It is ridiculous to fathom that this is the fourth round of the Pet Blogger Challenge. It seems like only yesterday I was an awkward and terrified new pet blogger, shyly joining an event held by a pantheon of writers far funnier and more interesting than I. Would they even let me add a link, I wondered. Surely there was going to be some secret password that only real writers knew and I would be kicked out the second I tried to enter my measly little submission. At the time such rejection felt imminent. I am positive my fingers trembled as I typed my post for the Pet Blogger Challenge’s inaugural year.
Now anyone who has joined the Petosphere for any length of time knows how wrong and slightly offensive were these fears. There are no secret codes, no membership fees, and no traffic requirements. Everyone is welcome and encouraged and everyone has something important to contribute. One of my favourite parts of this annual event is how much I learn from and about my fellow bloggers. I try to read as many posts as I can and always come away feeling energized. I am hoping this year will be a new record for participation.
This space hasn’t changed since March 2010 when the madness all began. I started because I have always liked the concept of blogging, even if I’d never been able to pull one off before. There were countless projects before this one – not a single one ever stuck. Not a single one was ever read by anyone other than myself. I can’t say why I’ve managed to keep going with Rescued Insanity. Nor do I have a clue what motivated me to leave my safe bubble and connect with others. If I was to think on it with a bit more care, I am sure it would have to do with the reason I am willing to get up at 5:30 every single morning. That was why I started blogging and it is why I am here still.
That’s something with which we can all relate. All of us in this Challenge are here for the same original purpose. This drives us to do nutty things like dedicate hours of unpaid work, forgoing sleep and sometimes neglecting other responsibilities. We may have different goals and unique perspectives, but we all share a common passion. Knowing that makes us instant pals.
At least, I’d like to think so.
My goals have always been simple. I used to say that I didn’t know what I was doing, or that I had no intentions, that I was just here for the free books. But none of that was really true. It was easier to have people believe. Far easier to hide behind a shield of self-deprecation than to admit a desire for something more. I still do this in my writing. My declared fear is almost my protector. If I talk ad infinitum about how terrified I am and how little I think of myself – not that these feelings aren’t real – then I don’t have to take any risks. It’s like spitting gum in your own hair before a bully gets the chance.
Only, in my case there is no physical bully at all. My tormentor is my own imagination, a creature conjured entirely by my fear of humiliation. One isn’t putting her soul on the line if she keeps telling everyone she isn’t serious about anything. I have worn my deficiencies like a badge of honour, broadcasting them to the world at every interval. This way there are no expectations and, most importantly, there is no possibility of looking like an idiot. Of course, there is also no possibility of real accomplishment. Or pride.
But I digress. I think I was supposed to be talking about goals. Since I spent most of 2013 wallowing in self-pity – there I go again – I can’t say I achieved the aims I set last year. Then again, my goal was so vague that an optimist could say that I did succeed. Here is what I wrote in my 2013 post, verbatim:
“My goal for this year is to figure it all out.”
On a more candid note, there is one big thing that has changed for me this year. It took an eight month break, but I am forever beholden.
No longer am I writing to please others.
Of course, I love connecting with you. I adore hearing your stories and perspectives. But when I write now, I write for writing’s sake only. It is a mental practice, a hobby, a way of escape. This has worked for me better than any committed assignments ever did.
I don’t know if my writing has improved. I am trying very hard not to think too much about that. Right now it is about re-cultivating the habit itself: sitting down every day, eking out my thoughts, sometimes with a glass in my hand, struggling to ignore the idea that other people might be reading. Please, please, please, don’t take this the wrong way. The public aspects are important. Vital, even. Without you, without the thought that someone, somewhere might care if I disappear, I wouldn’t be nearly so accountable. For me, no motivation in the world can compare with the potential disappointment of others.
This is why I am so grateful to you and all of my fellow pet bloggers. You alone have taught me that it isn’t about page views or numbers or statistics or anything else that I never paid much attention to anyway. In the olden days I felt bad that I didn’t, that it made me less dedicated because I didn’t use SEO or couldn’t cite my traffic to anyone who asked. Now I know otherwise. None of that junk matters when all I want to do is learn how to write and engage with others who care about similar things. That’s it. If I write every post at the last minute and never look at my statistics again, does it really matter to anyone else?
And this is what I want to show others who may be struggling with a bit of blogging malaise. It seems there are a fair amount of you. Sure, you may have bigger goals than I, you are no doubt ensnaring the major sponsors and have actually made money at this thing, if only a few dollars here and there. True confession? I haven’t made a cent. I don’t feel ashamed about that. It’s not why I am here. It doesn’t make me less than. I am okay with this.
But even if you aren’t okay with the lack of cash – and this is fine too – maybe why you are losing your love for blogging is because you think you need to be doing all the things, all of the time. Really, you only need to be doing the things that are important to you. The things you love. If you enjoy Facebook, do that. If you never got the hang of Twitter? Screw it. Find the things you have fun with and excel at them. Drop everything that is a chore. I am willing to bet your audience will grow, not decrease.
Of course, I could be wrong. I’ve only been doing this for four years without a single dime to my name. Perhaps not the advice you want to take.
One of my biggest challenges has been finding the time to do the things I do love. For example, one of my favourite things is responding to all of your insightful, warm, and usually hilarious comments. It bothers me greatly when I don’t and sometimes I’ve lost sleep over it. The problem is, it takes me so much time to write my posts that I can’t get to it even an eighth as often as I’d like. The other thing is, I ove, love, love reading and commenting on other blogs. Ofttimes I have to make a choice between reading everything I want to read, commenting on everything I read, and responding to comments on my own blog. How does one decide when all three are so vital?
This is my long-winded way of saying that usually what inspires me to comment on a post is having something sincere to say, something of value to contribute. Now that I have to be so conscious of my time, I will only comment if I feel I can add to the dialogue. By the time I get around to reading the post is several days old and everything useful as already been said. At that point, my comments are superfluous at best and tedious at worst. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the article or get something out of the brilliant conversation it inspired, it just means I am likely to be cowed and move on without saying anything.
This is something I need to remedy. Any ideas on how I can go without sleep?
To add to all of the things I am no longer doing, as I’ve mentioned, I will no longer be doing product reviews. Full stop. I was never good at them anyway. It showed. I am not going to spend my time, my precious free time, doing anything I don’t adore. In future, the only time you will see a review on this website, is if I fall head over heels and must share the knowledge before I burst. It will be a book or an item I purchased myself and think is awesome. Free stuff be danged. It was never worth it for me.
There was nothing like a company’s deadline to kick writer’s block into high gear. Now that I have let all that go, I don’t find myself struggling nearly as much. Sure, It helps that there is no pressure for numbers or content. I am writing what I want, when I want and no one is able to tell me otherwise. My only rule is that I write as much as I can as often as I can. It makes it so much easier to navigate exhaustion or any blockages. When all else fails, I’ll just tell a story about a random mistake I made. It usually does the trick.**
Taking a break sucked for a lot of reasons. Primarily because I have this dinosaur-sized gap in my life that went unrecorded. I still haven’t written about Shiva’s very first kennel stay. Nor have I gone into any great detail over my horrific flight with Mr. Kitty Meister. Sure, you are grateful but these were huge moments for us! Lost to the wilds of my memory forever. It’s tragic. But it wasn’t a total loss. My over-long lapse also taught me something I hope I never forget again. Wait for it…
I love writing. I always have. Whether I am crap at it or not. I enjoy stringing words together. It gives me purpose. It helps me breathe. Ability, ambition, acuity, none of that matters when compared with joy. It took not-writing for me to acknowledge this. Will I keep going with Rescued Insanity forever? I have no idea. But it is the only platform on which I have been consistent. Sharing stories about my life with Shiva has been the only steady medium I’ve had for self-expression. So I will try to keep it up as long as I can.
That is my only goal for 2014: to keep writing as much as possible. And maybe to get the guts to admit being proud of something. But that is a topic for another post.
Thanks a million to Go Pet Friendly and Will My Dog Hate Me for running the Pet Blogger Challenge one more time. Thank you for allowing me to yammer on for way too may words. By the time I publish this novel, I am going to feel more relaxed than I have in a long, long time.
**See above badge of honour.