You can find Michelle at all of the above links as well as on her twitter! Michelle was also my inspiration for doing these guest posts in the first place - she's done a wonderful series of posts about book blogger problems, Netgalley, TBR Pile & Being Honest in Reviews.
How did you start blogging, were there any blogs you followed that got you thinking this was something you wanted to do?
I first started blogging back in 2006, more than nine years ago. In those early days of my blogging career my blog was more or less a lifestyle blog. I'd write about film, TV, books, childhood memories, my life. I was first introduced to the idea of blogging by my husband who very briefly had his own blog. And in fact, before my current blog I had blogged before but that too was short-lived. I started blogging after the birth of my first child during those newborn days where a lot of sleeping was involved and just after I'd given up my job as a manager in a book store. Eventually, my blog evolved to what it has become now, a book blog (a very natural progression!).
But Fluttering Butterflies would never have gotten to that point without the inspiration of several bloggers. Or authors, more specifically. It was Keris Stainton who inspired me to get back into blogging and I 'met' her years ago through another website and started following her blog and her experiences with parenthood and writing and I read her words and they were funny and thoughtful and thought-provoking. Reading them made me want to share my own thoughts and opinions and to channel some of that into writing. So I did. And my other inspiration to start blogging was the website, Chicklish, which is no longer running, which was first set up and run by both Keris and Luisa Plaja. Luisa is a great source of inspiration and ran Chicklish amazingly well and helped and encouraged many young writers (including myself) to blog for Chicklish but also for themselves. I definitely owe Keris and Luisa a great deal for inspiring me.
What do you hope you achieve through your blogging?
Good question. I'm not really sure. I think I first started to blog in order to have a creative outlet and to be able to voice my thoughts and opinions when I didn't feel quite so confident in expressing them in other ways. I guess that might always be what I'm trying to achieve: providing a space where I feel okay to speak up and out about the things I'm passionate about. But I guess I also want to shine a light on some good books: on UKYA and on books involving diversity and mental illness amongst other things. Supporting books and authors and libraries in the only way I feel I can.
I like that blogging challenges me. Because of it, I push myself in ways that I don't normally push myself to try new things and write in different ways. It's fun. And I hope it always remains fun.
What are the most rewarding parts of it for you?
Well, the community is pretty great. Very supportive and welcoming and friendly. Other book bloggers, authors, people in publishing, booksellers, librarians. 98% of people that I've met through blogging have been incredible and my life is better with having met them and been included in their circle of passion and enthusiasm. I love that. I love finding my place, my people.
I also have access to great books, am invited to cool things, meet my favourite people more regularly and have been acknowledged for the work that I do as a blogger in amazing ways.
Blogging also makes that part of me that craves organisation happy. I love making lists and schedules and meeting (self-imposed) deadlines and targets.
And the most frustrating?
I find that there are a lot of pressures on book bloggers. To find the time to read and write about books. To keeping up with publication dates and keeping our towering TBR piles down. Pressure to do all the things and to be original, to stand out, to comment on all the blogs and have a bunch of followers. To have read those books everyone has been talking about. To be the life and soul of social media, to advertise ourselves and our blogs, to create new features and graphics, to blog every day. To maintain this neverending, unflagging supply of passion and enthusiasm or to write honest or at least balanced reviews of the books we hate. To not be affected by the fact that we get these books 'for free' or pressure to be objective about books by authors we consider friends. To get on with everybody, to have a high Netgalley percentage rate. Honestly, I find all these different pressures, whether they are self-imposed or not, to be the most frustrating aspect of book blogging.
I don't really know how to blog in a pressure-free environment. I do my best, but honestly, I fail a lot at not worrying about all of these things.
Have you had reading slumps/insecurities/times when you felt you weren't good enough and wanted to quit, and how did you pull yourself out of them?
ALL THE TIME. Reading slumps? Check. Insecurities? Check. Times when I thought I wasn't good enough? Check. Time I wanted to quit? Check. Every one of them. All the time.
I go through reading slumps all the time. But what I'm better at now, after the eight millionth reading slump, is recognising WHY I'm in a reading slump and what I can do to get out of them based on what has caused it in the first place. Reading slumps usually happen for me because of a) other things in my life sending me into an emotional tailspin or b) putting too much pressure on myself to read certain books by a certain time. There isn't much I can do for the former except ride it out, but I can certainly do things about the latter. And I try very much to read without pressure. But it's a challenge.
In terms of insecurity, I'm a bundle of insecurity. I don't know how any blogger isn't. I think this goes back to me being not very confident just generally. I don't think very highly of myself at the best of times so I find it difficult to value my own work when it comes to blogging. Several things helped me out this part of my blogging insecurity. The first, is that I've made a bunch of wonderful blogging friends who say nice things about me and my blog either in comments, email or on Twitter. It's wonderful to hear nice things. Second, I was listed in the CISION Top Ten Blogs on Teen Literature in the UK list. Several years running. And I think that sort of acknowledgement from someone/a company not in my social sphere really spurred me on to do more and better types of posts and reviews. And recently also being nominated for several blogger awards really boosted my confidence as well.
I mention the awards and the CISION thing mostly because those two things really helped me out when I was on the brink of quitting. Getting validation for the time and effort I've put into my blog has helped. As have the friendships I've made. Now that I've been blogging for many years it feels almost like I can't quit. Which is ridiculous because of course I can quit. But I don't think I have any good tips for not quitting because I'm still sitting on that fence!
Have you taken a break from blogging at any point and if so how did you get back into it?
I have taken numerous breaks from blogging. I think my longest was about 6 weeks-2 months kind of thing. But the more usual break time for me would be about 1-2 weeks. I usually find that shortly after deciding on a break, I'll be bursting with ideas and inspiration for new features and a different type of post which means that I want to come back sooner. It's always difficult after a break though, getting back into the swing of things. My usual returning routine is to ease myself into things by tackling one thing at a time. Answering emails, commenting, writing reviews. Really focusing on one particular thing about blogging so I feel really accomplished and that helps motivate me to tackle other areas.
Any tips for dealing with the self imposed guilt that comes with a blogging and reading slump?
Let it go, let it gooooo... No. I don't really know. I just try to keep in mind that before blogging, reading is something that I did for fun and it should still be something I do for fun. Same with blogging. So I guess my tip is to keep that in mind? It doesn't really work me for me, but I don't really know what else to suggest. Possibly just try to work out why you're feeling guilty and go from there. I think most of us know we shouldn't feel guilty about reading what we like and blogging whenever we feel like it. We know these things but it's so much harder to live that. It's a constant struggle. And good luck to all of us.
How do you manage to juggle life outside books and blogging?
I'm a lot luckier than most in that I'm currently a stay at home mom to two school aged children. That means that I have the hours roughly to myself. That doesn't mean that I necessarily use these hours to any kind of benefit towards reading or blogging, but the possibility of that is there. So I try to commit several hours a day towards something blog or reading related. And if that doesn't happen, then I try to not let that bother me too much.
I try to stay organised with a blogging schedule to keep me focused and I place restrictions on laptop and phone usage while my boys are at home so that means that time in front of my laptop is precious and needs to be used wisely. I also have general daily routines to try to help keep on top of things. Answering emails every day, responding to comments, checking my subscription feeds etc.
Weekends are dead days for books and blogging. Especially now when the sun is out and the theme parks are open. But I find that doing other things, taking a walk in the sunshine for instance, is a great method for coming up with new ideas and I often find myself mentally writing blog posts as I go about doing other things. Even when I'm not wearing my blogging hat, blogging things are still going on inside my brain.
The blogging world is constantly evolving, any changes you'd like to see start to happen?
I think I'd mostly like to see things continue to change in the ways that I've seen things change recently. More people (in the UK and elsewhere) supporting UKYA and UKYA authors. I love this push towards including higher levels of diversity in the books we read. I've always been a supporter of book bloggers taking a step away from the books and writing more personal posts. I love the creativity I've seen amongst younger book bloggers with their cool graphics and different approaches towards book blogging. I'd love to see people breaking away from the traditional idea of what a book blogger 'should' do and embracing their own individuality and writing and creating content that is honest and heartfelt.
Any advice for new and old bloggers alike, particularly if they are going through a down slump at the moment?
I think my advice for other bloggers is to stop worrying about anyone else. Stop worrying about other book bloggers, or authors or publicists or anybody else. Write the posts you want to write when you want to write them. Try to go back and remember what first attracted you to blogging, remember the books that made you excited and try to embrace that feeling. Throw out all of your expectations and your publication dates. Do the best you can. And in a week's time (or maybe two!) after that feeling of freedom wears off, when you go back to feeling guilty and feeling the pressure, be kind to yourself.
Thank you so much Michelle for taking the time out to come and talk to us here! It's so wonderful to hear about your experiences blogging! Don't forget to check out Fluttering Butterflies and check back here on Friday for the next guest post!