This post is supposed to be a rant post, where I’ll let it all out, and release the heavy feeling in my chest. But I think it will turn into something different later. I wrote this post for about four hours, because I really want to get it out there–I’ve been a bad (well, maybe not bad, more like not-so-good) blogger and I don’t want to be like that anymore.
During the past few months, I felt so messed up, and I didn’t know what to do, so I asked two trusted bookish friends for help.
I told them everything.
It wasn’t easy, I was afraid they won’t understand and I’ll lose two of my treasured friends in the bookish community. There was even a point when I felt they’re mad at me. But after thinking about everything that they’ve said, I’d like to believe they’re not mad. Instead, they’re concerned. They just appeared mad at first because what they said opened my eyes to the truth. They were straightforward, but you know what they say about the truth: it hurts, but it will set you free.
And even if I still feel a little wall between me and my two friends (maybe I’m just assuming stuff, but maybe the wall is real), I’m okay. If the wall is real, I understand. I might have hurt their feelings because some of the things I mentioned involved their friends. I was afraid of that, too. But it already happened, and what I can do now is give them space and show them who I’ve become because of their help. I want to make them proud. They turned an insecure-envious-selfish (ish)blogger into a friendly person who’s content with what she has and who embraces the bookish community as a whole.
This Humans of New York post sparked the change within me, and for that, I am truly grateful.
And if the little wall is not real, thank God I’m just paranoid. Because I would really, REALLY love to hug my two friends when I see them. The I-haven’t-seen-you-for-a-year super tight hug.
You might be wondering, what was my problem?
Actually, they were problems.
Bloggers Asking for Contacts
I understand that not all bloggers are aware of the etiquette on contacts. I myself used to ask for them. But I learned that contacts are like answers to an exam. You’re not selfish for not sharing them, because they’re not supposed to be shared. There are times when you share answers to an exam with your friend (in this case, contacts), but those times rarely happen and they only happen when your friend is really close to you.
When bloggers ask me for contacts, I can only have three types of responses:
- “I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m allowed to give out contacts.” (To people I don’t know)
- Same as above, with the addition of: “But you can try their publicity email *insert publicity email here* :)”
I send the second one to my friends. I add the publicity email (even if it’s available online) because some bloggers (like me) have difficulty finding them. I’ve been through the totally clueless stage of a book blogger so I know how it feels like.The third response (which I’ve never said yet) is the direct contact (a.k.a. The Book Fairy) and I’ve never given out a direct email address because my closest friends don’t need them.
I do give tips to my close friends so they can get in touch with publishers and have book fairies without revealing confidential information.
The Envious Blogger: Followers and Book Mail
I envy new bloggers who have more followers than I do because my thinking is like this: “I’ve been blogging for a year and a half and I have 200! She’s just blogging for a month and she has 250? That’s unfair.”
But then I realized, maybe she posts every day, maybe she’s more active on social media…
A lot of factors affect the number of followers, and I realized that readers are more important.
Have you ever asked yourself, “Who among my followers actually read my posts? Who among them really care for my bookish thoughts?”
I realized that in the end, readers are more important. We blog not for the stats. We blog to share–what we think and how we feel.
Some followers are only there for the giveaways, and that’s okay. One, we give them the chance to read the books we’re giving away, and two, they get to discover our blogs if they care about our posts. I’ve experienced losing followers after a Twitter giveaway, and at first I was pissed at them. But I realized, unfollowers show you your real followers (and hopefully, readers).
I discovered a lot of blogs through giveaways, and I’m thankful.
When a new blogger receives books from a publisher that I don’t receive books from yet, I get envious. Same thinking. “She gets books from *insert publisher here* and I don’t? My blog is a year older than hers!”
But maybe I didn’t look hard enough for the right contact. Maybe I wasn’t able to compose the right email.
When bloggers receive books that I badly want, I get envious, too. I ask myself, “Why didn’t the publisher approve my request?”
Envy is normal. A bit of it is healthy, even. If used as motivation to improve.
Thank God I realized these things before it was too late.
Sometimes I feel pressured to request a book because everyone is reading it.
I feel that I have to read the book because I won’t belong if I don’t. Also, reading a popular book would boost my stats.
But imagine if all of us read the same book every time. What about the other books that deserve an equal chance? What about diversity?
So I decided to just consider joining the bandwagon (the more, the merrier!) and not force myself to belong. Because *insert popular Robert Frost poem here–The Road Not Taken!* and my schedule can’t handle too many books. I want to prioritize books that I really want to read.
Also, I told myself not to feel bad whenever I end up not liking a book as much as everyone does. If I didn’t cry for a book that made everyone cry, that doesn’t make me heartless. That just means my heart didn’t feel what they did. And that’s okay.
It’s also okay to love a book even when no one else does. Because it means that you saw something that everyone didn’t (although I doubt a book no one loves even exists–because books are love!), and it also means a lot for the author.
As an author, I know how it feels like to be bashed for something I’ve worked hard on. Every word of praise for my work means a lot more than you can imagine. So even if I end up not liking a book, I do my best to still find something worth appreciating in it.
Fake-ish and Harsh Reviews
I feel like the word poignant is overused in reviews. I used to be annoyed by this, because I was thinking,”What, every book is poignant now?”
But I realized, what if they felt something that I didn’t? Maybe they really felt the book was poignant even if I didn’t.
I also had this issue with bloggers who use words in their reviews that require a dictionary to be understood (at least by me) and I felt like their reviews were fake, in a way. Because they describe the book so beautifully, then give it 3 stars.
3 stars is so-so for me. But I realized that bloggers have different standards. I’ve never given a rating lower than 3.5 since day one, until today. And I give a lot of high ratings. That doesn’t make my standards low, it just means I happen to love a lot of books.
Now I realized that book reviews with unfamiliar words can be a way to improve my vocabulary. And I’ll do my best to hold my judgments when it comes to fake-ish reviews.
I know some bloggers who give 1-star ratings and harsh reviews and I feel weird towards them. I’m thinking, “Why so harsh?”
Maybe I feel this way because I’m an author and I wouldn’t want to see such things, but I realized that harsh reviews, when taken as constructive criticism (even if they don’t seem to be constructive sometimes), can improve an author so much. Harsh reviews contain details that the avid fans probably didn’t notice. Avid fans of the author might have chosen to ignore the minor details that they didn’t like, because they love a book as a whole and they love the author so much.
When an author survives a harsh review, the author becomes a stronger, better writer.
I realized that this is the bookish community and we’re trying to spread the book love, so why not celebrate diversity both in books and in reviews?
That One Event
What is the cause of all this, you may ask?
The Bloggers’ Forum (or simply, the forum) that National Book Store (NBS) hosts every time a book signing event happens in the Philippines.
A little backstory…
Last April 26, 2014, Veronica Rossi, Tahereh Mafi, and Ransom Riggs came to the Philippines for a book signing event. (#VTRinPH)
I am the president of Veronica Rossi Philippines and because of that, I got the chance to be invited to the Bloggers’ Forum of #VTRinPH.
The forum is an invitation-only event hosted by NBS. The list of bloggers who get invited came from publishers. Fandom representatives can get invited, too.
The forum is very important because of the long lines at book signing events. Filipino bookworms line up so early (the earliest I know was a day before the registration started) and when you’re far from the venue of the book signing event (like me), you either have to leave home early and compete with the earlybirds or accept your fate at the end of the line and go home late–both of which I can’t do.
The forum has about 30 attendees and you’re just number 30 if you’re at the end of the line. Compare that to number 1000 (or so) if you’re at the public signing.
Aside from the small population of forum attendees, the forum has a Q & A where bloggers ask questions and talk to the authors. The entire forum lasts for about an hour, and an hour with the authors you love is heaven. Compare that to the 2 minutes (or so) that each person in the public signing gets.
Plus: more photos. And freebies. Forum attendees often receive ARCs at the event.
I started this blog last January 18, 2014 and all I want back then is to share my thoughts on books and spread the book love.
The forum changed everything.
I wasn’t able to attend book signing events after #VTRinPH because I wasn’t invited to the forum anymore. I only got an invite before as a fandom representative, not as a blogger.
Since that day, I did everything to get invited as a blogger. Everything that I did was for the forum. The forum became the reason why I’m blogging, and envy is the root of all my problems. I envy all of them, the forum attendees, and things didn’t turn out well for me.
No one really knows how to get invited to the forum. I’ve asked forum attendees, even NBS. I didn’t get anything except for tips and suggestions to improve my blog. I kept asking for a goal. What do I need to achieve to be invited? How many followers? How many years of experience? I kept on asking those questions, but I never got an answer.
Unfair? Yes, unfair. But before you stop reading and decide to kill me (or anyone, for that matter), think of what I’ve realized: If everyone gets invited to the forum, it would lose its purpose. Just like the rankings in school. Not everyone can get in the Top 10 because it’s the Top 10, not Top *insert number of students here*–but not making it to the top doesn’t mean you suck. You’re good. They’re just better.
Same thing goes for the forum. And even if you reach the point when you think you’re better than them already, you still might not get an invite because who knows?
Life is unfair. I’ve heard that from a lot of people already, and sometimes I get tired of hearing it.
A lot of people say life is unfair because it truly is.
I envy the forum attendees. Up to now, I still do. I’d be lying if I say I don’t anymore. But I believe my dose of envy is the healthy one. I use it to be motivated. I want to go to the forum because I want to see my friends again. I’ve made friends because of #VTRinPH, and I haven’t seen them since then.
It’s not their fault they’re invited. They’ve worked hard for their blogs, too. They deserve to be there. I mean, all of us deserve to be there, but not all of us can get the chance. It’s hard to accept that they got the chance and I didn’t, but I felt a lot better when I finally accepted it. Maybe the forum and I are not meant to be, for now.
Recently, new bloggers were added to the forum. This made me smile (even if I did envy them) because if they made it, then maybe I can, too, someday.
I used to think the forum attendees were too far or unreachable, but I realized I was just intimidated. They’re nice people, and some of them became really good friends of mine.
I’m scared that this post might cause unwanted things (like arguments) to happen but I’m praying you’ll see this post as a story of a blogger who forgot her true purpose and turned into an someone she didn’t like. I’m praying you’ll learn from my experience. I’m praying for this post to serve as a reminder that book blogging is not The Hunger Games. We’re not competitors here. We’re not here to bring each other down. We’re not here to be on the top.
We’re here to take books to the top. To spread the book love. We’re colleagues. Friends.
Book blogging is Barney and Friends, where Barney=Books and Friends=Book Bloggers.
I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family. *C’mon, I know you know the song*
I forgot that I blog for myself. And that almost ruined me, and my relationships in the bookish community.
Yes, the bookish community is not perfect. But families are not perfect, too, are they?
I won’t be discouraged from blogging. Even if I never get an invite for the forum. I’d still love to be invited, because who wouldn’t want to? But that’s not my goal anymore. I don’t have a goal anymore. I have a purpose. And that is staying true to myself . The real me wants to spread the book love. So I’ll do it.
From now on, I’ll do what my heart wants to do. I’ll be honest with myself. I won’t wear a mask. I’ll stop doing anything that makes me feel uncomfortable.
I want to be happy with book blogging again, because blogging is not an obligation. It’s me. My blog is an extension of myself, a means of self-expression, my representation in the bookish community.
It’s my fault I had problems with the bookish community. I admit that. But I’ve accepted my mistakes, learned my lessons, and most importantly…
I have forgiven myself.
I love books. And I love the bookish community. We’re Barney and Friends, remember? ❤
I hope you feel the same way.