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March 2020: A Month In Review


Congratulations everyone! We have made it to the last day of the longest month any of us have ever experienced. We've all been through a lot in the last couple weeks. Everyone's world looks totally different now than it did in that first week, and that's really hard to process. We're not only dealing with the weight of living through a global pandemic, but it's also uncertain how long our lives will be on lockdown. The only thing that is clear is that social isolation is the only way that we'll get through this any time soon. Regardless of what your official local guidelines are, please follow self isolation protocols and only go outside for the most essential needs if you are not a required worker. This is a global group project, and the only way to get results is for everyone to strictly adhere to the guidelines. Do it for your health, your future, your grandparents health, your parents, health care workers, or anyone you love.
While I know we all want a little reprieve from that messaging, I feel like as someone who has a platform, I should do my part to reiterate that message as it gets increasingly vital to our safety.
Reading has been interesting this month, just like everything else I used to do. I know I'm not the only one struggling with it as there have been tons of people on Twitter lamenting how hard it is to read right now. It was funny to see the discourse shifting from "We'll have so much time to finish our TBRs" to "Has anyone read more than 5 pages lately?". I think it's a universal feeling in every discipline. You'd think all this extra time for people who can stay home or work from home would lead to more hobbies, but that discounts how much mental space has been taken trying to stay informed and process the situation. It's a lot, and we all have a different capacity to deal with this.
I was nervous to check my reading stats this month because I assumed they would be horrible. I've done some reading in the last few weeks, but it didn't feel like much. After the first few days, I've been in a weird cycle of extremely productive days and days where I can't do much more than endlessly scroll and take naps. That has to be good enough at the moment. I tend to get a couple activities done a day in all the different areas I work in. It's actually been a great relief to fall into whatever I'm doing and check out for a couple hours. There are weird little moments where I'll forget that the world outside my room is any different, and there's always a weird snap when I reconnect with our realty. I highly suggest stepping away from your phone for a couple hours and just playing an instrument or reading a book or writing or knitting or whatever you like doing. I know it sounds stupid and unhelpful (I always hate reading advice to put your phone away or calling it toxic), but it's helped me feel more normal, honestly. I actually use my phone a lot less now than I did before this started. I still use and enjoy Twitter a couple times a day, but I think the constant flood of bad news has just naturally made me start to avoid it. If staying plugged in helps you, definitely do that, but don't feel compelled to.
This month, I actually managed to finish five books. I've read a lot less this year than in years past anyway, so I wasn't surprised. It wound up being one more book than January and one less than February. I also DNF'd a book that I was about 70 pages into that wasn't horrible, I just kept getting mildly annoyed by it. I wanted to push through so that I could review it, but I really don't feel like posting negative reviews at the moment.
Genre-wise, I think I'm starting to make a turn back towards YA more. I read two books on nutrition and food policy at the start of the month and a short book on music, but the rest has been YA. It's a little weird reading contemporary right now because they live in our world but with a completely different set of rules. It's taken a minute for my brain to adjust and not be weirded out by the parties and hand holding. That life seems so far away now. Also, I have been reading some fan fiction as well because they're just so easy to fall into and just have a guilty pleasure sense to them that's nice to indulge in at the moment. I feel a little guilty about it because I could use that time to read for the blog, but I'm trying to not put a ton of pressure on myself. So I have done a lot more reading than my log shows. More than anything, I'm just looking for a good story.
The hardest thing for me with reading lately isn't finding the time or wanting to read, it's a weird decision fatigue that's plaguing my entire life. I don't really understand why because I haven't had to make a ton of choices lately, but I've found it super hard to do things like choosing what to read next or what workout video to put on. It makes me feel really pathetic, but my brain just starts to go into overload with all the possibilities
I've also really struggled with writing blog posts lately. I've written a ton of them that I've ended up deleting or not posting. For example, this is my fifth completely new draft of this monthly wrap up. I just don't know what to say anymore. It seems impossible to not address the global pandemic happening outside, but I'm also a book blog. It feels really hard to separate the two or combine the two. It's hard to write a post without contextualizing it to the world, and it's hard to make content that fills all the holes we're feeling. I know some people just want a flat-out escape while, for others (like me), it's been super helpful to hear about other's experiences and fears and new life. It's been hard to strike a balance and decide what content to put out. I don't know what will be most helpful to you; I don't know what to share. Most of all, I just don't want to say the wrong thing. So, if you feel like it, let me know in the comments what kind of posts do you want to see. Are you interested in updates, favorites lists, just reviews, discussion posts?
It seems like creators in general are struggling with what to do. The Popcast put out an episode grappling with the place of music criticism at the moment. Mary H.K. Choi has talked on her podcast about the book she's working on feeling irrelevant. I also think there's a pervasive struggle with figuring out what people want to see. What's helpful and what's annoying.
I've managed to put out eight posts this month, most of which were reviews because they follow a formula that doesn't change. I'll put links to all of this months blog posts at the end, if you missed any. Going forward, I'd like to post more non-review content, and I'm hoping I'll find some ideas for posts that will work soon.
My most popular post, by far, has been my new series Books I'm Looking Forward to which is a sort of revival of the Coming Up This Month posts I did in 2018. I'll put them under that tag so you can easily find them. The one thing I know for sure is that I want to support authors with books coming out in the next chaotic months. We have to make sure that these books and authors don't get left behind because the future of the industry and success of YA is really in our hands at the moment. There's a lot going on, but we can't forget to support the arts that we want to come back to when all of this is over. Pre-order, get the book on your e-reader, request them from the library, get it on audio, talk about them on Twitter. There are so many options, but we can't afford to let it fall on the wayside.
This means that the blog will probably turn back to being much more YA focused as I work to support the community in whatever ways I can. I'll be making posts each month about the books I'm most excited about to help raise awareness. I'm hoping to increase the number of guest posts and interviews that I do to promote authors who won't get to attend festivals and bookstore launches. If your an author with a book coming out soon, please email me at readingwritingandme@gmail.com to be featured! I want to connect and work with as many authors as possible because that's one way I can contribute.
I've also been writing more lately, but in different formats. I had one blitz of a day where I wrote 5,000 words on a novel project I've been working on, but that was one of the only times I wrote anything this month. Mostly, I've been writing songs and poems in my notebooks and making aimless drawings. I think they're coming more easily to me because they currently aren't "work" like my other writing because they're not necessarily going anywhere. It's a space to get my feelings out. I'm thinking I might try to write more short fiction as well in the coming weeks, and I might start sharing my writing on here again like I used to. It'd be motivation to finish more work and something different to share. Let me know if that's something you'd be interested in reading.
Mostly, I want to keep this space as joyful and positive as possible going forward. I'm not going to stop talking about the world and the way it's changing and it's impacts, but I also want to focus on sharing what I love and talking about creators that have been helping me through this. I've been listening to tons of podcasts (I recently wrote a post on some of my favorites) and music and watching YouTube videos, and I'm hoping to do more posts about those that I enjoy. I'll be making more book lists and featuring authors. On my music blog, Music Musings, and Me, I've been posting tons of playlists of music that's making me feel better, and I'll link those posts below. I've also been continuing to talk about new songs and albums on my podcast, The Empathy Factor. For some reason, music has felt like much more of an escape for me than books, so I've been making a lot of content in those spaces as a reprieve. If you haven't visited those sites, I'd really appreciate if you checked them out too.
I know this is a long one, but this month has meant a lot of change and has shifted my intentions going forward. I wanted to share some of that with you. I'm also feeling a bit lost on what content everyone wants right now. I did a ton of surveys at the start of the year before this started, but I'm not sure if those answers have shifted. Let me know in the comments what you want more of or share some new ideas. I always love hearing what makes you most excited to read the blog.
Most of all, though, stay safe. We'll make it through this together.

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