The Puppiness Project – Quality, not Quantity

Gretchen Rubin wrote in The Happiness Project about the year she spent “test-driving the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happy.” The Puppiness Project is my attempt to learn the same from Honey, my Golden Retriever.
Golden Retriever chewing a stick

Ahhh, that's it. The bouquet has that right degree of "stick-ness" with a mild aftertaste of branch.

When Honey and I are walking, I’ll occasionally pick up a stick from our path to play a quick game of tug or fetch. It keeps things interesting and ensures Honey is never quite sure what I’m going to do next.

The funny thing is that no matter how much she loves playing with sticks, not every one I choose is good enough to get her interested. She’s a choosey pup. For Honey, it’s all about quality.

I enjoy blogging as much as Honey enjoys playing with sticks.

But sometimes I make the mistake of looking at some other blog’s subscriber count or page hits and I make myself feel bad for not generating a bigger audience for Something Wagging This Way Comes.

Oh, and writing two blogs? Double the bad feelings.

But then I sit down and read all the great comments on my posts and I’m thankful for the smart, insightful, and kind people who do stop by.

I don’t have many cutesy comments that could have been made on any post on any blog. I get emails and comments that reflect on what I’ve written and make me think.

And when I visit the blogs of my friends, I laugh and cry and ponder what I read. Sometimes for days. I feel so privileged to belong to a community of such honest, striving, and thoughtful people.

And it’s not like everyone is writing serious, high-minded posts every day that will change the world. But they change my world. Because they show how much great bloggers care about their animals and their readers.

So it’s time to take a lesson from Honey and realize that not every stick reader is the same. And that having a few thoughtful readers is better than having thousands of blasé readers (or worse, mean readers like you see on some of the huge websites).

And if you’re reading this now: thank you for helping Honey teach me something new.

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  1. I agree wholeheartedly. I admit to getting caught up in stats counting and fighting the dragon of blog comparison, but then I got a new job and my life picked up speed. All of a sudden that stuff just stopped mattering. I haven’t checked my blog stats in months now. Frankly, I just can’t be bothered. It’s not why I started and it’s not why I continued.

    I don’t think every post has to be life-changing. There is nothing wrong with a little fun, right? When the 7 links posts came out I worried as none of my posts are all that important in the grand scheme of things. Most of them are just about the silly things my dog does. But perhaps in it’s own right, that is important too.

    Thanks for the perspective. I know reading your blog has affected my life as well as the way I relate to my dog. That’s not a small thing.

    • I’ve loved your 7 links and all of your posts. Rescued Insanity is definitely “important” to a lot of people. And I think showing people that having a crazy dog has its joys and challenges is what will ultimately help thousands of dogs in shelters (and homes whose people don’t know what to do with them) live a better life.

  2. Pamela
    I think you have articulated brilliantly the fun of writing a blog. It can be anything we want it to be, anything we feel passionate about at the moment. Finding like minded people to interact with is a wonderful bonus.

    I’ve changed the focus of my blog many times (maybe daily). One criticism I got from an unsolicited evaluator who wanted me to pay him to “give my blog a voice” was tha “I was all over the place.” Kind of what I was going for. That is the wonderful thing about writing a blog, we don’t have to measure up to someone else’s standards.

    • How serendipitous. I just finished reading your post about the fitted sheet legislation in Los Angeles.

      Yes, it’s fun to be “all over the place.”

  3. I am chronically disappointed in my low stats and few subscribers, but I too think the few subscribers I have are from the best blogs out there.

    I read one blog in particular and marvel at the lack of depth in both posts and comments. (I read it because the writer is a loyal reader of mine, and I believe in gratitude.) Truly, what breeds success is sometimes a mystery. But it’s sort of like how there’s a buyer for every home, right?

    • I work very hard at not judging matters of taste. We’re all so different in what we like.

      Sometimes people are “successful” because they work really hard at it–they comment everywhere, sponsor contests, enter every blog hop, and spend lots of time on social media. And sometimes their content is as good as their efforts to increase their numbers (My Two Little Cavaliers, Life with Dogs) and sometimes it isn’t (you thought I was going to name names, didn’t you?).

      I guess I’ve made a decision to offer the best content I can, respect my readers and the writers of blogs I follow, and still have a life outside cyberspace. I already worry a bit that I spend more time with Honey online than I do in real life. :)

      And that’s the trade-off we all have to make.

  4. What a great perspective you offer.
    I’m relatively new to blogging, and I am finding it so gratifying to write about dogs and everything I learn from them, the joy they bring me, the ways they puzzle me. Its such a great way to document all the lessons along the way.
    An unexpected pleasure has been discovering how great–how warm, compassionate, and genuine–other dog bloggers are. Not many of them visit my blog but the ones who do just rock.
    Glad I came upon you! Keep up the great work.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Kristen. If you hadn’t, I would not have known about Peaceful Dog.

      Will you be coming to BlogPaw? I saw from your blog that you’re pretty close–it would be a shame to miss it.

  5. I strongly agree! I get so fed up with bloggers who come by the blog and comment just so I’ll comment on theirs. For me, it’s not a competition, it’s a creative outlet. I bow to you for being able to run two blogs successfully, because I am very bad at that. I’d rather know that I touched someone in some way with what I’ve written and how they reacted to it than some who leave these inane comments. I don’t mind the ones that are funny or friendly and brief, but the ones where I can’t even tell if they read what I wrote hurt my feelings a little, if I’m honest. Heck, when I started the blog, I never dreamed that anybody out there would ever read it, much less comment on it or follow it. But it is a labor of love, and I do care that it be more than just fluff all the time. I’m rambling! The point is, I agree with you and I think quality comments are a lot more important than quantity!

    • The amazing thing about you is that you manage to write such great posts and make kind and thoughtful comments on a lot of other blogs. I don’t know how you do it.

      When I started getting more active with the blog and commenting more, it seemed like everywhere I went, houndstooth had been there first. I started seeing it as the “houndstooth seal of approval” and knew I was in the right place. :)

      BTW, do I get the implication from your comment that you also keep a second blog? If so, do share. I’d love to check it out.

  6. Last night I read all your 7 links and I was so impressed with them all. You have a wonderful knack of writing at an easy to understand level and you get your point across without offending anyone, plus make them ponder about what you’ve written. And you make such interesting blog posts out of virtually nothing, which might sound like a back-handed compliment but is a straight out compliment. You are also very funny:) Really, I think you should have double good feelings about your blogs. It’s obvious you put in a lot of research before your publish a post and I reckon anyone who doesn’t follow you is missing out. But does it matter? The people who appreciate your value will find you, like I did:) And you’re full of surprises, I really enjoyed your post about the dogs you don’t like, lol.

    If I’ve been an early commenter on a post of yours I’ll often come back the next day or so and see what everyone else has written because other people’s comments on your posts are worth reading. And I think that’s something to be very proud of!

    • Awwww, you have me blushing. Of course I will have to think about that “blog posts out of virtually nothing” comment. Isn’t everything out of nothing? :)

      I’m glad to know you come back to read other comments. I like to do that too. I find on my of my posts the comments are far superior to the original article. I’m just pleased to provide a vehicle for everyone to hop on to.

  7. Hi Pamela,
    I feel like you do. I made myself a challenge beginning December 1st to write on my blog every single day with the hopes of improving my writing; and developing a web ‘presence’ so I can get my book published.

    Some days the blogging comes easier than others (I guess it just depends on how Sampson and Delilah cooperate.) But there are days that I really struggle feeling like I’m not writing anything of value.

    Then every couple of months or so I get the ‘blogging blues’ where I look at my stats and think, why am I not doing better? Why can’t I get a following? What am I doing wrong? Then I second guess myself and think maybe I’m not a writer.

    Or I have what I think is a really great post; and no-one seems to notice it. That is when the feelings of self-doubt really get to me.

    I see other people having success and I feel like a failure.

    But then something wonderful happens; someone (you) reaches out to a fellow blogger and helps them with something they are struggling with (one word, LINKY) and then you KNOW that you aren’t alone. That there are others out there who do care.

    I enjoy reading your blog (I didn’t know you had another one, so I’ll be checking that out as well) and think you do a fine job with it. Keep up the great work.

    • Thank you, Jodi, for the kind words. And for stopping by.

      The other lesson here is to let people know you could use some encouragement or help. I remember getting so discouraged when I couldn’t get the linky tool to work. And I felt like a moron that I was the only person who didn’t get it. So I’m happy to pass on what I’ve learned–the people who have struggled with the same things you have often are.

      I admire your goal to write daily. I did that for November through Nablopomo (National blog Posting Month). If you visit their site, you might find more encouragement and another place to share your posts.

  8. What a nice treat to read your blog this morning! I think that Honey is very smart for teaching you about different “sticks.” It is difficult not to get caught up in the numbers and stats, for sure, but it is kind of like the idea that having a few close friends you really can count on is better than having a bunch of superfluous ones. I work hard writing blog posts, but I admit at times I have been guilty of leaving quick comments because I am trying to visit so many blogs and sometimes find it is taking 4 or 5 hours out of my day and leaving little time for work. After considering your post, I think I’ll visit fewer blogs and take more time with comments. Thank you for your thoughtful blog! I am never, ever disappointed when I visit you.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Peggy.

      I’ve enjoyed meeting several professional writers through blogging . I’m very thankful that you’re part of the blogging world in addition to the print world. It creates a wonderful mix of talent and skills in the blogiverse. :)

  9. I admit to sometimes getting caught up in the stats issue more than I should. Seeing other blogs and Facebook pages where they have hundreds or thousands of followers can be a bit deflating if I’m in the wrong head space. Then I remind myself that as soon as I begin to take it that seriously, I’m being too serious. I find much of what you write so thoughtful and introspective that it’s a joy to visit your blog. If everyone else were to fade away, you could write just for me and still be awesome :)

    • Those stats are a dangerous thing, aren’t they? And I suspect it’s even more stressful for people who make their living writing since the stats are increasingly used to demonstrate “worth” (whatever that means).

      Just remember that people with thousands of followers work very hard to get them. I suspect Darby would miss you if you dedicated all the time necessary to pumping up your numbers. And I’m glad to not just be a face in the crowd. :)

  10. “Serious and high-minded posts….” Oh gosh, I think my blog might be the antithesis of that. :) I used to be embarrassed about my “lack of depth,” but then I decided that it’s more important to have fun (even though I frequently read other blogs – including yours – and wish I was a better writer – but then, there’s no way I’ll get better if I don’t write something).

    Anyway, I’m so glad I found your blog; it’s my sanity check! I might not make it here daily, or comment religiously, but, oh, how I enjoy the brain exercise you provide! (Big compliment)

    P.S. Can’t wait to meet you and Honey at BP!

    • When I started writing this post, I went over the list in my mind of blogs I like to read. Some of them deal with very serious subjects or teach big lessons. But others tell nice stories. And when I was thinking of storytelling, I thought of you and your tales of Dewi and Jon Farleigh.

      Stories are important. They probably teach us more than all the lectures in the world.

      Are both the boys coming to BlogPaws with you? Can’t wait to meet everyone in person.

      • :) Yes, although my life would be simpler if I left Dewi at home, JF’s life will be simpler (being crated in the room) with Dewi by his side. I have the martingale collar ready, and I’m not afraid to reduce Dewi’s lead to nothing but a handle. :) It will be an interesting 36 hours.

  11. Pamela, I think yours is definitely the most thoughtful blog that I read, bar none. I know how much energy it takes to write something meaningful that adds value to the conversation, and you manage to do it several times per week. I always look forward to reading your posts, and whereas some blogs are easy to comment on (a la “looks like you had a nice weekend, i love that hat on Keebler”), I often struggle to come up with something adequately thoughtful and interesting to say in response to your posts. So I guess I want to put out there the sentiment that I love reading your blog and though I don’t always comment, I always do savor.

    • Thank you. That is high praise indeed from the woman who wrote “Goodnight, sweet Blue.” One of the most beautiful essays I’ve ever read.

  12. Also: I find myself caught in a weird place. I want to write a blog that is authentic and driven by our fostering experience, but I also am driven by the numbers. I originally started this blog to publicize our wonderful fosters and try to find them adopters, and for that purpose, one could argue that the higher the traffic volume, the better. But somewhere along the way it has become something else — I have started to really enjoy putting together the ideas and the words and the photographs not just for adopters, but for myself. It feels like a good coming-together of a lot of different things that interest me. But it leaves me in an odd in-between land that I’m not quite sure how to navigate :)

    • I think you’d find a lot of people relate to that “in-between place.” Isn’t being open to new interests part of the joy of doing new things?

  13. I have felt the same way about my blog and others who may get more comments than me. I am terribly competitive by nature and in the beginning used to get rather upset , until I really began to appreciate and understand what this dog blogging community was all about and the gifts that were there. I used to go on dog forums and man, people were wicked on some of those. EVERYBODY had the answer and they were right and if you said different, WATCH OUT!! It was a horrible experience and I am glad I wasn’t a new dog owner, I would have ran away crying.

    And I found people like you who have always giving me something to think about, kind words, and have challenge my own beliefs all with kindness and a that whacky sense of humor I love about you. Thanks Pamela for being one of those quality dog bloggers. :) It is always great not to be alone.

    • I practice a little avoidance in my life. I’m just not willing to hang around people who are mean no matter what they’re interested in. There are a few interesting blogs out there that I will avoid because the writers can be harsh and judgmental and so can the commenters.

      Life is too short to put yourself in the way of unkindness if you don’t have to. Right?

  14. Boy, you hit a chord with that one, Pamela. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap and get down on yourself. But, there is a reason why 5-star restaurants and fast food restaurants both exist. Your blog is a 5-star restaurant – you may have a smaller group of regulars, but the quality of the interaction is really high. Owners of gourmet restaurants aren’t trying to appeal to McDonald’s customers – they’d have to sacrifice and cut corners to accommodate the crowds, and that would destroy what makes them unique. I love that we have our dogs to teach us these things!

  15. Great timing on reading this post as I have been feeling that my ‘quality’ is lacking. Very inspiring!

  16. Beautifully said, and I’m fully with you on this. Having very limited time on hand for blogging (either reading or writing), I have decided to focus on what’s important to me and the reason why I choose to do this (over a million other things I could do with my spare time). Stats were important at the beginning, because you’re told that they are key to your success. They’re not important anymore. To reach high stats, you have to spend a lot of time online, and leave a lot of comments, undiscriminately, on various blogs that you don’t find particularly interesting. I don’t have time for that, and I’m not that kind of person anyway. So I don’t look at the numbers anymore. I just write about what I love, what I think and how I feel…I feel blessed that some people read my blog and like it enough to return and leave thoughtful comments. There is a small number of blogs that I read regularly (yours including), and I do so because I like their writing style, views, ideas, sense of humour, or approach to life. I’ve learnt a lot from these blogs and they add something to my life every day. The people who write these blogs have become my friends…To me that’s the whole point of blogging.

  17. Another beautiful lesson. If I was blogging solely for the recognition or the follower counts, I’d have given up long ago. But instead, it’s about sharing with a community of like-minded people who make me smile, laugh, cry, and think on a regular basis. The pet blogging community has tons of quality to offer – you being one of the ones at the top of that list!

  18. I can identify. After I got back from my first BlogPaws, I tried mightily to blog like the cool kids. I lived on Twitter. I dedicated lots of time to self-promotion. I followed. I shared. I added badges, Became the Change, attended the pawties… the whole bit. I draw the line at baby talk, however.

    I discovered a few things along the way, though. 1. It’s just not me. 2. You can easily make pet blogging a full-time job, but that doesn’t mean you can get paid a living wage for all that work. 3. I started to miss blogging for pleasure. I focused so much on doing everything the way the cool kids do that I couldn’t spend the time making actual connections, just ones that would boost my numbers. 4. I just don’t agree with the cool kids much of the time.

    You’ve found your level, and what makes you happy. I think I have, too. Keep on going, and we can quietly cheer each other on instead of stumping for awards.