick out great moments, discrepancies, wonderful paragraphs and gorgeous snippets of writing as I go. 

To me this feels more organic - like chatting about books, rather than writing a book report - but I have no idea how most of YOU feel about it!  So I'm throwing the door open to comments, ideas and all that jazz.

Do you like the reading journal idea, or did you prefer the 'full review' style I've previously used?  What about frequency - does the 'week to a post' format work for you?  Or should it be once every day or two, perhaps allowing more depth on 'good' reading days?  Do you think it could turn stale quite quickly, particularly if I'm not writing a ton of other posts in between?  How do you feel about the blog in general over the last few weeks or months?  How do you personally balance life and blogging?  Are there particular things that have kept you rooted in the blogosphere even when times have been tough?  Things that have kept you reading THIS blog since you first arrived here?

Yes, there are many questions here, but obviously you don't have to answer them all - I just genuinely want to know what you think, and get someone else's take on the issue.  It's not very often we really step back and consider an entire blog rather than individual posts, beyond our vague thoughts that X blog is good for non-fiction recommendations, or that Y blog is one of our favourites, and getting some honest feedback might just help me decide what to do next!
 
SO GO!  WALK OUT THE DOOR!  WRITE A COMMENT!  TELL ME SOMETHING!  ANYTHING!  The good, the bad, whatever.  Or you can drop me an email - you'll find the address at the bottom of my Review Policy page - if you'd rather comment that way.  Share your thoughts and experiences, advice and ideas!
 

44 comments:

  1. I love all your posts, whether long reviews or short, discussions, bookshop tales or reading/watching journals. I really like your current journal format; it's friendly and personal and different from a lot of the more formal book blogs. I feel like I get to know you as a person rather than merely a reviewer.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by so quickly, honeybunch! That's reassuring - 'friendly and personal' is what I was aiming for, but unless you ask you never know if people like it, or if they're just thinking "shut up and write a proper post, already." I'm glad it's the former! :)

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  2. I check your blog every day, often more than twice a day, to read any updates. I love your style. It is natural and relaxed and I love that. I also like the fact your personality comes through - you make me laugh and smile frequently. I really love your book, mug and muffin photos, as I too love a good muffin and a mug of something hot while reading! My vote is for your current style to continue. Please dont go!!

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    1. THANK YOU. This comment made me so happy. And I'm glad you like the 'mug 'n' muffin porn' I'm so fond of posting during idle moments... ;)

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  3. I really like your blog. I really identify, however, with your comment: "I sometimes find myself dreaming of the days when I could just read a book and move on, without constantly thinking about how I was going to write about it later." I recognise that kind of pressure that comes from wanting to do something fully or not at all. If I were you I'd continue to blog but enforce on yourself a break from reviews, or anything too structured. Then you might well start to rediscover the enjoyment of it.

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    1. I think that's where the reading journal non-structure helps actually. I can write more on some days, a couple of sentences on others, and I don't have that big review hanging over me at the end. It feels more like the written version of sitting down and chatting to a book-loving friend over coffee, really. I think I've reviewed for so many years now - on LT before the blog - that I find it hard to accept that I can choose NOT to do that!

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  4. My advice: Keep it fun. Do what feels right: sort updates, a pic, a here's-what's-on-the-nightstand. I know that right now I personally cannot tolerate the thought of full length book reports, and my blog has gone pretty quiet as a result. Folks will still be there when you are feeling 100% again. Best wishes!

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    1. I'm so glad I'm not the only one shying away from the mega-review thing right now! That's one of the reasons I wrote this post - to fess up and see what my readers think. Thanks for commenting - and I'll take your advice! :)

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  5. Agreed, dump the structure. If you read a great book, maybe it requires a book report...but another book may not be worth even a short review. Take some time off. Don't push. A blog isn't a job, its a labor of love. And if you aren't loving it, stop killing yourself. Personally I post short reviews, and like to read them that way. If I am truly interested, I'll read the book. Good luck!

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    1. That's a very good point - there's a huge difference between being motivated to write a good review of a great book, and feeling like you NEED to write a good review for something fairly run-of-the-mill. And THANK YOU for the 'I like to read them that way' remark - it makes me feel much more confident to know that not everyone places the label 'proper blogging' firmly at the feet of the long, involved book review. There's room for all of us and all of our different styles, right?

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  6. Hi Ellie pup :)

    I think you're over-thinking it a little. I only wrapped up by LOEG Challenge last week and I STILL have about six reviews from last year to write. I've only written two reviews this year. But so what? I don't really mind. I'll write a review when I feel like it, and if I don't feel like it, I won't.

    Point is, I think you might regret it if you dropped the blog. Not in a scary, threatening "I'LL KILL YOU!" way, but I think that you'd wish you hadn't.

    If I were you, and obviously it's completely your decision, I'd take a break for 3-4 weeks, then see how you feel.

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    1. Haha, I ALWAYS overthink things, you're right. I worry too much, especially at this time of year when there's not much else to do! :)

      I do try to remember that not everyone can post ALL THE TIME, and that on a blog reader or blogroll you're not constantly analysing who posts how often - you just read what's new. I guess I feel a bit guilty because I know I don't have any excuse - I don't have kids to look after, I'm not a fully-fledged legal maestro *coughs and grins* - I'm just a bookshop girl sitting freezing to death behind a counter every day. :)

      I have a feeling I WILL regret it if I drop the blog. It's too much a part of my life now, it'd be like someone had died. Possibly me, because I totally don't believe that you wouldn't go through with the scary threatening thing. I think maybe I'll keep up the reading journal but not worry too much about other posts for now, see how I get on?

      To be fair, I'm not doing much in general at the moment - like household chores, or finishing moving to my new laptop, or... anything else - so maybe this is all a case of colossal mental winter hibernation and I'll get all peppy and inspired come spring. :)

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    2. You know that you don't NEED an excuse though, right? It doesn't matter whether you have University or kids or... I don't know, an amputee lover to look after. If you feel like you can't post that often, then DON'T. It's your blog.

      I do like the reading journal idea though - I still think you should set up a linky :)

      Hibernate, if that's what you want to do. Lie there and watch TV. Go play in the snow. Do whatever you WANT. TO. DO.

      I'm sounding scary and capital-lettery again, aren't I?

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    3. Aaaaaaaaargh! Scary legal maestro commenter! *hides behind nearest snowman* What kind of linky would you suggest, my darling? I have no problems with anyone stealing the idea and running with it - maybe leaving a comment with their link or something would be easier to start with? Give it a try sometime, see if you like it! :)

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  7. Alternatively, because I'm not very coherent today, just try and accept that it doesn't matter if you only post when you feel like it. That's my choice.

    I love you and your posts. *hugs*

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    1. I think the reading journal has to stay. Just because I have no other post ideas right now! :P

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  8. I really like the journal style, but I kind of feel like I'm on the fringe of book blogging. My "reviews" end up being rambles on what I think works in fiction. Writing actual reviews, for me, is a lot of not-fun work. I blog to have fun and collect my thoughts. I expect no more from any other blog I read.

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    1. I actually find myself gravitating towards rambly, opinionated or funny non-reviews these days. I find I get a better flavour of the book without feeling like I'm reading a newspaper review, and the recommendations are more likely to stick. "Not-fun work" is EXACTLY my mental response to writing actual reviews - Nail. Head. On. :D

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  9. I'm fairly new to your blog, so I guess I don't know much other than what you've been doing lately, and I like it! One of the things I actually like about your blog is that it's so laid-back and personal. I don't personally see any need for book reports on blogs. If you really are sick of blogging, maybe take a week or two for a break before you decide to leave altogether.

    [Emily: classicsandbeyond.blogspot.com]

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    1. That's an interesting point actually - I HAVE had a little flurry of new folks around the blog recently, so I guess they must all have stayed for SOMETHING, right? :)

      I'm so happy to see all these comments that are positive about the laid-back and rambly approach, I think it'll make me a lot more confident about going forward now!

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  10. I totally agree with what you said about wishing you could just read a book and move on without any pressure of what are you going to write. I tend to take a few mini breaks from blogging each year. Sometimes I'm just not feeling it. I find it helps.

    But you know, I enjoy reading your blog, reviews and other. I like your point of view from working in a bookshop. I like reading about what you are watching on tv. I'm sure if you want to continue blogging and you play around with things (structure, type of posts, how often you post) you'll find a way to continue and enjoy blogging.

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    1. I think taking a real blogger break next time I'm feeling REALLY lethargic would be a good idea. Every time I take one I end up posting anyway, sometimes more than usual even! *bangs head quietly against desk*

      I do like that the reading journal kind of allows me to write more about the bookshop again. The Tuesday Round-Ups I used to do when I first started blogging - with bookshop stories and funny moments - were so popular, but they took waaaay too long to put together. Working them into each day as they come will be an easier way of sharing! I think you're right that playing around and finding a new, less rigid way of thinking about my blog is probably the way forward. Thanks! :)

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  11. Like so many people I agree with the whole reading a book and moving on to the next one thing. I've finished a book just now and want to dive straight into another but I have 2 reviews to catch up on and should really write them before I read another book and my thoughts become blurred. BUT I DON'T WANT TO! *Sulks*

    I seriously thought about packing up the blog a while ago and am so glad I didn't. I think every blogger goes through times like this AND get through it so my advice would be to hang in there sweetie! Even if you need to take a break for a while. But then I'm biased because I would seriously cry if you left us. But you know why I'd be sad? Not because I'd miss long in-depth professional book reviews but because I'd miss you and your bookish tales! Reading about the shop and your reading journals and all that fun stuff to me is what Musings is all about and what I look forward to reading from you when I go onto your blog.

    What I'm saying I guess is the bookshop updates and reading updates are my favourite part of your blog and although I love your reviews too I wouldn't stop reading this blog or think any less of you if you never wanted to review a book again and just keep doing what you've been doing I think from reading through these comments your followers feel the same way.

    Please don't break up with us! *Hugs Ellie's leg and refuses to let go.*

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    1. Maybe it really is a winter thing! Honestly, if I could just sit in bed eating sandwiches and alternating between reading and watching movies, I would do that from now until maybe April. :P

      Hearing that you had a similar moment is actually really reassuring. It's also super-reassuring to hear that people don't COME here for long reviews and serious posts, but for other things like bookshop talk and rambling about books and cake. I think in the back of my mind that was probably what worried me - that people would be drifting across and thinking "okay, lots of random crap - but where are the 'proper' posts?" Because that would be a colossal waste of time.

      That's why I wrote this post, to get a sense of whether I was stressing out for a valid reason (too much rambling, not enough substance), or whether I was just all wintery malaisey (and just needed to wait it out). I'm getting the feeling it's probably that second one! THANK YOU HONEYBUNCH! *quietly prises Jess off her leg and sits her in the corner with a biscuit*

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  12. *hugs* I could pretty much just copy-paste this whole thing into a new post on my blog and post it - I feel the exact same way about the blogging community and this is exactly what I've been going through in the past few months. I seriously don't know if it's just a winter thing or what the heck... (by the way, I've agoraphobia too)

    I wish I knew how to make this whole not wanting to sit down and write proper reviews feeling go away but I don't :( I think most of us are here because of you and I'm pretty sure we'll all like whatever you come up with. Whether it's full length reviews or just shorter ones... the main thing is for you to have a great time and not feel under pressure. :) xxx

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    1. To be honest, this is one of the reasons I posted this. When I started having doubts and feeling a bit... unsure... it really helped looking at other people's similar posts, seeing that other bloggers felt the same way and had their own secret fears sometimes. One of the big pieces of advice that came up was to talk to your blogging friends and share your thoughts, and that it might just help other people too. So here we are! :)

      From all the comments here it seems like a lot of people are shifting how they think about their blogs a little bit right now - because they're busier these days, or wanting to change their formatting, or because there's so much drama in the blogosphere, or whatever. I definitely think the winter thing's a huge part of it though. I think we all still try to keep steaming on without acknowledging that sometimes when it's cold and dark and generally a bit miserable, you don't WANT to be sitting plugging away at blog posts.

      P.S. I love your blog, so please do feel free to rant at me anytime about it! I don't want you to go away either! :)

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  13. As everyone else has added above, go with whatever rhythm you like. Reading journal posts, book pretties, whatever. We all love books and we stop by because we think you're funny, brain-cute and we all like books. None of that'll change if you switch up your style or schedule. :)

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    1. I love this comment. And not just because you called me 'brain-cute', which is simultaneously a really lovely and super-creepy compliment. :P

      You pretty much summed up my fears there - that everyone would disappear if I started changing things around. I guess knowing that WON'T happen takes the pressure off and might encourage me to play about a bit to find a better way of doing things for where I am NOW, as opposed to dwelling on how I used to do things last year, or even further back. Thanks Alex!

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    2. Uh-oh. I didn't mean to sound creepy, just encouraging! I sometimes forget to check how what I'm typing *sounds*. Glad you're feeling a bit more optimistic though.

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    3. Haha, it was a very original term that I've never come across before. I'm going to be mentally bookmarking that one for future use, I think! Brain-cute. Brilliant. :D

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  14. I've only recently discovered your blog, so maybe I'm a little biased, but I really like your current structure. What keeps me reading is your personality, and the way it comes through in your review style. I've never really been a fan of formal book reviews. I like the way you've been discussing "Jane Eyre" and your feelings throughout the reading process. I'm a really emotional reader, who frequently takes breaks to squeal or cry or throw the book at something. So, your style really appeals to me.

    Just go with what you feel and makes you happy. I know I'll keep reading, even if you take a break.

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    1. Ah, see, that's what I was going for! It's so much easier - and more enjoyable - to talk about the books I'm reading as I go, particularly for something longer like Jane Eyre. It's more immediate and visceral than waiting until the end and formulating a review, which can feel a bit forced. It feels like I can RESPOND to the book in a more instinctive way, rather than turning it into an essay. I'm very happy to find another emotional reader to share my squealing, crying and throwing of books with! :)

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  15. I've been loving the reading journals, it feels like a fresh way of doing a blog and I've been actually reading every post instead of skipping the books that don't appeal to me (sorry, I do do that!).

    But the main thing is what do you enjoy, this is a hobby after all, it should be fun!

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    1. I skip over reviews that don't appeal to me too, never fear - I think we all do! Occasionally if I'm feeling idle I WILL read ones I'm not too bothered about, and sometimes I'm swayed, but if I'm busy or just dropping by I'll usually just pick out the posts that straight-up interest me to read first. :)

      Maybe that's how I should be thinking of my reading journals - as a different way of blogging that sets me apart, rather than as a cop-out because I don't want to write long reviews so much any more. Also, they are WAY more fun to put together, which makes it a double win, right?

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  16. I almost quit last year. I ended up taking a break and came back to it refreshed but I've changed how I blog. Instead of blogging every day I blog only when I have something to say. Some reviews are in depth, others are just a quick thought. I don't review every book I read either. Some are just for me to enjoy without analyzing.

    I came to realize that if I can't keep it a hobby and have fun with it - it's not worth continuing.

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    1. I think that might be the key actually - trying to squash how I blogged when I had more time/energy, and evolving to a system that works for me NOW. Keeping things more free-flowing and concise should make the writing easier, and leave me free to play with more in-depth or unusual posts when inspiration strikes! Possibly the next time I have a bad stall the answer will be just that - to take a proper break and come back ready to just go with it. :)

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  17. I think the reading journal is great and if it's what you are feeling comfortable with at the moment, then you should stick with it. You ultimately must do what you want. As you said, it is your corner of this world and you should treat it as such. Personally, I prefer someone's organic thoughts on the books they read rather than a long, drawn out analysis, plot point by plot point. In my case, I feel that I've written some pretty great reviews, but I never set out to wow. I'm basically just putting down what I think. That's the best writing, in my opinion. Straight from the heart, truthful, and, like I said, organic. I do hope you choose to stick around and if you do, remember what ole Frank said, "I did it my way." =O)

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  18. I think you're over-stressing it a bit there dear! Do whatever works for you. I honestly don't even think reviews are an "essential" part of book blogging anymore - sure reviews are what we all kind of started blogging to do, but the blogging community revolves SO much more around memes and chatting with other bloggers and just generally talking about books and life.

    I like your journal-style posts, if you decide to keep doing them that way. I might even be more likely to read those than a full review, cause sometimes just the little thoughts that you have while reading are just enough to give a feel for the book without overdoing it.

    I hope you get it all sorted out, but above all don't stress it! Take a break, or stop writing reviews, or whatever, but I hope you don't stop blogging for good. *hugs*

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  19. I like your friendly rambling style. A book blog diesn't have to be book reviews you know! So just blog when you feel like it about what you feel like. I personally think I have too many reviews going on at the moment and not enough other stuff, but for me the other stuff is more time consuming.

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  20. I'm about to get all serious in your face, but first: KITTY GIF!!!! *dies of the cuteness*

    SO. Do I prefer reviews or journals? I prefer what you prefer. Cause it's your bloggitty boo.

    What frequency? I like however often you want to post. (Do you see where I'm going with this?)

    How do I feel about your blog in general? Sort of like... OOOOH, that's where ELLIE lives! *excited dancing*

    And as for ME, well, I could tell you that but it wouldn't be that helpful cause you gotta do what you want to do cause it's your blog! Which is my main, like, way to keep on going blogging because it's like 'well, I don't really mind if no one reads this, because I wanted to write it and I enjoyed writing it and I really LOVE comments, but even if I don't get them I won't feel like I've wasted my time.' Basically.

    Anyway. Basically we all love you and we're going to keep coming back because personality! You has it. And your posts has it no matter what they're like. :)

    I LOVE YOU!

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  21. I think that if you aren't "feeling" it a break is in order. You can come back any time.....or not. You run a beautiful blog here.. and people love it.. but they love you, too. FB, Twitter... LT etc are all great ways to keep in touch...

    GO! take a break, everyone needs a break now and then. IMO
    hugs hugs

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    1. One of these days, my dear Kath, I'm going to have to fly over there to give all you LT sweethearts the hugs of your life, I swear. :)

      I think the reading journal thing has pepped me up a bit, because it's a nice bite-size, relaxed, spontaneous thing to write every day - but you're right, if it gets too much a break will be on the cards. I do tend to struggle at this time of year anyway, with motivation and mood and all that, so maybe as we get closer to spring things will all look that much sunnier again!

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  22. Ellie, your blog has to be your blog. You started this for personal reasons and for fulfillment in some way; don't let that be taken away from you. Write for you and nobody else...if you feel like following a structure, then follow one. But, if the structure gets too...structured...then rebel and don't follow it for a while. If you want to just read and not post, do that too. Bloggers who write honestly and from themselves are the most interesting to me...if I want to read a structured blog all the time, then I can go over to some of the news media sites :p I do think there's something to the Winter respite idea though...it seems a lot of people are feeling this way right now. One of my favorite bloggers ever is taking the entire month of January off...just to regroup and breathe. She's not leaving...just giving herself some much needed time away. Don't leave. Just re-claim your blog. Besides, if you leave, I won't know how to visit your wonderful bookshop when and if I ever travel to England :)

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  23. I hope you continue with your blog. I just started recently reading and I adore it. I'd say write in the way that makes you feel most comfortable and if you need to take a break now and then do so. It's your blog, you decide how and when to post. :)

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