Tuesday, September 22, 2009

In Which I Bare My Soul

“The more concerned you are to avoid saying anything wrong or offensive, the less likely you are to say anything inspiring or true.” --Michael Kinsley

I read the above quote on Tess Gerritsen's blog and it really struck me. I am Miss Conflict Avoidance and because on blogs there's a huge tendency for misunderstanding I often shy away from taking a strong stand on things. Well, not always. But sometimes. ;)

I also think there's a tendency to just show our strength on blogs. We want people to think the best of us and there's enough drama in real life. Well, lately there's been enough drama in the blogging world too. And someone recently reminded me that bloggers can hide and not be transparent.

So I thought I'd write a post that shows you some of what I feel. Maybe you'll stop reading my blog. Or maybe you'll just know me a little better.

Last year when BBAW was over, I sent out surveys to ask for people's opinions. I won't be doing that this year for a couple of reasons. 1) Enough people have already publicly and privately expressed their opinions to me that I feel I have enough feedback to go on. 2) I am most interested in the feedback of those willing to volunteer. Therefore when volunteer applications go up...if you have an opinion you want to see put into action...volunteer!

Anyway, last year I sent out these surveys and they were anonymous, therefore a few came back that were SCATHING. I get that this is to be expected but I was crushed. In context, I was exhausted and had just poured hours of work into BBAW. But also I'm a sensitive person, there's no point trying to lie about it. There's a huge difference between constructive criticism and simply ranting about what you didn't like.

So I posted about it, but more to say thank you to the kind people. And someone commented that it was too bad the negative words stood out so strongly against the kind words. I have been thinking about that ever since. Why? Why do sharp critical words undo the good so many words of kindness do?

And it became clear to me this year. The critical words dig deep because they are like a confirmation of what I already suspect is true. I'm not good enough. I can't be good enough. I can't hope to successfully pull off an event like BBAW -- someone else could do it better. Someone who has been on prestigious awards committees or recognized by national publications. My blog and my attempt at an online festival for book bloggers will never be anything more than small potatoes--not to be taken seriously. The words of criticism confirm THE LIE.

The truth is...I'm not good enough. I can't be good enough on my own. This is why I'm a Christian....being a Christian allows me to fully embrace the reality that I can never be enough on my own. Anything that is good in me comes from Jesus. And daily He is renewing me and making me new. This is such a mystery and such a joy and such a relief. When I choose to believe this way, the words of kindness and the words of criticism become less important. My value is not found in what people say about me or my work but in my relationship with God and with others.

For the past four years, I have worked in a literacy program that celebrates failure. What I mean by that is we don't see failing or making a mistake as a negative thing. We see it as a valuable part of the learning process. That doesn't make our students feel better when they fail--it's still crushing and disappointing. But we provide an atmosphere where it's safe. There's no reason to expect perfection from the get-go. I think no less of my students when they fail...in fact I tell them it's an important part of learning. I try to apply this to my own life. It's not easy. Our society and culture demands and expects perfection. It rewards success and has little tolerance for weakness. But failure is important. Mistakes are necessary. We need them to learn, to be better.

It would have been great if we could have had a flawless BBAW last year and this year as well. But at the same time, I like to think that we're trying...just like the brain tries to learn to read or ride a bike and it takes several attempts before a right system is acheived we are trying out different ways of making the awards fair and the week fun and inclusive of all blogs. And I've definitely learned a lot through the whole process...not just about how to make BBAW better, but about how people deal with things differently, about the people I should give my respect to, and about love. I've been humbled by the graciousness of some.

I would be lying to say there wasn't a time or two when I was tempted to throw in the towel. BBAW is a lot of work with little tangible reward. Which is great when you think people are enjoying it, but it does become something to reconsider when it opens you up to random Twitter attacks, thinly veiled attacks in blog posts and references, and the general feeling that maybe it was the worst idea you ever had. :)

But then I remember it's okay to fail. I remember the encouraging words, I see people excitedly talking about the new blogs they discover and others touched by kind words said about them. We are human and we crave affirmation and BBAW is my love letter to the book blogosphere. It's not a letter everyone wants...I get that. But for those that do...I'm happy to give it.

I'm not asking for compliments or feedback on BBAW on this post. I just want to share where I'm coming from, why I'm willing to try again and that I'm really just very human.

(I do welcome feedback and concerns about BBAW at bookbloggerappreciationweekATgmailDOTcom I cannot reply to every email, but I do read them all. Feel free to tell me everything about how you feel especially if you are interested in the future of BBAW and wish to see it improve)



Stephanie said...

Amy, I think you are an amazing person. The amount of work that went into BBAW was astronomical. And for someone who actually has a job in "real life"...well, you deserve a whole lot of credit.

In no way ever, would it be possible for you to please everyone. So don't even try. You did a wonderful job. I only took a small part in the volunteer process, and I know how much work that was. I can't even begin to imagine what you went through. And if people are upset over the awards, so be it. Are people really that vain that they need an award to feel valildated? I'm sure it was nice, but seriously, it was fun to spend time solely finding new blogs.

So...thank you. For all that you did and all that you will continue to do. Because that's just who you are.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I agree. I'd like to see any of the nay-sayers try to accomplish what you have. I think, though, you know the hearts of the bloggers who adore you and support you. There are 9 of us to every 1 of them. And, those are some good stats, BABY!

What I appreciate most about my relationship with you is that I can be completely myself in my communication with you. I know that you are a true Christian and you do not judge me!

Last year I said that the best thing about BBAW was you. And... I can still say that today!


ANovelMenagerie said...

... or, maybe... 9.5 of us to every .5 of them! Yes! Better!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Stephanie said it beautifully. There are no award ceremonies, even the Oscars, that don't have flaws, and have a blissfully happy audience. This state of peace will never be accomplished when awards are being given - someone will always be left out, and have their feelings hurt. So it breaks my heart to hear you say that you aren't good enough to pull one off. You are one of the few people out there that could actually do something like this. What you did for the book blogger community is just AWESOME, and rocked all of our worlds. If everyone could just set down their egos and narcissism for five minutes, they would see that this event is more about meeting new friends, learning more about old ones, and sharing the love for books. I applaud you.

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your honesty. BBAW did have some flaws, but so does everything in life. What is important is that the benefits far outweighed the few tiny problems.

Not many people are brave enough to set something like BBAW up and to accomplish what you did is amazing. It is so easy to pick holes in something, but it takes an inspiring, hardworking person with massive drive and determination to organise so many bloggers into what was such a wonderful week.

Please try to concentrate on the positives – there are so many!

Thank you for everything you have done – I’m looking forward to next year already!!

Molly said...

Amy - you are wonderful! I mean that sincerely. First of all, to even attempt such an amazing of feat of BBAW with a directory of 1,000+ book blogs is mind-boggling to me! Secondly, to give so much time and personal energy to this entirely volunteer effort, when you work full-time and have a life outside of the blogosphere - is to be commended. But also, to be so transparent in today's post to tell the world who you truly are, THAT is courage and worthy of honor.

I have read some of the negative posts, but truthfully, I only skim them and move on. I prefer not to dwell on them. There is no way that I (nor would I guess any of the so-called professionals) could do any better, and I refuse to be a part of the negative nellies.

Sometimes I wonder if those vocal nay-sayers perhaps put too much meaning into these awards. They are counting on the nomination - or the win - to give themselves worth. While I thoroughly LOVED BBAW and it is always fun to win, winning does not define who I am. As you so eloquently stated above, that is why I am a Christian. My value comes from the fact that I am a loved child of God --- not that I win or lose a once a year event among my fellow online friends and book lovers.

You introduced me to several new blogs that I am very anxious to follow and get to know better; you made me think about some great "bookish" ideas; you managed to rally a group of total strangers into an excited frenzy for a full week. YOU ARE GREAT!

Beth F said...

I sent you an email....

Anna said...

You totally are good enough to pull this off, but something as big as BBAW will probably always encounter bumps along the way. You can't please everyone and you shouldn't bother trying. I think you are doing a wonderful job, and I think BBAW will get even better with time.

Diary of an Eccentric

Lezlie said...

I said this last time, but it bears repeating: If BBAW hadn't become as large and successful as it has, no one would bother trying to tear it down. You *more* than pull it off, Amy!


bermudaonion said...

I'm really not sure why some people feel the need to snipe and complain - participation in BBAW was completely voluntary. If it doesn't appeal to you, just don't join in. Those of us who know you, know that you have a heart of gold and want everyone to feel some love during BBAW. Don't let the nay-sayers get to you - the rest of us love you!

Kay said...

Amy, for what it's worth I think you are a great person. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise. Just look at what you've accomplished, a yearly event bringing book bloggers together. And it was great, and I am certain that next year it will be even better. You really should be proud of it (after all, has any of the one criticizing you ever organized something like this, from scratch, by himself? I don't think so).

Nobody is perfect and up to one point it's a good thing to be aware of your faults, but don't exaggerate them or let them overcome you. Just look at the positive comments you received on this post. You are definitely good enough and more.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I admire you so much for what you do! (and how you do it)

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

Wonderful post Amy. We all love you - can you tell?!!!!

caite said...

Sure, everything can always be better. And in any endeavor we have to be open to constructive suggestions. Although all of us love to hear the positive and the praise more than think about possible problems, it is important and necessary to be open to that too if we aim to improve.

That being said, there will always be a certain number of people that just love to complain and find fault. Seeming for it's own sake. They often make it very hostile and very personal.
I have been online..not with a blog but in a couple of other forums...for many years. I have seen people like this destroy groups. I sometimes thing that on some level, that is their aim. Maybe they enjoy starting a controversy and being in the middle of it. Regardless, it says way more about their issues than anything else.

You have to just take the best of any comments, even the negative ones, and let the rest roll off your back.

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

I think it is these soul-baring moments that separate good blogs from great ones. You don't have to tell your deepest, darkest secrets, but we're all out here doing this because we want to connect, and sharing things like you've shared today enable us to do that. And they inspire us to take the risk and talk about our real selves and our real lives as well.

BBAW is a huge undertaking that none of us could do on our own....and that's the beauty of it. It takes a community, and it celebrates a community, a community that is fluid and is always changing but that is filled with people who are passionate about what we're doing and who are looking to connect and grow and build this community.

Another beautiful thing about it? If you don't feel like you're enough of a part of the community, you can just jump right in and reach out and get there.

We love you and know how much you've put into this effort. There will always be haters, and you can't worry about them. Just know that what you've done is appreciated.

S. Krishna said...

1) You know I think you're absolutely awesome.

2) I love what you said about volunteers. Too many of the people who are complaining are people who didn't volunteer for BBAW, or were approached and refused.

RAnn said...

You aren't the one with the problem--your naysayers are. I think you need a "suggestion" form for critical comments. It should say something like "Please put me on the committee for _______, as I think _________ improvements are necessary.

If you aren't willing to work, then sit back and enjoy the show so many people work to put on--or turn it off and go about your business.

Becky said...

Amy, this was so well said. Thank you for sharing your TALENTS with us in putting this together and keeping it all together. As a teacher of teens, trust me, I know how cutting negative words can be...even when you know better than to give them an credence! Thanks again for all you do!

Jen - devourer of books said...

I wrote one my blog that I was in awe of what you'd put together and I meant it. I don't know which was more impressive, all you did last year pretty much by yourself and with little notice or the way you adapted and grew BBAW this year. Is it perfect, no, but I doubt it could be - especially just, what, 15 months after you first thought of it? - even if it were someone's full time job. You've already refined it amazingly from last year and I'm sure that it will continue to be refined and grow next year.

By the way, I'd like to help a little more next year. This year was tough for me with the baby and all. I still probably can't do as much as some of the volunteers did this year because he'll still be quite little, but put me on your list and let me know what you want me to do!

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

I applaud your heart Amy. People like you make this book blogging experience more than I had ever hoped for. :)

Tracie Yule said...

This is a beautiful post! No one can do anything perfectly and everyone is going to have a different opinion...that's what makes up all differently.

I read a spriitual book (amazing, I read a book...ha,ha) that said everytime we fail or have reoccuring problems, that is God speaking to us and giving us another chance to succeed or to learn. This is what I remind myself everytime I feel like a failure or have a problem that I just can't figure out.

TexasRed said...

Amy - I loved participating in my first BBAW. What a great event and a great community builder! Thank you so much for all your hard work, organization, and having such a great spirit!

I agree with what's been said above. It's much easier to complain than to build something constructive. That said, I haven't read any of the negative feedback -- only people raving about the new blogs they've found and great support from BBAW.

I know how it feels to hear the criticism (internal or external) more than the positives. I think it's also important, as you point out, that the only way to always meet our own expectations are (1) set low expectations and (2) never try anything new. Neither of those encourage creativity, growth, or fun.

I think you're doing a fantastic job and as a new book blogger, really appreciate your spirit and hard work.

melissa @ 1lbr said...

What a beautiful post. thanks for sharing some of your personal feelings so willingly; it must have been very hard.

And I didn't do a wrap up BBAW post, but I want to send my thanks for your time and effort in putting it all together!

KT Grant said...

Amy, the ones who are over the top critical have this opinion that they are probably better then most, this elitist attitude that their blog, or what they think is more than a blog, should rise above all the rest.

Don't worry, many in my blogging world community I involved myself with think you have done great things. Those who didn't want to be involved because they looked their nose down upon BBAW lost out on the fun and the great community feeling invoking because of all your hard work.

The BBAW awards have exploded. And it really makes me wonder if in the next few years it becomes such a big, big event, those naysayers will take back their words and admit they were wrong.

Trisha said...

I am one lucky girl - or I just have amazingly good judgment. I have not read a single negative post about BBAW. The people I subscribe to clearly know the value of what you do and as such are extremely positive. Don't let the naysayers get you down; they are typically unhappy, spiteful people who have no sense of self-worth. Not worth your time.

Unknown said...

I've been away from my blog for a while, so I've missed this drama, but I'll say this, any effort you put into the blogging community should be lauded, not attacked. So thanks for all your hard work. Perfect or not, it doesn't matter. And good for you to clarify your point of view.

Jenn M. said...

Amy, you seriously brought tears to my eyes. I feel so terrible that people can be so terrible to such a truly kind and generous person. It really does break my heart. Your efforts that go in to the BBAW are completely selfless. Do not every let anyone make you feel bad. I didn't participate this year not because I objected in any way, just because it is my first year blogging and I wanted to see what it was all about. I am AMAZED how seemingly well-organized it turned out. I learn SO much stuff and read so many new blogs....which in the end is what it's all about. Making friends and meeting new people....not about who wins or loses.

I'm very glad you posted about this, so that other people can know where you are coming from.

SFP said...

I truly enjoyed having a central hub to go to each day and have missed having that experience this week. Thanks for BBAW, Amy!

Florinda said...

I understand what you're saying, because I've definitely been there. No matter how much praise there is, the criticisms get through because they hit directly on our insecurities and self-doubts. In the right frame of mind, we can take that as something to work on and improve...but sometimes, it just plain sucks for a while.

Amy, I don't know ANYONE else who could have pulled off what you've done in just two years of BBAW. Next year will build on this year's learning experiences, but it will probably offer new ones too :-). Still, as Kathy says, those that don't buy into BBAW can just opt out of it - and those that join in will have all kinds of fun. Again, thank you for BBAW!

Heather said...

Everyone else has already said pretty much what I think, so I'll just send my love along with everyone else. God bless!

Melissa said...

Amy ... oh, Amy.

This post breaks my heart and lifts it up at the same time. Heartbreaking because of how bad this made you feel, but all warm n' fuzzy because of how it has changed you. And us.

I think - I hope - we are all better people after all the brou-haha's that surrounded BBAW. I still believe that so much more good came out of this than the bad ... so much more good.

"Stop reading your blog"? Not as long as you're writing, my friend. "Getting to know you better"? As much as you're willing to let us.

Terry D said...

Amy, I was completely a sideliner this year ... except to encourage others to stop by abd see what's going on. That's not to say I haven't been listening. What brought me to you is Pam's latest post. You are doing a wonderful thing, and it is sad to see the us v. them and sniping continue in the comments ... You have done a masterful job explaining your thoughts and feelings, yet others are taking it as another soapbox to vent from. Your love letter is a great idea, and it has its own path to forge ... but only when the thinly veiled" whatevers (no matter their origin/position) stop. Celebration means all, not us v. them. My heartfelt thanks for trying to forge the path with this post. Let's hope others follow your example.

Anonymous said...

Two words...party poopers.

I don't see anyone else sticking their neck out like you do, so be proud of what you've accomplished!!

photoquest said...

I am not a blogger Amy but i thought you done a wonderful job. You have to remember you don't know these people on the internet and probably will never meet them. So many people especially annonymous people will be mean just because they feel they can because it's the internet they are not face to face. Usually critical people that do this has a problem with themselves and just looking for someone to bring down and make them feel bad about themselves. You cannot take these things serious. They are problem people it has nothing to do with you they just like hurting people. Chin up girl you have nothing to feel bad about : )

sarah pekkanen said...

Oh, Amy, I think you're absolutely right -- that negative words do stick with us longer than positive ones (I know for authors, it's the same for book reviews, and I'm steeling myself for that). But I can see you are already putting this into perspective, and putting the bad behind you, and celebrating the good - of which there is so much! You did an amazing job, and I'm awed by the amount of work it took and how beautifully you pulled it off! If I could take you out for pedicures and chocolate martinis right now, I would! xoxo

Alix said...

I really enjoyed BBAW Amy and seem to have missed all the drama :) as far as I was aware everyone had had fun.

I thought your post was beautiful and I really hope you believe the words you wrote. It was an amazing achievement and you should hold the positive words close.

Looking forward to next year :)

Gwendolyn B. said...

Amy - It's always easier to critique and criticize than it is to create. That doesn't mean that the criticism doesn't have some validity, just that it comes with much less effort and personal investment. And generally speaking, the naysayers have the quickest and loudest voices.

I'm glad to see that you have a clear view of what is most important and a strength and stability to your beliefs. Keep steering a steady course. You're doing fine, and a lot more than many others! You should be proud of yourself and what you have accomplished.

And btw: many people have spent countless hours and dollars on therapy and never come to the insights you've reached! :)

Debbie's World of Books said...

This was a wonderful post. When I first read the opening quote I didn't know what this post was going to be about but I felt like that quote could have been directed towards me. I am always second guessing myself in what to say and what not say and even after I speak sometimes I want to kick myself. In real life the main criticism I receive is I'm not assertive and vocal enough or confident in my own opinions.

As for the rest of this I think you did a great job. Are there going to be things people will complain about down the line? Yes, I don't think people will ever be totally happy. I know I mentioned a couple reservations I had and was happy to see how quickly they were resolved. Overall, BBAW was a wonderful experience and I for one am grateful for all the work you and the others put in.

Anonymous said...

Amy you are such an amazing woman! I wish I lived next door because if your this fantastic online....imagine the friendships you could have if we were all your neighbors =) I absolutely LOVED helping you out this year and cannot WAIT to do it again next year. Your amazing strength held us all together this year. You did a great job!!

J.T. Oldfield said...

I <3 you!

Annette said...

Shame on those that were insulting and rude.
I'm sorry that this happened.
Blogging is hard work, and Amy you do a marvelous job. Thank you.
Especially thank you for being honest in speaking from you heart.

Ceri said...

Wow, that was a very apt title for your post, Amy. I had no idea that people had disagreements with BBAW (probably because I'm a newbie to blog land and have been viewing it from the sidelines this year). It is strange how one bad comment can stand out among dozens of good ones but that's part of being human. It's to do with how sensitive we are and, I guess, how our self asteem holds up.

From what I saw I thought BBAW was amazing this year. Nearly all the book blogs I visit took part and were having such a fun time. Good on ya, I say. You did really well. :)

Corinne said...

I just added your blog to my reader during BBAW and this is the first post I'm commenting on, so, HELLO and nice to "meet" you :)

I feel like this post was really healthy. I know I take things like that personally sometimes too, and I also know, like you said, that my worth is BEYOND that kind of criticism. I especially appreciated your comment that your value comes from your relationship with God and your friends, not the unkind criticism of those who choose to only look for the "wrong."

Well said.

Jenny Girl said...

I hate to say this, but people can be crappy. Why? I do not know. Instead of just enjoying this super cool and free event that people devoted a lot of time to, some people just feel the need to bitch, moan and complain. They are like little babies who whine, "Waw why not me?" "What's in it for me?" They can't just move on or go elsewhere. They just be hating Girl!

I personally believe society is degenerating, but it's people like you and your team that brighten things up. Remind me what's good in this life. Things I'll remember when I'm in my Canadian bunker with all my books and yarn at the end of the world. I'll send you directions.

And no matter what you post, I'll always be there to read it. I consider you a friend, and that's what friends do. Be there for one another, no matter what. Love ya girl :) {hugs}

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

"My value is not found in what people say about me or my work but in my relationship with God and with others." ... Let that knowledge be your armor against negativity.

Well, those pedicures and chocolate martinis from Sarah Pekkanen will help, too :)

Ana S. said...

We're a lot alike, Amy. I really understand how you feel. No matter how much I try not to, I have trouble not taking criticism of anything I'm involved in personally. But if there's one thing that being thin-skinned has taught me it's that no matter how hurt and vulnerable I feel, I always do manage to pick myself up again and move on. *hugs*

Jenners said...

It takes a lot of guts to put yourself out there like this ... both in this post and in BBAW. I think you took the lead and did something neat and of course there are always going to be critics. But I think you do need to focus on all the good things -- all the new people who participated, all the events you had, the enthusiasm everyone had. None of these things would have happened if you didn't take a chance and put yourself out there. I hope to help out more with BBAW next year ... and I'm sure you'll find more and more volunteers coming to help you out as the community makes it "theirs" and not so much "yours" -- so you shouldn't have to bear the burden and take it so personally.

Literate Housewife said...

{hugs} from a way behind book blog reader. I remember very well some of the nasties from last year. I've been farther removed from this time. The key is that BBAW is what you make of it - that's what so special about it. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all of the hard work that has gone into this and I don't blame you for not sending out surveys this year. I am glad that you are the person you are. There would be nothing without your drive and enthusiasm. Thank you so much!

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