I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I only like navel gazing (or, as our friend Pamela would call it, omphaloskepsis) when it’s metaphorical. Please keep your abdomens covered or – at a minimum – at a reasonable distance from my eyeballs. I can’t quite explain why, but belly buttons really weird me out.
Now that we’ve established some boundaries, dear reader, let’s move on to the real topic. (Full disclosure: I may have actually directed a few lines of “Take a Look at Me Now” at the mirror in order to psych myself up before writing this post, but let’s just keep that between us, okay?) This bout of self-reflection has been prompted by the annual Pet Blogger Challenge hosted by Go Pet Friendly and Will My Dog Hate Me, two of my favorite blogs.
Now, if you’ll permit me, I’m going to try to forget about real navels while I spend some time gazing at my metaphorical one. Our thoughtful co-hosts have provided a list of questions, but (in spite of my affinity for listing things), I have decided to tackle them in a narrative format. (It’s not too late to join us – check out the questions here!)
Before we get started, two things: (1) Here’s a link to last year’s post; and (2) When I searched for “navel” on Giphy (my usual source for GIFs), here’s one of the six GIFs that appeared for my viewing pleasure:
It seems kind of appropriate. Also, apparently when the world thinks of navels, they think of David Bowie.
A brief history of (my) time: I’ve been blogging since April 2010, so the fourth anniversary of this little enterprise is just around the corner. If my calculations are correct, I have to send the blog a Carmen Miranda hat or buy it a toaster (preferably one that will do something cool like catapult toast across the kitchen).
The blog was originally a private affair (and loosely inspired by the fact that my friends were starting to blog about their kids). After a while, I discovered the pet blogging community and was inspired to take it public. (There’s much more to this story, but I won’t repeat it all here.)
If you’re new to the blog, this excerpt from my bio page sums up what I’m all about:
I Still Want More Puppies is a blog about pup culture, pop culture, and anything else that strikes my fancy. I strive for humor with a healthy dose of heart – stop by for a smile, a laugh, or a big virtual hug. There’s no law against having fun while trying to help animals, and this blog is a place to do both.
So, that’s how we got here.
Knowing (yourself) is half the battle: When I look back at 2013, I am pleased with the fact that I think I’ve finally figured out what I want this blog to be and where I want to go with it. Last year, I discussed taking the blog to the next level and thinking more about the business side of things. However, I realized that while I am still interested in expanding into other areas (and I do have a few actual business ideas), I don’t want the spirit to take a backseat to business. For example, I don’t want to do product reviews (aside from the occasional item that really speaks to me).
What I enjoy about this space is that it allows me to be creative, and I want it to remain a place where I feel the freedom to be as kooky and silly as I want. I want my content to be the star. (In an ideal world, I’d be the Bloggess of the pet blogging world. Dream big, right?) So, that’s been the biggest change for me – it’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m just going to be me.
I am but a young grasshopper: I’m constantly learning from other bloggers. I talk to some of my blogger friends almost daily. They’ve taught me by making me think – about things like why I made no appearance on my own blog (and why I should), about what I want from this blog, about cutting myself some slack, and about countless other things. These bloggers inspire me to follow my bliss, and they’ve proved to be a source of support that keeps me going. If I had to offer advice, it would be to spend some time thinking about what you really want and why you do it – and then just do your thing, whatever it may be.
(Feed)back to the future: If I could ask the pet blogging community help with one challenge, I would ask for help in evaluating what I’ve done here so far. Although I’m often mired in self-reflection, I have trouble looking at the blog from an objective perspective. What do you enjoy about this blog? What would you like to see more of? What could I do to make it even better?
Traffic and content and promotion, oh my: I still haven’t discovered the magic formula for bringing more traffic to the blog. It’s increased in a slow and steady fashion, but it’s not something I’ve really focused on. I sincerely hope that the content will draw people in, but I know that it’s more complex than that. I do pay attention to which posts are popular and have staying power. I check my stats to see which posts get a number of views, and I’m mindful of which posts result in a significant number of comments and discussion. In spite of that, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about traffic when I’m drafting a post. I do spend time thinking about my post titles and whether they will inspire someone to click through to read a post.
I don’t spend a ton of time promoting the blog. I share my posts on Facebook (I’d love to know how to maximize its potential) and Twitter (my top source of traffic), but I don’t do much beyond that. That’s something I would like to work on – but I don’t want to let it stress me out.
When the (commenting) spirit moves me: I’m most likely to comment on a post when it makes me think. Posts that pose questions, raise interesting points, or make me see things in a different way are the ones that will often inspire me to comment. In those cases, I want to engage that blogger and be part of the conversation.
When I can’t find the words (or the energy): When writer’s block strikes me, the only cure sometimes is, well, time. Instead of staring at the empty screen and letting it mock me, I’ve learned that the best thing for me to do is to close the laptop and come back later. I don’t try to force it. I’ll check out my list of ideas and possible topics and hope that inspiration strikes. Sooner or later, the block dissolves and the words start flowing again.
Similarly, when I’m tired, I don’t force myself to blog. I like to post regularly (at least a few times per week), but I have learned to cut myself some slack. The world won’t end if I don’t post as much for a week or two, no matter how much I used to stress out about it. I think this approach reflects where I am with the blog now – I want it to bring me joy. I want it to bring you joy. It won’t do either of those things if I’m just cranking out posts due to some artificial pressure I’m putting on myself.
I’ve never really taken an extended break, but I do allow myself mini-breaks from time to time. I know myself well enough to know that if I lose momentum completely, I might never pick it back up. For me, a blog at rest might just remain at rest. I’ve never thought about quitting, interestingly enough, but I think that is partially due to the fact that this is a creative outlet from my daily life. I’d miss that outlet if it went away.
When I grow up: So, what are my goals for 2014? I have a few. First, I want to continue feeling the blog love and not get in my own head about what it should be. Second, I want to give the blog a bit of a facelift. I think that it could be more visually appealing and better match the content and tone of my posts. (Improving my knowledge of the technical side of blogging would be useful here too.) Finally, I want to launch the webcomic that I’ve been working on for the past year. I’m pretty excited about this venture – it will be on its own site, but I will be promoting it here as well, of course. That’s all I can say for now, so stay tuned…
Assuming you made it to the bottom of this insanely wordy post with your eyesight intact, check out the other blogs participating in today’s hop and join the fun!