How blogging sometimes makes me hesitant to read…

Book blogging has always been about the learning experience for me. I started a blog one day to practice writing in English. Then, I slowly discovered book blogs and I loved how my knowledge about books and literary issues expanded. When people mention *cough* as some people recently did in real life *cough* how some hobbies distract from their career goals, I always smile and ignore them (while quietly seething inside), because I think if blogging has done anything for me, like reading in general does, it is sharpening my critical insights into certain issues.

Blogging, then, is a huge learning experience for me. Plus, it helps me realise how limited my own personal experiences are, and in that manner triggers a curiosity to look outside my own boundaries. Combined, these two have made me feel that blogging has been one of the most worthwhile additions to my life. It has also made me humble. I know that on the subjects of gender and ethnicity, for example, there are a huge number of bloggers more knowledgable than me. I love that I can learn so much through comments on my own posts (it has long been a blogging motto of mine that I am often still formulating opinions, only allowing myself to ask questions), or mostly by reading the well-rounded posts of others. However, at times it also leaves me overwhelmingly insecure with a tendency to question everything I want to write down. Which brings me to today’s subject:

I have noticed over the past months that I am often hesitant to pick up books that I know will make me think (not that any of the books I have read recently haven’t made me think), and that I will probably love, because I feel insecure about the thought that subsequent to reading said book, I will have to formulate an opinion about it. What bothers me even more is the fact that these are usually books on the very subjects I find so important. Power discourses, historical fiction set in colonial times, gender, ethnicity.. One of the reasons why I haven’t been doing very well on my Africa reading challenge is that next to persons such as Kinna or Amy, I would feel insecure about how I should feel about certain books, about how groups of people might be portrayed in said books, about what issues I should have signalled but will probably overlook, etcetera. I do not want to be bothered by such self-doubts, because the very idea of reading diversily, of reading on issues I find important but do not know a lot about, is that it is the perfect way to learn..

Hopefully by admitting this, I will give myself some leeway to explore literature without feeling too hesitant, ignorant, and insecure about the things I will undoubtedly encounter. I want to allow myself space to ask questions, to feel conflicted about which opinion to back, to perhaps post confusingly long paragraphs with different points of view because I feel I cannot decide yet. And so this is what I will attempt to do. Perhaps that means my blog will consist of navel-gazing sometimes (as if it doesn’t already – hah!) but I think these issues are important.

There is one thing I should note as well though, because I have noticed something over the past months that perhaps makes me feel less secure about exploring new horizons. Usually, comments on my post make me feel very grateful. They make me feel respected and understood, and even when critical, invite deeper conversation and discussion. As I have said I love to learn. I also realise I am a young blogger and reader compared to most other bloggers, and that I do not have the life experience and the knowledge of most of you. However, the fact that I am often puzzled by things, the fact that I express my insecurities, and might from now on do more of that, does not mean that I welcome comments that tell me exactly what and how to think, that basically assert authority without leaving room for fruitful discussion. I may be young and insecure and a little naive, but I am also a person and an adult. Again, in general my comments and my blog feel like a very secure environment for me, and I love to learn, I just want to do it in a polite manner. And please don’t feel like I’m talking about most of you, because I am not. I love you all. It’s just a once or twice encounter in the past months that has thrown a wrench in my overall blogging securities.

Now, to return to the actual subject: are you ever scared to read a book, while you know you will probably love it? Has blogging ever kept you from reading a book because you knew you would like to blog about it afterwards? How do you deal with that?

32 thoughts on “How blogging sometimes makes me hesitant to read…

  1. winstonsdad

    I have found blogging a quest for myself I have tried to inspire people to try lit from round the world. I initially started to expand my own passion in this field but now want pass this on .As for fear of books to read mainly for me it is classic female writing I m scared off one reasons I love your blog is your passion for these writers and hope that will inspire me at some point iris I love your blog keep the good work going all the best stu

    Reply
    1. Iris Post author

      Thank you Stu. I think in a wayu blogging for me is a combination of both. There is often a nagging voice in my mind that tells me that if I tell myself that I blog for myself then surely I shouldn’t feel the need to post publicly? And yet, it is true. I post for myself. But I also post for the interaction with others. And it is only through public discussion that that contribution becomes possible. I like how you admit to yourself that you have a quest to share translated fiction. I wish I could be as secure and have a goal like that. It is very admirable.

      Perhaps, one day, I will manage to convince you to give one of the female classic authors a try ;).

      Reply
  2. Care

    Wow, I could have written this post! I too often feel insecure to express my thoughts on extremely important topics in fear that I don’t ‘get’ something I ‘should’ or adequately express the right opinion. I think we are our own worst critics. But I don’t want to put my head in the sand either!
    I think you are very articulate and have shown yourself to thoughtful and respectful. Go for it.

    Reply
    1. Iris Post author

      It’s true, we tend to be our worst critics. I wish it was easier to let things like this go, you know? It does help to hear there are others who struggle with this as well. Perhaps we can support each other in overcoming it. For as much as I doubt myself, I only ever admire others for formulating their thoughts. Thank you for the kind comment, Care.

      Reply
  3. toynbeeconvector

    Thank you for trusting us, your readers, enough to be honest. :) I think this post sums up why I follow you and also, why I am not such a regular blogger. There’s so much that this new technology does to us–we post our thoughts in real time and sometimes even that alters how I feel about what I read. Before even allowing the thoughts to flourish, I’m already trying to control some which I feel may not bode well with my audience. It’s like we become our own censors, you know? Then there’s also the book selection process. Sometimes you find yourself enamored with a certain subject and you end up writing/reading/sleeping with every book on the matter and you know you’ll want to speak about it but since you’ve already spoken too much about a topic, you’ll ask–am I still capable of thinking something new about this? Then the book is turned away, banished to the shelves and lost until found again. I really think this entire process affects both my understanding and my appreciation for books. If so much of my ideas rely on others, I begin to question my own fidelity to truth and the way books ought to help me discover who I am. :) Just my two cents. I miss blogging though. Not writing affects us too. But I haven’t found the right balance yet, I guess. What do you think? And erm, apologies…I seem to have rambled on.

    Reply
    1. Iris Post author

      So very true and so well put. Yes, at times I do become my own censor. And I tend to select my books based on the things you mention at times, as much as I often try not to. But you are also right that not writing about reading also affects the persons we are and the way we read. It is such a difficult balance to maintain. At timea I think it would be so much easier to return to the times when we all had private reading diaries at home. But the thing is, I never really want to leave, because my blog enriches my life. And I know that sounds loserish to some people, but it is true nevertheless. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. And never apologize for rambling. I apologize for it all the time, but I love reading other people’s thoughts and you never need to apologize for leaving me a lovely comment.

      Reply
  4. acommonreaderuk

    A very interesting post containing much to think about. I enjoy diving into a difficult book and as I read it I take notes so I can remember what to write about it. I write “for myself” so don’t worry very much about what other people will think about it. If I stopped enjoying book blogging I would stop.

    Reply
    1. Iris Post author

      I agree with you. I like to think I blog for myself. But as I mentioned in response to Stu’s comment there’s a part of me that wonders at that idea as we, at the same time, share our thoughts with the world publicly. Then again, for me, it is the public exchange, and finding likeminded people, or not-so-likeminded people that makes blogging so rewarding to me (besides having the personal diary with thoughts on books). Like you, I would stop blogging if it is not enjoyable anymore. But even though it makes me overthink and insecure at times, I do love it too much to quit. I hadn’t even considered stopping yet.:) Thank you very much for your comment!

      Reply
  5. Teresa

    Such a great post, Iris. I’m not sure that blogging has ever kept me from reading a book I’m interested in, unless it’s that it introduces me to so many books that other get pushed to the back burner. :)

    But I do know about the kind of fear you’re talking about. I worry about the same things. When I know that I don’t know much about something, it’s pretty easy for me to express my ignorance up front, but sometimes I don’t know what I don’t know. So I get nervous that I’m not addressing an issue that’s really glaring to others, either because I’m not aware of it or because I’m just more focused on something else in the book. A lot of the time, those sorts of things can be brought up and discussed politely in comments, and I enjoy that, but I get nervous that people will be upset with me about something I say and not ask me about it so we have a chance to talk–or worse, they’ll attack me and ask all their friends to do the same before I have a chance to think about the issue and respond. I like to think of my blog as thinking in public, but anything we do in public involves risk. Most of the time, taking the risk is worth it, but that doesn’t stop it from feeling scary!

    Reply
  6. Memory

    I can relate to so much of this. I often find myself hesitant to engage with certain topics because I’m not sure I can do them justice. I want to expand my knowledge base by reading books that deal with particular themes or focus on subjects I think are important, but then I worry how I’ll respond. Will I go deep enough in my analyses? Will I miss something totally obvious and vitally important?

    I also worry about discussing sensitive issues in a respectful way. I work hard to recognize how my privileges impact the way I view the world and to pinpoint any problematic assumptions I’ve made, but I’m constantly scared that I’ve missed something and will end up bolstering hurtful stereotypes or adding to the misinformation out there.

    So a lot of the time, I stay quiet rather than risk it. I’m trying to be better about that, though, because I figure online discourse is an opportunity to learn where I’m wrong and how to fix it.

    Reply
  7. Word Lily

    This is a great post! I, too, am working on reading what I want, when I want, and not being held back by silly constraints. (And then blogging about what I want, and saying what I want, too.)

    Reply
  8. The Literary Omnivore

    No.

    I don’t say that to sound like I’m fearless, because I’m not—to this day, I’m an incorrigible fidget and I think it’s because it’s a self-soothing thing—but over the past few years with my blog and my college experience, I’ve been learning to trust my voice. Women, especially in Western culture, are often told to qualify their own beliefs, and even coming out of the female-dominated spheres I inhabit (my family is often just me and my mom, fandom is predominantly female, I attend a women’s college), I’ve had to unlearn that, and I’m still unlearning.

    And I think, compounding that, is a fear of being wrong and being wrong so publicly. But… there’s this really trite saying that’s also really true, that’s along the lines of “failure is not falling down, failure is not getting back up”. In this context, being wrong isn’t bad; staying wrong is. It’s like learning a language! We are always evolving and learning, and be able to revisit your “wrong” thoughts on a text can be quite a boost, to see how far you’ve come and analyze why you used to think that.

    Reply
  9. priscilla

    I love this post so much! I haven’t kept myself from reading certain books, but I certainly have kept myself from blogging about them. I always worry, even when I love something (or maybe especially when I love something), that people are rolling their eyes at everything I’ve written. Every time I check comments, I get butterflies, and I have been blogging since 2006. The worst are comments that don’t seem to want to open discussion (I know not everyone will agree with me, but there are still ways to discuss), but those that seem to want to let me know why I am wrong…or those that do the dismissive, “Oh, you liked this? Well, I guess some people do.” Of course, the worst thing is no comments at all. Every time we blog, most of us, we are putting a little piece of ourselves out there. We work on what to say, we hope someone will identify, if only to say, “I hear you!” I salute your effort to take more risk. :)

    Reply
  10. Stephanie

    Great post, Iris!

    I think we *all* feel this way at times. I’ve never tackled the challenge of writing in a second language, but it can be difficult writing for an audience with more experience or knowledge about a certain subject.

    I think it helps to remember why people read book blogs. For me, it’s largely for diverse perspectives. I am at midlife, and I love reading posts by older and younger bloggers. Some are teenagers, and what they have to say is amazing and often quite different from what I would have written.

    I like learning from people who are more knowledgeable than I and also from people who may be new to a topic I know something about. I hope that makes sense.

    I have no patience for comments from people who want to tell me what or how to think, either. To me, that indicates insecurity or arrogance — or both. If a person isn’t open to respectful discussion of various opinions, then my comment? :-)

    Reply
  11. gaskella

    What a thought-provoking post Iris. I don’t think blogging has ever stopped me from reading something, but occasionally there are books that are difficult to blog about, and I always worry that I won’t do them justice in my posts. This is where comments come into their own as they allow you to continue thinking about the book.

    Reply
  12. Jenny

    Blogging hasn’t kept me from reading books, but like many of the commenters (and like you!), I have felt nervous of expressing my opinion about books that deal with subjects I’m in no way qualified to have a reasonable opinion on. It feels much more okay to say something silly out loud to a friend, than to write it down on the internet. So I know there have been books I’ve read and not blogged about because I worried I would sound dumb (for a whole host of reasons!).

    Reply
  13. olduvai

    Thank you for this post!
    I often feel intimidated by the many wonderful blogs – including yours – that I read everyday. And I think that’s why I often chicken out and not write about every book I read. I especially avoid writing about the classics I read, often thinking, what do I know?

    Reply
  14. Lisa Hill

    Oh me too, Iris. It’s nothing to do with being young, I’ve been reading for decades but I still have a lot to learn. I like reading challenging books sometimes – Patrick White, obscure Nobel Prize winners, James Joyce and other modernist writers – and I am acutely aware that there are hordes of academics who must be chortling over their laptops at the stuff I write in my ‘reviews’.
    But I’m not writing for them, I’m writing for me because ‘sometimes we don’t know what we think until we write it’ and I’m blogging for all the non-academic readers who just want to ‘have-a-go’. I like to think that readers of my blog may respond by feeling that it’s ok to try out difficult books and enjoy them without worrying whether they’ve ‘got it right’ or not.
    Occasionally I’ve been reprimanded. One publisher was especially hurtful (though at least he said what he had to say privately in an email) but the warmth and generosity I’ve had from the overwhelming majority of my readers has more than compensated for that.
    Stu from Winston’s Dad is my ‘poster boy’ for having the courage to go public with his thoughts, and I bless the day I discovered his blog. I have had so much reading pleasure from his suggestions for translated fiction and I would never, ever have found them if not for him.
    More power to your pen, Iris!

    Reply
  15. Bellezza

    Oh, dear Iris, I would not feel inferior to other bloggers if I were you. In the Bible it asks, “If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body.” 1 Corinthians 12:15 In other words, we’re all important to the book blogging world, as we all are reaers who honestly share our opinions. I have fallen into the trap of comparison, and it is an ugly one, because then we deny ourselves our own voice.

    Plus, we don’t want to make our joy into a job. xoxo

    Reply
  16. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    I know what you mean. Sometimes I wonder why I bother adding my voice when there isn’t anything new I’m saying or I might offend or have things wrong and people are v. quick on the internet to point out how wrong others are…and yet.

    I think the book blogoshere tends to be much kinder in this regard, which makes it a little bit better.

    Reply
  17. therelentlessreader

    This is such a wonderful post! You have some lovely comments here as well and I don’t know what more I can add to the conversation. I will say that I enjoy your blog and I hope you’ll keep on doing what you’re doing :) Ignore the naysayers…in one ear and out the other!

    Reply
  18. kissacloud

    I feel so much the same, Iris, so often. I shied away from blogging for a long time because I didn’t want to formulate thoughts after reading. I wanted to just read and enjoy and not have to stress myself out to write something about it. Nonetheless, I really missed all the connections with other readers. You’re the only ones who understand me, after all. :) Don’t you worry about what opinions you form or do not form. The important thing is that you are reading and you are enjoying it. If you don’t want to discuss some things about a book, leave it and move on. We won’t hold you against it. You are awesome and loved.

    Reply
  19. Charlie

    Unfortunately I think people in general still see blogging as the stereotypical talking about what you had for lunch today, which means it doesn’t sound at all like what tends to happen.

    I find what you’re talking about to often be the case, too, and have put off quite a few books because of it (quite a few meaning too many to list them!). Especially if a book is in addition quite hard to read. The pressure we put on ourselves to write a good detailed review… Something I found useful is to focus on one or two themes if there are many to discuss, choosing the ones I know most about. In that way everything gets a look in whether it’s your own review or others. I’m actually still sitting on a plan of a review for a book I read in the summer – for the very reasons you’ve discussed.

    Loving the sound of what you plan to do when reviewing, it sounds incredibly interesting from a reader’s point of view, to have those extra discussions included.

    Reply
  20. Debi

    Wow. I love this post. I do this so often. Sometimes avoiding a book in the first place. Or sometimes reading it but avoiding blogging about it. I’m just afraid of my own voice. Afraid of my ignorance. Afraid that my ignorance will offend someone. I’m not sure why it’s never occurred to me that other people do the same thing. I read blogs and am always so impressed with how knowledgeable and self-assured others sound. And that intimidates me even more and makes me all the more afraid of my voice. So thank you so very much for this post…I think you just gave me a little shot of bravery that I hope I can hang onto as I read.

    Reply
  21. Christina

    Your last paragraph echoes my sentiments completely. I often feel very young and juvenile in the book blogging world, particularly when posting about “classic” literature. I often feel like I’ve dressed up in Mommy’s heels and am trying to join her in adult conversations at her garden parties. (Of course, that’s not at all reflective of my childhood as my mother never had garden parties, but it’s a good analogy.)

    Sometimes I will skip posting about a book because I want to have a deep conversation about it but know I won’t be able to express that in my post. Or, worse yet, I want to discuss why I disliked the book but am too afraid of having everyone who loves it come out of the wood works and hate (on) me for my comments. It’s a terrible feeling largely because, as a reader, I hate censorship on principal. And, yet, what do I do but censor myself? This is particularly relevant in cases where I have read a book considered rather “low-brow”. The first book I’ve actually finished since the read-a-thon last month is a romance novel, but I am far to embarrassed to talk about on my blog.

    Reply
  22. aartichapati

    Oh, Iris, I am so sorry that people comment on your posts and tell you that you are wrong! How smug of them- I hope I wasn’t one of those people.

    I don’t know that I ever worry about writing my opinions in blog posts, mostly because I am pretty outspoken in real life. But I do always worry about my way of phrasing things on certain topics- I was terrified of writing my review of Mornings in Jenin, for example, because I didn’t want to come off as sounding anti-Semitic for reading a book about the Palestinian point of view. Maybe it is just a different version of the same fear you feel, though, now that I think of it.

    I think all of us fear things that no one else ever notices or worries about, and hopefully, we know each other fairly well enough to give each other the benefit of the doubt on any iffy subjects :)

    Reply
  23. Laurie C

    Your post and everyone’s comments remind me of what Jennifer Weiner said at the last BEA book bloggers conference, something like “You’ve got to dance like nobody’s watching, sing like nobody’s listening, and blog like your mother’s not online.” ;) Keep on doing what you’re doing! You have a loyal following! (Hopefully, the comments you’re talking about receiving weren’t meant to come across the way they did, but if they’re hurtful, I would go ahead and delete them so I wouldn’t come across them accidentally in the future.)

    Reply
  24. Jeanne

    I came over here from Ana’s and want to say that I hope you and all the other commenters here will attempt to be braver, because that’s my favorite kind of reading, when the viewpoint is not yet fully formed. Maybe it would help to call it a viewpoint–it’s just one way of seeing a book.

    Reply
  25. Becky (Page Turners)

    I understand what you mean. I don’t let anything like that prevent me from reading books that might challenge me, especially when it comes to review time, but I do admit that there are some books that I haven’t reviewed because I just haven’t been able to sufficiently articulate how it made me feel and what I learnt from it. THat in and of itself is a learning experience though

    Reply

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