Avid Readers, Occasional Bloggers

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Lessons Learned in 2021: Less busy is easy, more meaning is hard

As indicated in my Happy New Years post, I feel like I have learned somethings about myself in 2021 and that I am in a better position to post to this blog as a result. Obviously, I did not set out to learn things simply so I could blog here.

Like many during the never-ending ongoing pandemic I was trying to figure how I wanted to structure and approach my life.  What would I spend my time on? Where would I put my focus and energy?  What ultimately brought joy and meaning into my life?

There were a number of factors involved:

  • I am now working from home for the foreseeable future while my wife has a longish commute.
  • I continue to focus on my health. Having lost nearly 45 pounds, my focus is on finding a workable balance when it comes to diet and exercise. Not losing weight or gaining it back but finding a healthy stability. I run three or four times a week but still eat too much sweets and carbs.
  • I still read quite a bit but seem to struggle retaining knowledge and information from what I read.
  • I have a rather large library at home and yet still struggle not to buy more books and check out books from the library.
  • Despite wrestling with what you might call digital minimalism for many years now, I still find myself distracted by electronic devices and gadgets.

What has been reinforced for me time and time again in 2021 is that distraction is easy and focus is hard. A cliche right?  But nonetheless true.

When you want to give up your New Year’s Resolution after two weeks…

A harsh reality I have had to admit to myself: if I had the ability to write insightful, well-crafted book reviews of serious non-fiction then I would be writing for publications not just this humble blog. Sad but true, as they say, sad but true.

So yeah, I am having second thoughts on the future of CM 19 days into 2021.

One of the many reasons this blog has slowly dwindled in readership and content is that I have lost my “voice” – my sense that I have something interesting or important to say.

This is sort of the flip side of the lack of audience. The two are probably related in some in-direct way. As I posted less and less, and interacted with other lit-blogs less and less, my audience drifted away; into the world of social media and away from the world of blogs and RSS feeds.

That same social media, and the complications of life, that distract and take up precious time so that posting requires more work and commitment. At the same time, despite reading a great deal, I don’t feel the urge to post. I don’t have something I just have to put down in words and in the back of my mind is the sense that no one will read them anyway.

100 books in 2020, Big Books in 2021

My big picture reading goal in 2020 was to finally crack the 100 books in a year mark which I have been approaching for a few years. I was able to accomplish that and so look for a different approach in The Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty-One.

Side note: I always feel a little guilty about counting graphic novels, novellas and other forms of very short books in my books I have read count. But this is in tension with my desire to read 100 books and to track every book I have read. And to be fair, I listened to a number of audio courses which are equal to quite large books given the number of hours involved. So I will call it even.

I will admit to sometimes being put off by very large books for two reasons. 1) hard to get to 100 if you are reading large tomes 2) I struggle to stay engaged and get a lot out of large books because I don’t always have the large blocks of time required to read such books well. I started thinking about this even as I was on track to read 100 books in 2020.

But as a way to challenge myself and read some books that I have had on my TBR pile for some time and have had recommended to me multiple times, I decided to declare 2021 the year of big books.

I also want to attempt to focus on some key interest areas in my reading: classics, books on conservatism, books on writing and books on faith and/or theology.

The Future of Collected Miscellany

Once more into the breach…

As the one or two people who read this blog with any regularity know, I have been struggling with whether to keep going. Traffic has gone down year by year. No one leaves a comment or links to this blog. On occasion a publisher might retweet or tweet a review or an author might say thank you for a review, but for the most part this site is visited by those led here from Google searches with a small trickle from social media.

My motivation and energy for posting, let alone quality posting, had all but disappeared. Largely because of the above. I admit, I struggle when I get no feedback or interaction; when it seems like no one is listening. I was hanging on mostly because I still like getting books from publishers and having a website where you post reviews helps with that.

As the end of 2020 approached, I thought it presented a good opportunity to make a clean break one way or the other. So I began to think about what I wanted to do.

The biggest motivation for me to keep this site going is the realization that social media and other distractions had undermined my ability to concentrate and focus on writing. And in 2021 I want to prove to myself that I can do the hard work necessary to write engaging and thought provoking book reviews and cultural criticism.

I also felt frustrated that I had read a great many books without coming away with much insight, opinion, or reaction. I was too passive. Writing is one way to force yourself to pay attention and get more out of reading.

The question was then whether I had the time and energy to make it work and how I would go about setting myself up to succeed. I decided that I owed it to myself to try. I didn’t want all the years CM has been around to simply disappear with a whimper.

Pondering the death of a blog or Deja Vu all over again

More than halfway into the second decade of CM I am again pondering quitting.  This is something I have been doing since before the tenth anniversary.

It is the history that makes it hard to just quit.

What to do with all the reviews, interviews and opinions offered over the years?

But if I am honest with myself, I don’t get much joy out of posting and there certainly is no interaction or traffic on the blog anymore. I can probably get review copies just posting to NetGalley, Goodreads, Amazon, etc.

It also bugs me a little that quitting would feel like failure; reflect on my character in some way.  I always wanted to prove that I could improve my focus and writing and offer quality book reviews here again.  But the motivation just isn’t there. I’m not sure people read personal blogs anymore anyways.

I’m going to ponder things a bit more but it seems depressing to limp along for months again and come back and read another “Is this blog dead?” post.

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