Pet Blogger Challenge: A New Hope*

PBCIt 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.

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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.

038My 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.”

Jeepers. Could I have been any more vague? What the heck was I talking about? If by “figuring it all out” I meant learning the purpose behind why I spend so much time agonizing over every sentence in a pet blog, then I guess I win! Because I have figured it out. I am still here because for some, no doubt pathological, reason I actually enjoy divulging all of my deepest anxieties while boosting my ego as people coo over how cute my animals are. Is that so wrong?
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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.

035This 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.

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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?

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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.

 

*Yay for random, out-of-body geekage! I am not even a Star Wars  fan. I simply couldn’t come up with a better reference. Last year the title of my post was an homage to the late, great Leslie Nielsen. But he died before they could make a fourth Naked Gun movie so, alas, I was without further inspiration.

**See above badge of honour.

15 thoughts on “Pet Blogger Challenge: A New Hope*

  1. I love what you said about doing everything – I’ve fallen into that trap so many times, joining every social networking site, every forum, and every group. It’s overwhelming and I was just setting myself up to fail.

    Now, I just write for me too and I’ve attracted people who are like me and we have a great time chatting about dogs. That’s what it’s all about.

    Great post!!!!

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  2. Fab post. I do my blog for me, but if some people get any enjoyment out of reading it, then that’s fab.

    I certainly enjoy reading yours.

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  3. You said it girl, you said it!! You and I seem to have come to the same conclusion (although you said it much better) about blogging.

    Once upon a time, many moons ago I sold Tupperware. And I was very good at it. Why? Because I liked the product and that showed when I presented it to people. I like writing and I will continue to write. Why? Because I like it. And it doesn’t matter to me what someone else is doing and whether my writing is any good (it isn’t) it’s about putting my thoughts and articulations down, and if someone comes along and connects with me, that’s bonus.

    BTW, I see so much of the same themes in this year’s post, which only proves to me how like minded many of us are.

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  4. Well thank goodness. Someone finally wrote a longer post than mine. 🙂

    And it was pure awesomeness in every word.

    I’m glad you’ve arrived at the peace some of us are still struggling with. As you read through the posts, don’t you find similarities among all of us 4th year bloggers? The newbies sound very much like we did in our first hop. And of course, the grand dames like Peggy of Peggy’s Pet Place and Jan of The Poodle and Dog Blog are so past all these neurotic wonderings.

    I love your writing. I love your dog. I love your cat. I love your PH. Thanks for sharing them with us. And for being courageous enough to write.

    Writing is the scariest thing most people will ever do. It’s such an emotional roller coaster. I can’t believe there isn’t a Banfff Mountain Film Festival of people sitting in their rooms writing, instead of all those mountain climbing and skiing films they feature. Oh, well, yes, I can believe it. That would be pretty boring filmmaking.

    Great post. I bet a few people will be printing it out and taping it to their computers.

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  5. You write wonderfully, and I am glad you said what you did in this post. I have come to the conclusion that treating my blog like a business is a bad idea. As a business, it’s a failure. As a fun hobby, it’s a success. I love the people too much to stop blogging all together, but things are going to change this year. Actually today, things are going to change now.

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  6. I’m back!!! Well you already know how I feel about this post 🙂 Love it! Thank you so much for taking the time to really think about this and write how you truly feel! I think you nailed it and this will impact many bloggers, like myself who are struggling. I know that I will be one of those people printing it off and hanging it at my computer desk 😉

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  7. Absolutely wonderful post. It’s like you’re in my brain. I have to agree with Pamela – it’s interesting that so many of us who’ve been blogging for a few years now are struggling with the same issues (and many of us coming to a similar result). I really do feel like we’re all kind of having an adolescent crisis – we’ve been struggling with our growing pains and have been trying desperately to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. Beautifully, wonderfully… it seems like many of us have finally started to figure out that we just want to be happy and enjoy what we’re doing. My post this year was about following my bliss and not stressing about product reviews and monetization. It’s been interesting (and encouraging) to see that I’m not the only one.

    Also, I cheered when I read the “I love writing” part, because isn’t that what it’s all about? (However, when I got to the “whether I am crap at it or not” qualifier, I knew I’d have to address it – obviously, you are NOT crap at it. You are amazing. I will tell you that as many times at it takes for you to stop being down on yourself, lady. 🙂 )

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  8. “You only need to be doing the things that are important to you.”
    Such good advice! It’s been very enlightening to read all of the PBC entries and comments this round.
    I’ve found it’s been important to decide what I’d want and not worry about any of the extras that might be nice, but will make blogging feel like a chore.
    Writing for writing’s sake, in my opinion, often results in some of the best stuff. It’s more candid and authentic. So I’m really looking forward to visiting here in 2014! Your stuff is always good, though, who am I kidding?

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  9. Great post Kristine! I find it interesting that so many of us who have been blogging for the past four years are at the same spot with our blogs. I want to write my blog because I love my blog, not because of some self-imposed pressure I’ve put on myself. Thank you for stating so eloquently what so many others are thinking.

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  10. Kristine,

    Your honest, open writing has always been my favorite. The authenticity of your vulnerability splayed open for all to see, it’s nothing short of monumental.

    When we first met at BarkWorld, I half expected the kind of introvert that feels debilitated in a crowd, a person who required handholding to network and coercion to eat a meal together. None of this pertains to you.

    I’m not sure whether to to be grateful for your bravery, the kindness of the community, or a combination of both for your comfort in joking about and playing dress up with Amy and I – but I am grateful. That you say your introversion and self deprication is a coping mechanism is interesting. I sensed another side immediately in person. I now know that you are so delightful, easy to be around, and brave in the face of the unknown.

    I can see how touting the contrary plays out for you. I, on the other hand, come out strong with my persona of confident smarts hoping to hide my insecurities. Isn’t it funny how we use different methods for the same means?

    And here you are again, wowing me with your openness toward how you use a declaration of great insecurity as a tool to hide a still real lesser insecurity, proving my point again that you are ever transparently brave.

    You inspire me with every post I read. I am so glad you are back and writing for the love of it.

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  11. One thing I’ve learned about you having read this blog for years now: I can always, always count on you to provide fresh, honest insight to whatever topic you’re tackling. I feel like I write to disguise the fact that I’m a neurotic, anxious, compulsive, etc., so I’m always hugely terrified to meet people in person where I can’t hide behind my writing. You achieve the exact opposite with your honesty. I’m not sure I’m explaining that clearly, but I’ll leave it with this: I admire you and your work. I look forward to seeing where you go in 2014.

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  12. Very well written Kristine, as usual. Is is bad that I derive a bit of entertainment from you constant self-depreciation?? In my defense, I see it more as dry humor 🙂

    “Find the things you have fun with [and good at] and excel at them”. You are so right! This is something I believe but a trend I see all over the place nowadays. The old mantra of “find your weaknesses and work hard to develop those areas” has been replaced with “find your strengths and passions and be the best you can be at them”. It is a long (ok. boring) story but that is part of what motivated me to go back to school and learn how to communicate and connect with people better.

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  13. I have so been looking forward to your post and its every bit as terrific as i thought it would be! Thank you for writing so openly about the things so many of us are feeling, Kristine. it sounds like 2014 will be a fantastic year for you – I can’t wait to see the next year takes you and your blog.

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  14. I really am enjoying reading everyone’s blogs and comments! 2013 was a real year of decisions for a lot of us. Your honesty and style is so refreshing. I started my blog Dec 2006 and remained a beginner forever. I love that so many of us are going back to just having fun with it. You are really an inspiration for the “do what you love” mindset.

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