Looking Back, Looking Ahead

If 2022 taught me anything, it was that it’s not feasible to keep on working at the pace that I have. The thinner I stretch myself, the more likely that I (or at the very least my health) will snap. The New Year started with a bit of a migraine, and a sluggish start for both the car battery and the gas boiler – let’s hope they don’t collude to make my life difficult and demand to be replaced.

So it’s clear that I need to prioritise things more successfully in 2023, and allow for some ‘slack’ instead of always working at 100% capacity, so that when stressful periods arrive, as they invariably do, I have the energy and mental space to cope with them.

Image credit: Clipart Library.

Looking back at 2022, I read 166 books, watched 102 films (a lot more than I expected, as there have been months when I just watched two or three). I have written 135 blog posts, adding up to 95 thousand words. Again, I could have written a novel instead. Especially since it has become obvious, looking at the stats, that the heyday of my blog was in 2015-2017, when I had far more comments and likes. Nowadays, it seems to be the same 7-10 good friends commenting. My posts have got longer and longer, but, although the visitor figures have risen overall, there are fewer views per visitor (in other words, it might be mostly bots and spam that raise the figures). And, although I love putting together the escapist Friday Fun posts, it is a bit grating that these are by far my most popular posts (since they require the least amount of effort) this year. None of the posts I actually wrote in 2022 were the most popular this past year. The three top ones were all older (Dazai Osamu – which warms the cockles of my heart – dates from January 2021, as does my advice about how to finish The Brothers Karamazov, while my disappointment about The Secret History by Donna Tartt was written in 2014.

After ten years of blogging, the all-time greatest views are still mostly linked to my Friday Fun posts, followed by some high scorers such as a review of Americanah (2014), my real-life experience of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017), and one of my oldest posts about Japanese poet Tawara Machi, all of which barely went over the 2000 views mark.

Perhaps my strategy of at most three blog posts per week (of which one is the frivolous Friday Fun) is still too ambitious.

By way of contrast, although I had a creative writing spurt in April-June, I have written very little new stuff since, have only had one piece of flash fiction published, still haven’t finished my novel or the translation of the novel I am currently preparing for Corylus. I do have one small piece of translation forthcoming in Firmament, the literary magazine of Sublunary Editions, and I did get a ‘highly commended’ for the John Dryden Translation Prize for my take on Mihail Sebastian’s play. But clearly, this shows me that I am neglecting my more meaningful long-term work for the sake of quick feedback and likes. Understandable perhaps in a year where I felt quite fragile and there was only so much rejection I could take (there was, as always, plenty of it).

Therefore, this year, I will seriously reduce my blogging and social media consumption in favour of my writing, translating, editing and publishing. Twitter has become creaky and unpleasant anyway. Instead of posting reviews on a regular basis and trying to fit in all the good books I read, I will only respond to the challenges I choose to participate in (such as January in Japan, or the 1940 Book Club, or Women in Translation), and perhaps a monthly summary of the most notable ‘others’.

I like having tentative reading plans too (allowing enough wriggle room for wherever the mood might take me), so here are my geographical plans for the first six months of the year: January in Japan; February in France; March in Northern Climes; April 1940 Club; May: China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Korea (I know that’s a vast territory, but an additional challenge is to read mostly what is already on my shelves, rather than buying new books); June: the Balkans.

43 thoughts on “Looking Back, Looking Ahead”

  1. I think the blogging heyday is well and truly behind us – like you, I struggle with it all sometimes (as I’ll say in my next post!). Anyway, good luck for all your endeavours in 2023 🙂

    1. I really enjoyed the immediacy of responses from readers of the blog, so much more satisfying than submitting a piece of writing and then never hearing back from anybody, or else receiving a standard rejection email.

  2. I always enjoy reading your posts and often find books to add to my wishlist. However, I understand the pressure to write posts – I am a terrible blogger, as I always find something else taking up my time – writing, reading, and life! Hopefully, by pulling back a bit, you will have more time to do your own writing and translating. Twitter has always been my favourite social media, but I am more drawn to Instagram nowadays, where I follow many book bloggers. I hope 2023 is a calmer and kinder year for you and your boiler and car behave! Big hugs x

    1. Thank you, Hemmie, I knew you’d understand, as you too are pulled in the direction of so much else. Have just booked in a boiler service – albeit at the end of this month, so will be holding my breath until then.

  3. Blogging does take a lot of energy, Marina Sofia. I can understand – especially since your blog posts are always of real quality – how you’re re-thinking that part of your life. You do need time for yourself and time to devote to your obligations without feeling so stressed that you lose your health. I think it’s wise to work out what your priorities are and where you want your energies to go, and then live that way.

    1. I keep saying that every year, but this year I really mean it! Partly because this is the year that I really started worrying about my health – prior to 2022, I kept saying my pace of life and work was not sustainable but blithely continued to live at that pace!

  4. Thanks for these reflections Marina. Your blogs combine books, writing and life events and it always give me something interesting to set myself against when I write my own authorselectric blogs. Sadly the group concerned seem to be leaving the stable and as someone said, Perhaps blogging has had its day. ‘For everything there is a time…’

    1. Ah, that’s sad to hear – but yes, blogging takes a lot of time and effort, and there’s no point if you are not getting much interaction or a good readership. I am grateful that it helped me to find some like-minded bookish friends though!

  5. I’ve had fewer comments last year which, as you say, is half the point of blogging, although I assume that readers had less time on their hands in 2022 that the previous two years. Trying not to work flat out sounds a wise plan to me. Wherever you choose to channel your energies, keep well!

    1. I wasn’t getting that many comments in 2020/21 either, when presumably people weren’t going out as much and so had more time on their hands, so I do have the feeling blogging might be past its peak and other things have arisen to replace it. Or else I am like one of those boring old farts saying that the novel is dead because nobody is buying my novels!

  6. Sounds like a good plan Marina Sofia. I’ve struggled the past few years to post at anything like the rate I used to (and it wasn’t that much to begin with!) and keep up with everyone’s blogs. But I’m hoping to manage more this year, fingers crossed. I really enjoy your posts so I’ll look forward to whatever you decide to share!

    1. I’ve been struggling to keep up with reading and commenting as well, so I’m not blaming anyone. I often just wildly click like and think ‘I’d like to reply to that, but am on my phone, so will do it later when I’m at my desk’… and then that later never comes!

  7. I can see that you’ve had such a busy year, Marina, and sometimes priorities have to shift – I know how much time blogging can take and also how disheartening it is when there’s not much response. I will enjoy seeing you here when you can, and also when you’re able to take part in things like the Clubs. The main thing is to take care of yourself. x

    1. Back in 2020 I got a bit cross when a friend of mine pointed out I was spending far too much time blogging instead of focusing on my own writing – but I really needed that community. Besides, just between us, it’s easier to blog than to write (and edit, and rewrite, and submit and deal with rejection and all that).

  8. I’m very relieved to hear your honest and rigorous assessment and the conclusions you’ve drawn. I trust it will do a world of good for you to allow yourself to focus more on the offline for the foreseeable. I look forward to our keeping up separately to Twitter. X

    1. I am really grateful for the wonderful bookish community I have found via social media and blogging – but I hope I can keep some of them at least even if I am less ‘present’.

  9. It’s sad to think that maybe the hey day of blogging is over, there’s so much competition from the shorter formats that proper lit crit is being edged out. Your blog has introduced so many works in translation to me, so I hope you can still do some summary posts. By the way, Shiny would be happy to take a short story from you… we can’t pay, but can place it out there and publicise.

    1. Oooh, you tempt me, Annabel! And thank you for your kind words about my reviews. I always feel my reviews are too ’emotional’ – based upon my instant reaction to a book rather than proper literary criticism. But that’s probably because I got tired of over-analysing every book during my undergraduate degree.

  10. I think the book blogosphere is on a downward trend. My pattern is very similar to yours. In ye olden days there was always a turnover of newbies and leavers, but now most of my gang have been around forever, and the gang’s getting smaller as time goes by! I’m glad you’re not giving up completely, and I hope you find a balance that works for you!

    1. That’s interesting. I began blogging for AuthorsElectric in 2020 during the pandemic and have really enjoyed it but like Marina I find I am getting fewer responses and only from the same people which is somewhat disheartening. I hate to see someone with 0 and will find something constructive to say if I can.

      1. I must admit I used to actively look out for new bloggers and try to make them feel welcome but I’ve got lazy about that over the last few years. So many people only blog for a short time and then give up because they don’t get much immediate reaction. Maybe I should make outreach one of my New Year’s resolutions!

        1. AuthorsElectric asked for a minimum of a year of monthly blogs but what suited me was that you could write about anything you wanted. So I started literary autobiographical type pieces which seemed to work and actually got better at it until I’ve probably reached a peak now with my latest on 60s Liverpool.

    2. I seem to have lost sight of a number of bloggers who were so important to me in my early days, but I don’t quite know where to find them. I remember participating in all sorts of memes and being really active – I don’t know how I had time for it, because I was still travelling, working, my children were small etc.

  11. I’ve had less engagement on my blog as well last year (fewer comments and likes), but I also wrote fewer posts than in previous years. The majority of views come from search engines now, when before 2020 they came from the wordpress reader. I like to think that behind the views there are still real people looking for information on specific books or authors.
    Good luck with your writing this year!

    1. Ah, interesting, I didn’t check for the sources of the views. Just done so and, as you say, it is search engines – and Pinterest. I suppose because of my Friday Fun pictures.

  12. I think your plans sound very practical and reasonable, and are ones I’m going to partially emulate. I’m going to try and worry less about blog views and comments, post when I feel like it, not when I feel I have to. I want to read more of the books I’ve bought, and which have sat far too long on my TBR. And I want to write. And finish that writing, rather than just talk about it. I hope 2023 is a far healthier, happier and personally productive year for you. I look forward to finding out how you get on.

    1. I know you are keen to write as well, so here’s to both of us achieving our goals in that respect. I too want to read more of the books on my shelves. Especially since I need to get rid of a good number of them before I move abroad (in about 2 years’ time).

  13. Stats are always misleading because some reviews take time to gather steam. I published twice as many posts this year than last, mostly book focused, and my overall views were roughly comparable to last year. Comments and likes are encouraging, but I find that many meaningful responses/discussions occur off blog, on Twitter and sometimes Facebook. I still think blogs have value, but you have to be sure it is serving your interests as a reader and writer, whatever they may be.

    1. I treasure some of the literary friendships I have made via the blog and Twitter (I abandoned Facebook about 4-5 years ago). I would certainly not have met so many fascinating people worldwide, and had such interesting discussions otherwise!

  14. Thank you for sharing, Marina. I love the blogging world, but I agree it is not the same as before. I feel that earlier readers were mostly writing about books in their blogs, but now there are multiple forums through which this happens. I hope you find more time to write and translate and publish. But hoping that you’ll continue blogging. You are one of my favourite bloggers and I can’t afford to lose more friends here. Love your plans for this year. Especially about May and June, because you are planning to read Chinese and Balkan literature. I’m a huge fan of these two and have loved everything I’ve read. Will look forward to finding out which books you choose to read and what you think about them. Happy reading, writing, translating and hopefully also blogging 😊

      1. Thank you for your kind words, Marina 😊 Glad to get to know you through your blog and Twitter and have wonderful bookish conversations. Thank you for everything you do.

  15. Same here. My blog was at its most successful in the past. A one year break didn’t help, obviously. I hope you can find more balance. Easier said than done, I guess. Twitter has become so weird.
    Good luck with all of your projects this year and good health.

    1. I was fortunate that I could avoid Twitter controversies and had my own nice bubble of people, but it has become more and more awkward and user-unfriendly too. And I just don’t enjoy Instagram or Mastodon as much. Still, I am sure that will help my productivity in other areas.

  16. Blogging, literary blogging anyway, may well have passed its heyday but I shall continue nevertheless – though, like you, I’ll be posting (as I have through most of this past year) less frequently, once every three days instead of every two as was the case in 2021.

    Mental sanity is and must be the prime consideration, I agree; yet since I get a lot of joy out of blogging interactions I can’t cut it out completely.

  17. I very much relate, as a veteran book blogger. I feel like the heydey was every earlier, 2010-13 maybe? By the time I started in 2011 I felt like there was a glut of blogs and it was hard to make headway, but now, it’s awfully quiet! I was one of the people viewing your Brothers Karamazov post in 2022, and found it very helpful. Those “evergreen” posts are great in that way. Apart from that, I get the most views from students trying to crib for their essays, I think!

    And yet I keep going, but have pulled back as well (years ago) and see it as a diary more than anything else. Sadly for me, I’m hopelessly addicted to Twitter (and that’s where the conversation is, at least for now) but I think you’re right to pull back there as well.

    1. I meant to reply to this and thank you for finding the Karamazov post helpful. Like you, I am rather addicted to Twitter, but the algorithm and tech issues are getting harder and harder to overlook. I am sure all this will be good for my actual writing though!

  18. I think with Twitter’s slow implosion blogging will make a slow comeback and I’m not just saying that because I’m hoping to start blogging this year. Your entries are a highlight for me and now that I have the WordPress app I’m going to be commenting so much more. I completely understand the fatigue and general exhaustion you’re feeling, last year wasn’t good to you, even I was shocked by the bad luck and I’ll health. I wish you a much more fulfilled and easy year. 😊

    1. You are so kind to say that about my blogging – and do please let me know where you are blogging so I can visit and comment. I hope blogging won’t die out completely, some people will still enjoy reading and writing in a longer format. But it won’t be viral levels of engagement (not that mine ever had that), just a small niche audience.

      1. Hi Marina Do keep going with blogging for your small niche audience. We appreciate it. Also I thought I’d mention that we have three new members on AuthorsElectric so maybe it is picking up again. Let’s hope so

  19. Last year wasn’t very kind to/for you and your health suffered so it’s understandable that you want to cut back on your overall workload. Good health is so important and so your plan to slow down in areas is very sensible especially if they aren’t quite working for you as you would have hoped.

    I have only ever had a few faithful followers on my blog, I’m used to that, so I’m always a little (pleasantly) surprised when I get comments. Last year did seem difficult maybe a reaction to the previous two years? I’m not sure. I’m currently using the WWWWednesday meme to ensure a weekly post and, hopefully, I’ll post ‘My thoughts’ at least once a month or Blog Tours on the agreed date.

    I’m glad you’re not giving up completely as I enjoy your blog. I look forward to reading whenever you post in future, Marina, until then keep well and have a better, healthier and happy 2023!

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