A majority of my bright & colorful blog is dedicated to books about spooky things that go bump in the night and messy gore, but sometimes I branch out, and sometimes I write about other things because I need to get them off my mind & share them. This post is one of those times, and I’m going to be really honest about some stuff with you all.
As of drafting up this post, I work 2 jobs (down from 3 pre-pandemic), normally 6 days a week. In addition to that, I single-handedly run a busy Etsy shop, where I package & make by hand most of the items sold – including many things that require multiple components being put together (DIY kits), things being printed/cut to certain specifications, or things being ordered from external sources, shipped to me, and then reshipped to my customers. These 3 things are my primary sources of income right now, and 2 of them have been severely impacted in regards to hours because of the pandemic, causing me to lean heavily on my art shop.
This means that every time you see me Tweet or post on Instagram or Facebook about my art or my shop or my coloring books, I’m literally trying to pay my bills. I’m not trying to be obnoxious. I don’t think I’m super amazing, or that my art is incredible. It took me YEARS of owning and selling my own art to even put “artist” in my bios on social media, because I didn’t feel good enough to do so. For the absolute sake of being honest here, I have pretty shit confidence in all aspects of myself, and my self-esteem is something I’ve struggled with and actively work on every day. Forcing myself to “put myself out there” as much as I do is terrifying, and being as open and as honest as I try to be while also trying to basically sell myself in regards to my products and artwork is a hugely stressful balance all on its own.
My “work life” is really tiring, even if from the outside it just looks like I spend a lot of time on social media. Anyone who uses social media frequently knows how exhausting it can be, right? Now imagine managing the social media accounts of multiple companies and multiple businesses, and being responsible for the brand’s messaging, tone, and content. It’s a lot! And I’m not saying this to complain – because, honestly, I love social media, and I love planning, so being a social media manager is a dream job, truly! But I’m also not going to lie, because work is work, regardless of what you’re doing – and work is tiring for everyone! That brings me the first of what I’m going to call my Points of Forgiveness for yourself in this post:
POINT OF FORGIVENESS: Forgive yourself for needing to rest. It’s okay to take a break if you need to. You do not need to be productive all the time. You have to give yourself permission to relax and recharge or you will burn out.
Outside of my “work”, I have several hobbies that require active attention – some even relating to that work thing to begin with. I run a ‘bookstagram’ account that works in tandem with the rest of my “online presence” to market my shop and my products, as well as to make friends via the bookish community and connections with people that I might not have met otherwise. Being a part of the bookstagram community has been incredible for me, and I’ve gotten to know people and make friendships that I wouldn’t trade or change for anything! But my bookstagram presence also requires maintenance – yes, even as a hobby!
For anyone without an active bookstagram, let me be very real with you: it looks like a bunch of pretty photos, but it’s WORK! Taking those photos, editing them, writing up captions that encourage conversation and engagement – that’s time, my friends. That’s energy! That’s effort! Just because bookstagrammers aren’t getting paid doesn’t mean they aren’t doing work within the community, and anyone who doesn’t understand that isn’t paying close enough attention. I can’t even count the number of times someone has commented on my photos of books to tell me they’ve just purchased it based on my post itself – that is marketing! We’re doing it because we love books, but that doesn’t make it any less like work – many of us feel pressure to post daily, to follow certain trends, to keep up with events. That pressure can build up, and it can become stressful if you’re not careful.
POINT OF FORGIVENESS: Forgive yourself for not keeping up with daily posts, photo challenges, hashtag trends, or the newest book craze. You can take time away from social media if you need to, and people will understand. You don’t have to have a bunch of followers or likes for your content to be good / worth posting.
Which brings me to reviewing! I’ve been a book reviewer for over ten years, but it’s only within the last three that I’ve really started becoming a part of the indie horror community online. I’ve met so many friends through the community, and through reviewing – I have several friends that run review sites, and I’m personally a part of 2 different amazing ones that do things like monthly events, watch parties, and themed photo challenges. As far as I know, none of the people doing any of this stuff get paid to do it – I know that I don’t, personally! We sometimes get books, and that’s very appreciated (because I know that I personally can’t afford nearly the amount I want to, despite how badly I’d love to support some of the authors writing right now!), but in terms of actual payment, most book reviewers – not all – do so with whatever free time and energy they have left after all of their other responsibilities and obligations, and that spent time ends up cutting into other things in our lives, like time with family. It can be stressful, because we love reading and we love promoting these books and these authors, but the pressure of keeping up, and of finding the time to Tetris the different facets of our lives into something that can fit neatly together, is overwhelming.
Reading books and writing reviews that do the books the actual justice they deserve can often take a great chunk of time for people – at least a few hours! I know that a lot of my fellow reviewers are behind on their TBR piles, and feel the looming pressure of their review books. It isn’t that we don’t want to read them, or that we don’t want to help boost a sale for the author in question – it’s just that a lot of us are fucking exhausted, and finding the time to do these things seems impossible when we’re barely getting by as it is.
To any author folk reading this, please keep this in mind and be respectful of the reviewers you’re working with. Unless they’ve given you a solid, specified date for review, don’t badger them about your books. If you aren’t comfortable with that, that is totally fine! We understand that you’re trying to make ends meet, too! But be open and honest about expectations when you make your book review inquiry so we can refuse if we’re not able to meet your requirements. And this should go without saying, but if someone reviews something and it isn’t favorable, do not reach out to them or blast them about it on social media.
POINT OF FORGIVENESS: Forgive yourself for the books on your shelf that you haven’t read, and for the blog posts you’re behind on. Again: it’s okay to rest, and to take time away if you need to. Be honest with your abilities in your review policies & emails with publishers/authors, follow up if you know there will be any issues with meeting agreed upon deadlines, and know that the books aren’t going anywhere – even if you need to step away for awhile.
I’ve been asked so many times how I do everything I do, or for advice on staying organized, and productive, and put together. I never know how to answer these questions because honestly, my Imposter Syndome immediately kicks into overdrive telling me that I am not doing well, that I’m not productive or put together, and that I have no business giving advice about things (or even writing a post like this – looking at you, evil brain harping on me right now as I type this!). I am a mess, and I get by on sheer force of will alone – because I’m honestly too damn stubborn to stop, and I say that while knowing that it’s detrimental to me in ways that I try to keep invisible from my online appearance. I’m writing this for other people, but I’m also writing it to myself, because I wish someone else would write it for me. I need to be told it’s okay to stop, and that it’s okay to take a break. I need reassurance that not getting a ‘like’ on something I share that I’m proud of doesn’t negate its worth, and that having less followers than someone else doing something vaguely similar to me doesn’t make me a loser.
You’d think these things would be common knowledge, right? But so many of us get confused about our self-worth because a lot of it is so tied up in what other people think of the work we produce – whether that work is a book, a poem, a painting, or a podcast episode. So here’s another one for you:
POINT OF FORGIVENESS: Forgive yourself for being flawed, for being a mess, for not having your shit together. It’s okay if your life isn’t perfect – NO ONE’S is! Comparing yourself and your success, sales, ratings and followers to other people on the internet is a less effective use of your time than either taking time to rest, or creating new material. We all have moments of self-doubt and insecurity, it’s okay. Just recognize it, and then move past it.
I know I specifically mention a few different things here, but please know the idea and theme behind this post doesn’t exclusively extend to my fellow bloggers, or book reviewers, or writers, or artists. This goes for those of you struggling to socialize on top of making ends meet, who are struggling with depression while in quarantine, and more. Forgive yourselves for needing a break or not being okay, whatever you’re doing, or whatever your job is.
Growing as people in a hell year where anything could show up tomorrow on our 2020 BINGO cards isn’t an easy feat, but it’s something we should all keep working toward. I know I need to ‘practice what I preach’ here, but it’s so important that we’re being gentle with ourselves, and that we aren’t all silently in this deep hole of overwhelmed social media despair on our own. Ask for support when you need it, step away when being online is taking a toll on your mental health, don’t be afraid to deactivate certain websites that “no longer bring you joy”.
This year has already been really hard on a lot of us, so why keep making it harder on ourselves? There’s so much in the world to be anxious and stressed and angry and sad about, so why focus that negativity inwardly, too? Especially in regards to our hobbies, and how we spend our own time online? Now more than ever, we need to put our effort into taking care of ourselves, and of the people we care about.
So, this long winded post is just me saying that, even if it doesn’t look like it from carefully cultivated posts or my back-to-back releases or my “productivity”, I am hanging in there by a thread that I am clinging to for dear life, and I am also offering that thread to anyone else struggling too, ’cause it’s really all I’ve got. I wish I had more solid advice, but I hope this helps anyone else out there who feels like they “aren’t good enough”, or like they should be doing more.
You are enough.
Just keep going. You’ve got this.
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