Slowly does it…

I feel like a tortoise at the moment, inching my way through life but not seeming to ever get very far. It feels like it’s taking me a million minutes to read each book I start. I’m still reading everyday, but not very fast. With some books I’ve picked up lately, this can be put down to engagement. The story and/or the characters have just not grabbed me. Or the opposite: I’m loving what I’m reading so much that I’m lingering over it and taking far longer than I normally would to get to the end. And while neither of these things should really be an issue, as a blogger, and more importantly, a book reviewer, I feel a pressure mounting, one that’s very much in keeping with my mounting #tbr. The books keep arriving, and so many look SO GOOD. More concerning, the emails are flooding in, polite enquiries from publicists who are quite rightly wondering where the review I promised them is. Don’t worry, I’m wondering the same thing myself. I fell behind in the lead up to Easter, house guests for a week followed by a week away and then Easter and straight back to work. Life is busy, I work everyday, I have three teenagers, five pets, a husband, a large house that has far too much white in it and never seems to stay clean, a laundry pile that refuses to shrink in size. And then there’s sleep – always craving it and never seeming to get near enough of it. I keep thinking: nothing’s changed from before Easter to now…what is my problem?

Last week, for three days, I had the pleasure of being a ‘Writer in Residence’ for the high school I work for, but with the junior year 7 to 9 students (my regular work is exclusively with year 10 to 12). This was the most terrifying, exhilarating, rewarding, and inspirational teaching experience of my working life. The creativity these young minds were filled with! I have come away feeling lighter, inspired, and filled with a renewed confidence about our younger generation. I was certainly tired after each of these days, but it was a good tired, as opposed to a dragging myself through the motions tired. I also feel incredibly lucky to work for a school that allows its employees to step out of one role and into another for three days, especially a creative one like being a writer in residence. I feel confident too, that my son is attending a school that values creativity and learning enrichment alongside the curriculum.

Last night, I attended the ‘Teachers Ball’, a social event reserved for Education Queensland employees in this town. I had a fantastic night with colleagues and meeting new people who work at other schools in our town who I would not normally have come across. Why is this even worth mentioning? Because normally I avoid events like this. I regretted buying the ticket 30 seconds after I’d paid for it, but I began telling myself I was looking forward to it, buying myself a new dress and matching earrings, further deepening my financial commitment to the event. I’m so glad I did. The food was delicious, the live music fantastic, and we danced the night away, singing 80s and 90s hits at the top of lungs on the dancefloor. If they hold another one next year, I’ll be purchasing my ticket without regret.

So maybe this tortoise is beginning to make some progress, but just at a different pace from before. Maybe, I just need to cut myself some slack. I read because I love to get lost in other worlds and other lives. I review because I love to write and share books with others. When did this become a race? A quest to post a review everyday? I used to post an author interview every Wednesday, but you will have noticed that dropped off towards the end of last year. I still love to interview authors, but I’m more selective now, only interviewing the ones I’m truly interested in learning more about, as opposed to every author that requests one. My reviews are so far away from being posted everyday. And you know what? I’m beginning to make peace with that. To write the type of long reviews that typify this blog requires close reading, and that type of reading takes time. If you are an author waiting on a review from me, please be patient. I will get there. If you are a publicist beginning to wonder if you’ve wasted a book on me, I assure you that you haven’t. And if you are a reader of this blog, I thank you for your readership and comments. I love this community of book bloggers and readers and value the contribution it makes to my life.

Slowly, slowly…the tortoise always gets there in the end. Perhaps it’s not about the pace but more about achieving balance and satisfaction. Maybe…

29 thoughts on “Slowly does it…

  1. My advice is to cut yourself some slack.
    Yes, publicists are kind enough to send books for review but at the end of the day, you’re putting in X amount of hours reading it, and x amount of hours writing the review, and even if you charged the same rate as a domestic cleaner (and your skill and expertise is worth much more than unskilled labour) then they are getting a very good deal in terms of free publicity for the price of a book, which doesn’t even cost them what the book costs at a retail price.
    I try very hard to coordinate books I receive for review so that I don’t get overwhelmed, but it doesn’t always work out as I planned. I say in my review policy that I aim for a 6 week turnaround but it doesn’t always happen, and I don’t berate myself if it doesn’t. Just remember that you are a volunteer in the service of Australian publishing, that you have another real-life f2f life as well, and that you only have to do your best.

    PS I never respond to nagging emails from publicists. They are getting paid, I’m not!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I like how you put that! A volunteer in the service of Australian publishing. And another good point, nagging is probably a part of their job description, but responding doesn’t have to be in mine! Thanks Lisa. I’d love to get to a six week turn around eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love what Lisa said! You are providing not just an invaluable service to the publishing industry, but also to readers in general. And at the end of the day, although the industry serves as a business, what enables it to continue is when readers to enjoy reading – sharing, talking about, discussing and enjoying books. So be kind to yourself, and yes, it’s definitely not about the pace, but about the satisfaction and joy. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I relate to this so much! I fell behind when my parents visited in march & then I went interstate for just a few days but it all adds up. I’m close to 10-12 reviews behind now with a mounting TBR pile & I find that when I start to feel this pressure, the urge to read goes away. So I take a few days off, get a few things done but just clear my head a bit which generally renews my enthusiasm. Burnout from review reading & writing is such a real thing & it’s hit me a couple times when I haven’t stepped back when I needed to.

    The tortoise will eventually get there! Slow & steady has something going for it & just chipping away is progress!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Usually, if you see that I’m binge watching a TV show, it’s because I’m in that burn out zone or on the cusp. I have even abandoned NetGalley at present in order to just try and make inroads on the paperback pile!

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  3. Oh Theresa that is so well said and I know exactly what you are saying, I too love reading and reviewing and I know I am way behind but slowly getting there.
    There have been so many fabulous books released lately I want to read and get lost in them and enjoy every word. I really appreciate the publishers and authors and yes I too will read the books
    I am lucky to be retired but I have a houseful of family whom I love and care for and I read everyday as well

    Hugs

    Have Fun
    Helen

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hear you Theresa. Lisa says 6 weeks turnaround! 6 weeks! If only. I aimed for 3-4 months turnaround, but am currently running at 7-8 months. MONTHS! And I’m stressing out! I have managed to ensure that books (mostly) aren’t sent to me on spec. I arrange to be on mailing lists and to be able to ask for those I want to read. Those books I ask for I feel obliged to read, but whenever I ask I tell them what my timing is at that time. If they send me books on spec, which happens occasionally, those books go into the formal queue but marked as “not requested” and if time gets tough, those books, particularly if they are not my area of interest, get by-passed. I am slowly catching up because I’ve been asking for fewer books this year. What a relief. I’m starting to think that I’ll ask for fewer and fewer books to enable me to return to those days when *I* chose what I read. It’s all very nice to receive free books but the cost to one’s own priorities is starting to become too high for me.

    I must say that I have never had a nagging email from publicists, though once someone emailed me to ask whether I had received their book! That was probably a hint! Anyhow, perhaps this is because I’ve been very clear about the fact that I’m not fast in turnaround. I know I’m retired but I have elderly parents, multiple volunteer and social commitments (for which, somehow, I seem to be the organiser, the one who sends out the emails, etc etc), and children plus grandchild in Melbourne. Somehow my reading time has not expanded from pre-work days, as I’d hoped.

    I don’t get more than a book behind with reviews. Once I read a book, I write about it – unless something gets in the way – but I’ve never had more than two books waiting. If I can’t keep up with the reviews, then I really can’t accept the books I think. (If they’re my own books, then that’s my choice – and right now I’m two books behind, one being my own book – because I’ve been away for four days, and when I got back yesterday, I had meeting minutes to write up, mothers day to cook for, etc etc!!)

    Anyhow, I say, be kind to yourself, make sure you are doing what YOU want to do, and don’t let anyone push you around. (I’m now ignoring some requests for reviews from people who have clearly not looked at my review policy or at my blog to see what I like to read. Just responding to them takes time I don’t have.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I feel better now because there are books I’m months behind on too, hence feeling overwhelmed! I also have started asking for fewer books in recent months and started to saying no to the ones that are offered but aren’t to my taste. I get a lot of unsolicited ones though, but they’ve long been on another pile and I’m not overly concerned about those ones. I am quite strict about reviewing after I’ve read a book too. It just makes the review harder to right if I have read several other books in between.
      I’m also glad to read that you are not responding to those who don’t read your policy. You know, I had a fellow a while back send me his book with his initial contact email. I responded with a polite no, but he’s emailed me so many times since that I blocked him last week. It’s the second time I’ve had to block an author’s email address. Such insistence is harassment and it won’t change my mind!

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      • Sounds like you are on it! I think the trick is to manage what you say yes to, and to try not to get too many unsolicited ones because even if you don’t prioritise them they are THERE looking at you. I hate them because I feel guilty about not reading them, and I know I should pass them on but feel guilty about that too! I know I shouldn’t but I do.

        Anyhow, it’s helpful sharing our challenges and how we handle them, isn’t it?

        BTW Yes, exactly about not doing books straight away – I would lose the impetus and mix them up.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post Theresa. I think you’ve struck a chord with all of us and reading all the responses has made me feel a whole lot better about how far behind I am with my reviews. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Theresa,

    I agree with everyone else – it’s so important for you to take the time you need for yourself, and for your family. And it’s so true – to read a book carefully, to reflect on it, and then to write an insightful and considered review like the ones you write takes time.

    As a regular reader of your blog, I find when you post reviews every day I get behind on reading and can’t keep up, so from a purely selfish point of view, I don’t mind at all if you slow the pace a bit!

    Hope you can find that sweet spot of reading and reviewing in a way that you enjoy and thrive on. Looking forward to your reviews as they come along 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a very good point, and one of the reasons why I have always avoided posting more than once a day. I hate the idea of readers being inundated with posts. So this is great insight, that people are happy to follow a blog that isn’t posting everyday. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Theresa, ditto what everybody else has said! Your post was so perfectly apt for my life at the moment too. It’s okay to be a tortoise. Sometimes life is just like that. Relax and enjoy plodding along for a while. We tortoises get there in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. YES YES YES!! I can also relate to this and wanted to reply earlier but have been swamped with bookish tasks 🙂 I’m very discerning when requesting books from publishers and sometimes if I’m not sure, I’ll give it a miss. I figure it may turn up unsolicited anyway (which does happen), in a book swap or if I really like it I can track it down and read it later. It’s not the end of the world, and I did that with The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey.

    I always prioritise the books I’ve requested first and foremost and then in release date order. Then I’ll get to the unsolicited and lastly my books on my TBR. (I’ve made it a goal to try and read one from my own TBR each month).

    It might encourage you to know that this year I reviewed books that had been languishing on my TBR pile for ages and publishers were still happy to receive my review. When I published my review of Give Me Your Hand (received July 2018) Pan Mac said: “Thanks so much for sending in your review! It’s never too late to read, and loved hearing your thoughts.” When I reviewed The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens (from way back in April 2015!!!) Simon & Schuster said: “I completely understand, I have very large TBR piles too and I don’t get to some of these books for quite a while, so many books… so little time …”

    I think much of the pressure we feel to read and review ALL THE BOOKS comes from our own desire to do more and be more. I know my pressure is self imposed. I make sure never to request more than I can handle, and the rest will take care of itself. Read at your pace and review at your pace, and the quality of both will be better than if you were rushing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here, the pressure is largely self imposed, for sure. It is good to hear that publishers have responded so positively to reviews posted long after the release. It does make me feel better! I always figure too that most releases will get a second release as a B format paperback so I imagine reviews would always be welcome in the end, no matter how much time has passed.
      I still haven’t mastered a priority system yet. But yours sounds as ideal as they come.

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  9. Oh doll ❤️ With all of the Life you have going on, it’s amazing you get any reading done at all! Hats off to you, lady, you’re doing a fantastic job. Just keep chipping away at the mountain – and remember, the tortoise won the race in the end 😉👍 And you’ve always got me in your corner, cheering you on!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Pingback: Top 3 Posts about Writing - Writer Side Of Life

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