How I Became a Book Blogger

 

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life is a journey, not a destination.”  My journey to becoming a blogger has certainly not been a smooth or even an expected outcome. Even though my love of reading and writing has been one of the few constants throughout my entire life, becoming a book blogger was never really on my list of career goals.

 

From the very beginning, my mom supported my enthusiasm for reading and writing. A published writer herself, my mom has always loved to read and encouraged me from a young age to do the same.  Even now, I can still remember learning to read my first book, The Teeny Tiny Woman, thanks to her help with the tricky words like “soon” and “there.” My excitement was so extreme that I ran around the house reading the book to every family member who was unlucky enough to encounter me.

 

Since that day, I never stopped reading.  Recognizing this, library trips soon became vital. The local librarians still joke about my family’s visits, claiming that we even helped to improve circulation in public libraries. To this day, one librarian enjoys recounting the various turns that my childhood obsessions took. It is astounding to me that she can still remember that I checked out piles of books on sharks, whales, and dolphins on one visit, and dinosaurs and dogs on yet another.  Even more surprising was that I was able to recognize many of these children’s books when I volunteered in another public library one summer. I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me that books, no matter which ones I read at what age, have never lost their importance to me.

 

Having access to all of these books and their knowledge meant that I happily had a wide array of things to write about, even at a young age. Fortunately, my mom was never averse to reading my childish blathering, making constructive comments and impressing upon me important lessons on things like plagiarism, what an original story really was, constructive criticism, and more.  With these lessons in mind, I wrote down the products of my imagination in any way possible. Now, as an adult, I am able look back on countless floppy disks (yes, floppy disks), journals, illustrations, and scraps of paper, napkins, and anything else I could get my hands on, in order to see stories about ponies, dogs, unicorns, and other fantasies from my childhood.

 

I will never forget receiving my very first F on a paper in the fourth grade. I remember that the topic was simply on Thanksgiving, nothing too complex. I definitely went home crying to my mom about that awful red letter that scarred my paper. Because my paper was accompanied with no other comments, my mom thankfully called my teacher and spoke with her to learn why I received that grade. The teacher remarked that the paper was more about my relationship with a dog than about the paper’s topic of Thanksgiving. I was discouraged at the time because I thought I had successfully used the dog as a tool to take in the sights and sounds of the holiday while on a walk with him. After that, I dreaded writing assignments, something that had once been exciting to me. Suddenly, writing had ceased to be about creativity and had instead become solely about meeting the requirements of the teacher and her topics.

 

This would not be the last time I struggled with my writing.

 

But my mom kept cheering me on.  After all, she pointed out, wasn’t overcoming rejection one of the biggest challenges of writing? Thanks to her support, I continued to write, and two years later, I managed to win the principal’s writing contest at the same school. At the time, I hadn’t been involved in any school or extracurricular activities, but as I stood in front of my entire class and their parents to read my essay, I realized that writing could allow me to reach people in a way that nothing else physically could. I could make something out of myself and my ideas with nothing more than a pen and paper. I believe that it was that moment when writing first became more than a hobby and an actual possibility in my eyes. 

 

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of chronic Illness and allusions to Depression Ahead. If these topics upset you, you may wish to read something else.

 

However, later on, in my freshman year of high school, those possibilities came to a screeching halt. Due to what I would later learn was lupus and fibromyalgia, along with some sidekick chronic illnesses, I was no longer able to physically attend school, let alone do much else, so I was forced to complete my high school education at home through tutors and cyber school. Almost overnight, my world became infinitely smaller. Because I was more often than not feeling poorly, I didn’t have many opportunities to leave the house or to see friends. Books and writing became one of my only and most relished escapes. 

 

Not only did I get to steal away into different worlds through their pages, but I also could create a different reality for myself and others. With reading and writing, there was no limit—I could go as far my mind was willing to take me. And at the time, I was more than happy to seek refuge in the comfort of the written word, whether my own or someone else’s. In this way, the written word became not only my companion, but a great leveler. Within imaginative realms, I could be anything, anywhere, or—most importantly at the time—anyone, even a healthier person. 

 

I may have missed out on homecoming dances, or one of my high school friends being nominated for prom queen, but I didn’t miss the first time that Elizabeth Bennet set eyes on Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice. Nor did I fail to witness the lavish parties of the Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby. And I, too, was stunned by the shocking scandal in Jane Eyre, when the title character was confronted with the discovery that her beloved Mr. Rochester was not only already married, but to a madwoman locked in his very own attic.

 

While other teenagers were confronted with the dramas of high school or the shallowness and uncertainties of youth, I was forming life-long attachments to characters and their experiences. With so little social interaction, characters became my trusted friends and their experiences taught me much that my current life could not. 

 

After years of struggling with my health to get through high school and with very little support from said school, I graduated. For some reason, probably my stupidly persistent love of learning, I decided to try this whole education thing once more and applied to college. Despite my bizarre educational record, I was accepted everywhere I applied—I suspect that it was once again due to my writing coming through for me in my application essays and strong scores in reading and writing on the SATs (we won’t talk about my math scores.) With much-needed accommodations in place for my illnesses, I was, for the first time in a long time, hopeful of my chances at success. It was of no surprise to any one that knew me that I ended up very much at home in the English department, with a minor in Professional Writing.

 

But in my second year of college education, my chronic illnesses struck again, rendering me unable to go on. The last time, not even taking a semester off—something that had done the trick once before—was enough to allow my body to recover enough to push through more education. Back then, there were really no viable options for online school that there are today and I simply couldn’t cope with the thought that my hard-won credits would not transfer to one of these few online schools. Regardless, I ended up right back at home, in bed, losing touch with the friends I made—too humiliated at being the sick girl who didn’t make it through school to talk to former classmates with healthy bodies and achievable goals. I was absolutely devastated by what I perceived as another failure.

 

Once more, my biggest anchors were the very things that had comforted me in the past: books. Characters are such steadfast creatures, never disappearing in a time of need or saying a judgmental word. To thoroughly escape from my world of sick beds and crushed dreams, I fully embraced fantasy novels, rereading The Lord of the Rings, the first book on the syllabus for one of the many classes I wouldn’t be taking the next semester, and relishing in narratives and dilemmas of a more magical variety than what I faced in my own life. 

 

I did not write for many years. Not even in journals or on scraps of hidden paper. The desire to do so was gone, for the mere thought of writing was enough to remind me of what had slipped through my grasping, clawing hands. As time went on, I read less of the literature I studied in school, and read more and more fantasy novels. I found The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, and was absolutely astounded that I had ever even bothered reading anything outside of the fantasy genre.

 

One day, I finally allowed myself to recognize how much I missed discussing novels. I made a Goodreads account.

 

I did not write.

 

Mainly, I lurked, and just read reviews, taking in what other people thought about the books I read. I’m not sure how long I remained skulking around the edges of the book community, but quietly one day, I found I once more had things I wanted to say that other people weren’t. I don’t remember what the first review I wrote was and it was probably pretty rusty and unremarkable. But it was mine. And it was soon lost in the sea of other reviews I had written. I didn’t stop writing.

 

One day I had the simple thought of, wouldn’t it be nice to have a place of my very own for my writing? Blogging with Dragons (I blame the name on the fact that my creativity was still coming out of hibernation at that time), was born. I didn’t have any earthly idea what was I doing, but I at least had the sense that I was doing something, which felt freeing, terrifying, and gratifying all in one. As the years went by, goals that seemed not for me, but “other people,” like receiving books in exchange for reviews, suddenly was something that I had accomplished. I may not have had my degree in English, but I still had my writing.

 

It’s been ten years since the time when I was scheduled to graduate from college with my English degree and my path has taken a lot of twists and turns. Though I still haven’t quite managed to recapture my love of writing fiction since I was forced to drop out of college—it remains a jaw-dropping cliff that I have yet to plunge off of—I’ve managed to take up blogging and to slowly, very slowly, gain more confidence in not only my writing and creativity, but also in myself again. I’ve found that old passion that flared up in classroom discussions and writing papers has reignited in blogging—discussing the content that I get to choose for myself in a way that works for me and my health problems. 

 

And, though I never went into blogging with this intent, the practice has also allowed me to be a part of a community once more, something I found myself missing. Thankfully, blogging is such a unique community in that it doesn’t really set many expectations, with people coming and going as they please, off to chase new interests and pastimes all the time. Blogging is purely what each blogger chooses to make it. For me, this took a lot of the fear of failure out of the hobby, something I desperately needed.

 

As of 2022, I have been blogging for seven whole years, certainly not always consistently or well, but pleased that I have a little something to show for myself. If you’re reading this, then you know that I have finally managed to write my first very uncomfortable and reluctant description of my life, something that has always been a massive source of shame to be hidden, and certainly not something to be pulled out, examined, and God forbid, posted on the internet.

 

Though I never would have guessed that the little girl checking out giant totes of books from the library and filling countless journals and floppy disks with stories would end up as a book blogger, I am very happy to be here, writing, whether anyone reads it or not. Though I am not quite certain if Blogging with Dragons is my final destination in writing, it’s certainly been an indispensable stop.

 

*This post is inspired by Blaugust 2022’s week two theme : Introduce Yourself. For more information on Blaugust and why I’m participating, check out my post here. 

 

 

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How I Became a Book Blogger - Blogging with Dragons

Posted August 8, 2022 in About Me, Blaugust, Geek Life

Tags: , , ,

2 responses to “How I Became a Book Blogger

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey with us. It’s hard to hear how hard you had to fight to get where you are, but I am glad that you have been brave enough to share your experiences with the world. That kind of openness can be an inspiration for other people dealing with similar challenges in their own lives.

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