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Almost five months in, and I find myself having a bit of an existential crisis with my blog. I have fallen into many traps – the trap of feeling like my blog needs to make money, the trap of feeling like my blog will never make money, the trap of feeling like I need to change my niche so that it will make money, the trap of comparing my blog to other blogs, the trap of cranking out content and starting to think of it as a chore, the trap of not being “efficient” or “effective” with promotion and learning, and so much more. I think these are traps that many people fall into as bloggers.
When I started this blog, I set out with the idea of sharing the things I’m most passionate about – travel, teaching, writing, and living life fully. And I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve failed at that, but I do feel like I’m failing at practicing what I preach, so to speak. I’ve been so focused on creating blog content three times a week that I’ve barely touched my novel revisions all summer. I only wrote a whopping 321 words on my next novel project during Camp NaNoWriMo over the whole month of July, and I’ve spent most of my summer weekdays in my pajamas sitting at my husband’s computer in our bedroom writing and promo-ing when I have a perfectly beautiful office with a window downstairs (that currently needs a good cleaning/organizing), and a perfectly good new laptop that I could take anywhere with free wifi. I also feel like I’ve strayed from my voice, from my love of wordplay and description, similes and metaphors, and storytelling.
And I have no excuse – no kids and very few work obligations since the later part of May. Basically, I feel like I’m in a rut, I’m feeling some self-doubt and some dissatisfaction, and with the next semester fast approaching, I’m worried about how I’ll find the time to do it all: blog, and teach, and cook, and promo, and grade essays, and keep the house up, etc . So I’ve made a decision. I’ve decided to…
No, I’m not going to quit. But I am going to take some of the pressure off. I’m going to stress less about posting new content 3 times a week, and I’m going to focus more on the writing itself, and I’ll probably get more personal, more real, and share more of myself in the process. I’m going to get out of the house and work out in the world while I can, make the most of August, strive to live creatively. I hope you’ll bear with me during this time as I stretch out my fingers and toes and see how far I can reach, and while I figure out just what, exactly, I want the focus of this blog to be and how to balance it with writing and teaching.
And speaking of writing, a very important part of it is reading. It is a part, I’m ashamed to admit, that I’ve been neglecting way too much for way too long. I need that to change. So, to start things off, today I want to share my 5 favorite books. I’m looking forward to this list changing and expanding as I strive to read more in the coming months.
5 Friday Favorites ~ Books Edition
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – I have loved this book the longest. Despite having a love for language and reading, I often rebelled against required reading or reading on a timeline in school. In fact, I could probably count on one hand the number of assigned books I actually finished in high school. I was first assigned To Kill a Mockingbird in 7th or 8th grade, and I devoured it. I did it again in high school. This novel might be the most cliched “favorite novel” ever (or possibly tied with The Catcher in the Rye, which I hated in high school and didn’t finish and might have to give a second chance), but the tale of racial injustice, compassion, and doing the right thing despite difficulties made an everlasting mark.
Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert – I haven’t felt this inspired to live an authentic, creative life in a long time. In fact, this book has a lot to do with my current state. A couple of my favorite quotes from the book include these two:
“I also want to live the most vividly decorated temporary life that I can. I don’t just mean physically; I mean emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. I don’t want to be afraid of bright colors, or new sounds, or big love, or risky decisions, or strange experiences, or weird endeavors, or sudden changes, or even failure.”
“Stop treating your creativity like it’s a tired, old, unhappy marriage (a grind, a drag) and start regarding it with the fresh eyes of a passionate lover. Even if you only have fifteen minutes a day in a stairwell alone with your creativity, take it. Go hide in that stairwell and make out with your art!”
The Effects of Light by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore – There are a lot of elements that I love in this book that are beautifully woven together with delicious descriptions. It explores and melds art, life, academia, love, creativity, intelligence, and the question of where to draw the line between art and pornography. It does so through the unraveling of a mystery while balancing two main narrative voices.
Directions to the Beach of the Dead by Richard Blanco – I remember first reading this book as I waited to be called for jury duty. I remember how it grabbed me, so much so that I went home and read excerpts to my then husband, a numbers guy. I came back to it recently and delighted in all the underlined passages from that first time. There are just so many, like:
… In this space between cities,
between the dreamed and the dreaming, there is
no map—no legend, no ancient street names
or arrows to follow, no red dot assuring me:
you are here—and no place else. If I don’t know
where I am, then I am only these heartbeats,
my breaths, the mountains rising and falling
like a wave scrolling across the train’s window.
The book speaks to ideas that I feel deeply, like travel and identity and home. And though I first came to Richard Blanco’s work through some bias (he was my undergrad mentor, after all), he has become one of the leading voices of poetry today, an honor very well deserved.
Bluets by Maggie Nelson – This book defies genre, which is part of what intrigues me about it. It’s also about my favorite color, so, again, I’m biased. But there is something so fascinating about the way it opens up and reveals itself. It starts, “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke.” This opening breaks one of the big rules about writing (using passive voice), but in doing so we get a feeling for just how hard this confession is to admit. It is just lovely.
What are your all-time favorite books?
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