Day 5 of Armchair BEA is about "Keeping it Real" and Children's/Young Adult Literature.
What exactly does "keeping it real" mean? The meaning lays in keeping. How do you not only grow an audience, but how do you keep them coming back for more? If you have been around for years, how do you keep your material fresh? How do you continue to keep blogging fun?
What immediately comes to mind for me when I hear "keeping it real" in relation to blogging is that I need to maintain who I am and my honesty throughout my reviews, my posts...my blog. In other words..."I've just got to do me." I can only be me. I've seen multiple bloggers (and have kind of myself) fall into the trap of going with the "popular" crowd. They read the books that everyone else is reading because that's what everyone else is reading. But these books or topics or whatever aren't what they are passionate about. Reading then becomes not necessarily a chore...but it's no longer effortless either. And thus blogging suffers as a result.
I have found that whenever I'm reading something that I'm not passionate about, I can only read a few pages at a time, and then I stop reading altogether for a while. I feel guilty if I try to read a different book because that is not "the one I need to be reading." So what do I do when something is no longer fun or become overwhelming? I drop it altogether. I've discussed, here, how hard it is for me to DNF a book for WHATEVER the reason. And I also agree with the philosophy that there needs to be ratings and reviews out there for the books that aren't so good so that our readers aren't only getting the happy, peppy, gushy reviews that come with books we love. We need balance.
However, I find it hard to criticize someone else's hard work. I know how difficult it must be to actually get a story from your head onto paper and then to get it published (although that last part is a lot easier these days than it used to be with self publishing). Whether the story completely sucks or not, someone put a lot of work into it. But I still find that the only way that I can "keep it real" is by giving it an honest review.
As for keeping my followers and keeping people coming back for more...well...I did work so hard to get them in the first place that I don't want to run them off. But at the same time, I've grown past the stage in my life where I want everyone to love me. Sure that's nice and all, but I don't "need" it. I'm happy with who I am. I love myself for who I am. And that includes my opinions and all. I was reading Julie @ Angler's Rest's post about blogger development and one piece of her advice was to have the confidence to say what you would say to the person standing next to you. If a reader doesn't like it, they don't have to read your (my) blog. I, of course, love and treasure anyone who actually reads what I write, but I don't write for them. I didn't start the blog for them. I started it for me...I read for me...I write for me. It's the only way any of this is worth it.
I have spent some time trying to come up with some "original" content. I've recently started a feature where I re-read books that I read before blogging and finally do a review on them. It's called "From the Ashes" (here's my first post). I have a similar feature that I haven't implemented yet, but will be called "Upon Further Review" where I re-read a book I've already reviewed and tell you if my original "call" stands or if the "call" has been overturned. (This is totally inspired by football where the coaches challenge a call on the field, if you didn't pick up on that already, and even though I'm actually the opposite of a football fan, I think it's a cool application to book reviews--you heard it here first.)
So I'm constantly trying to come up with some original features and content, but so far I haven't gotten into a blogging "rut" enough to where I felt like I need to re-fresh my content or my passion. Blogging is still fun because it's fun, and I think a large part of that is because I'm trying to "keep it real."
What do you guys think? How do you "keep it real?"