How after 3 major fails, I motivated myself to start blogging again

Keeping to a routine requires more dedication than I could ever offer, but that’s the price I pay to do something I enjoy. I like reading, and I love writing. A book review blog is a great combination of the two.

I’ve been reviewing since 2018. That’s 4 years now. But it was never smooth sailing. I started off strong, reading 42 books in one year while juggling my studies. Then somehow, I stopped. I could barely finish 12 books. Then reading became more of a dread than a hobby.

Here is how after two years of non-stop on-off hiatus, I’ve shook the dust off my feet, picked up the pieces, and started blogging again.

The Hiatus

My TBR pile was growing at a speed that I can hardly control. I received emails a few times a week with a book review request that I am very grateful for but it became overwhelming. At one point, there were 70+ unread messages, more than 30+ review copies in my laptop, and I started losing interest in reading.

Book reviewing is tough, especially as a one-person blog. Without much discipline, you can easily burn out and lose interest. Then there’s the guilt. Somewhere out there, the author is waiting, and I feel awful for making them wait so long.

From time to time, I ensure that I post at least once a month. Sometimes I even posted twice a month, those were wins for me when I was in a slump. But there were months where I barely posted, and my stats were heavily affected.

The Realisation

Semester break comes. My close friends were going on an internship and I started having doubts on whether I can land myself a job in the future. I had time till my internship, a few months, maybe half a year. Seeing them send emails to potential employers made me want to do something with my time too. After all, it’s the second year of the pandemic, I’m alone most of the time and had nothing much to do.

So I started freelancing.

I instantly landed copywriting jobs and learnt a few things about myself:
1. I really enjoy writing.
2. I found the best way to plan for me.

The Reset

Previously, I’ve seen many book reviewers use spreadsheets, and really admired the organisation aspect of it. Shealea, from Shut up, Shealea has a great a template that I tried adopting into my life, but it just didn’t work out. It featured a whole bunch of amazing details such as “Is it by a POC author?” and “What disabilities does it feature?” in the form of checklists. It’s easy, it’s detailed, and it’s very, very cool.

However, it just didn’t work out for me. So I tried doing another spreadsheet for myself. One sheet, fewer information, with the review status at the first column. It was easy, simple, and it barely lasted a week.

I tried writing a schedule in my bullet journal, just like how I used to organise it back when I first started blogging. But with the pandemic, I only check it once a day, only to fill up my to-do list for the day and not flipping to any other pages. Sometimes, I don’t bother writing in it at all.

I even tried post-it notes on my computer. But that only overwhelmed me and drove me away from reading instead.

At this point, it felt like I tried it all.

But this copywriting job taught me how to like planning, in a way that works for me. It might seem strange but, it encourages me. It makes me excited to write, to plan, to read, to check things off. And I hope I really stick to it, or it will just be another failed plan to organise and get myself back on my feet again.

The Action

It’s Google Slides.

The slide limits the amount of information I can fit. For every new section, I use a new slide. Blog post ideas? New slide. Content calendar for a new month? New slide. Booklist for 2021? New slide. It’s less overwhelming, I can see all the information at once, and it works amazingly well for me.

I started off with a list of books I accepted, organised according to the year and the date I accepted it so I can place priority on the ones I accepted first. For now, I’m working to finish reviewing my books from 2019. I know it’s long overdue, and the faster I get to it, the better I’ll feel (or the less guilty I’ll feel).

I split the table into Date, Genre, Name and Notes for additional things I want to write, such as if its scheduled, if it isn’t sent for a review, or if it’s due by a certain date. The Genre is very important for me, since I try to not review two books of the same genre in a month, if I can avoid it. If there’s a lot of books from a certain genre, I make a themed-review month, such as Poetry May (soon to be Poetry Jan, hint hint). For some books, I write the page number on the side, just so I know what to expect and how I can fit the books into my schedule.

My content calendar looks like this. I try my best to fit two months in each slide. The more slides I use, the more overwhelming it is for me, so this seems like the sweet spot. I include an image for the calendar, and write the dates of when and what I’ll be posting.

For organisation, I use mainly two colours to highlight the type of post I’ll be doing. The blue for reviews, and the green for blog posts. I try to write whenever I’m free, ideally just after finishing the book instead of waiting for weeks like I used to. Now I schedule it and I wake up to it being posted at the same time every day.

* This is an older version. My July schedule looks a little different, and in June was when I was trying to get my blog ready for relaunch/ the update.

As I was making this calendar, I was a little too enthusiastic about posting. Now, I’ve stripped it down to posting 4 reviews a month and a blog post every 3 weeks to prevent burnout.

Once I posted, I delete it from my calendar. The fewer the words, the less overwhelmed I get, the more I am excited to write.

The Review

It’s working so far and I really hope it does. It’s probably the most effort I’ve put into and I really hope it pays off. Currently, I’m looking for a way to schedule Instagram posts. I’ve been trying out some apps but haven’t found one that I liked yet.

I’m hopeful. And excited. I love change, I love organising, I love getting things done. I’ll check back in October, well, I scheduled for it, so hopefully I’ll stick to it.

We’ll see.

Feel free to leave questions below! I’ll be more than glad to help.

– J

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