Common tips about starting a blog usually include a recommendation that you should be able to think of either 5 or 10 topics you would like to write about before you actually start. I read that recommendation, sat down and immediately came up with about 30 titles.
It wasn’t a fluke. At this moment, I have published 82 posts. I have 70 drafts in the works. Some virtually complete, some only a title. So although I know I’m not immune to writer’s block, or the slowdowns that affect almost every writer from time to time, I have no dearth of things to talk about.
Starting a blog has brought my writing spirit back to life. It has given me a healthy way to focus all the thoughts and feelings (and arguments) I have churning around my head about science based training. It has helped me become a better dog trainer. It has made me a bunch of lovely new friends. I love having it. It’s like building a house, piece by piece, and having a bunch of generous people watching and cheering me on. (Can you tell I used to be in the performing arts?)
My friend Marge Rogers suggested my starting a blog in May or June last year. We were discussing a Yahoo group, probably ClickerSolutions. I was talking about how frustrated I got because I had Things To Say but could only say them in these fleeting discussions where I would often feel like I was just not heard. Not only that, but what I had to say felt so important and urgent to me. It was unhealthy, I thought, to go around bothered by a discussion on a Yahoo group. Marge said (probably not for the first time) that I should start a blog.
I remember almost exactly what I said. It was something to the tune of, “But my writing is reactive. Somebody says something or does something, it bothers me, and I am prompted to write about it.” She said that was OK.
Later I came to think that was a pretty silly concern on my part. What, all topics are supposed to spring fully formed from my forehead? Of course I react to what’s going on around me. Everybody does that! And it’s certainly not all negative. Plus there’s a synergy to it. The more I write, the more I have to write about.
Also, interestingly, having a blog has helped me cope with disagreement better. I have always been fascinated by good (and bad) argument. Yet I personally have a thin skin and an obsessive mind, which make public criticism or contradiction pretty tough, even if it’s fair minded. If I get called a name, insulted, or even misunderstood by a random person on the Internet it can stay on my mind for days. But I predicted, and was luckily correct, that having my own blog would allow me enough control over the situation that I could stay mentally healthy about it. This blog is my Internet home and I have the ultimate say about what goes on here. I can set both the tone and the guidelines for discussion. Just knowing I have the ability to disallow someone’s comments if they start acting really rotten really helps. And I haven’t had to do it yet!
I’ve had one truly unpleasant go-round with an angry commenter, but had beautiful written and personal support from a friend (thank you Sharon!) all through that encounter. I learned a lot about my own training philosophy from that situation.
I’ve had a topic I promoted heavily on this blog and that speaks to the very heart of me get heatedly criticized and dismissed by some prominent people in my own community. Some said that promoting this idea was harmful to the cause of humane training. That’s about the worst thing somebody could say to me. I do understand their criticism in part, but obviously don’t agree. That disagreement was a lot tougher to handle, but I made it into an exercise in trying to stay mature, keep to the high road argument-wise, be open to criticism, and stick to my ethics.
I’ve had one of my movies, this one where I used a stuffed dog to demonstrate some shock collar techniques, bother a prominent shock collar trainer so badly that she wrote a whole post of her own to mock it. A whole post on how silly I was to use a stuffed toy as a demo. Wow! That incident actually bothered me the least, and in retrospect I get quite a kick out of it. I try to be careful about where I put my energy, and it didn’t take me long to figure out that that post was just so silly that it didn’t merit a response from me. She either truly didn’t get it or was really grasping at straws. I confess that I like knowing that it bugged her.
On the other hand I have had the good fortune to have some early public successes and recognition. I have had two posts go truly viral, neither of which could I have predicted. They were Does Your Dog REALLY Want to Be Petted? and Dog Facial Expressions: Stress. Both body language posts, interestingly. I’ve had four other posts that were quite successful: They were
- “Humane Hierarchy 1: Overview”
- “But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie Every Time They Tie Their Shoes!”
- “Yes, You May Comfort Your Dog” and
- “Dog Faming.”
The last two were spur of the moment “shorties” and I was delighted that they became so popular.
I’ve had my crossover to positive reinforcement training story generously hosted by Ines Gaschot at The Crossover Trainer. I’ve had a post highlighted by a writer on the Huffington Post, and another featured on a popular syndicated page with a crude name (available if you drop me a line), and best of all, was featured on WordPress’ “Freshly Pressed” showcase. It was the “But We Don’t Give Our Kids a Cookie…” post above. (Here’s a link to Freshly Pressed but I think you have to have a WordPress account to access it.)
I have had another life-changing experience this year though, a heartbreak when my 17 year old tough-as-nails little heart dog Cricket passed out of this world. Readers’ kind words meant so much to me and were so helpful. I have posted about her dementia, about caring for her as a senior dog, and about losing her, but one of my favorites was for our 10 year anniversary together in December 2012.
I’ve been spending a bit of time looking at old photos and videos of her, and the picture below is a video still.
While reviewing the readership numbers of my posts, I noticed some that I wished had been viewed a little more. (OK, lots! I’m greedy.) I have picked one to feature on my “birthday,” in case you have made it this far into the post.
My post and movie about Lumping in training directly demonstrate what “lumping” is, and what can happen when you do it. The video is from a bona fide training session where I made some careless errors. Zani, as usual, is the perfect demo dog: a good sport, but clearly making her feelings known about my klutziness. If you are a new reader, you probably haven’t seen this. I hope you’ll check it out.
Also thank you Ruth, Lynn, and Carol, and my Internet-friend-who-likes-to-stay-anonymous, who have been unfailingly encouraging and sometimes challenging. And thank you Marjorie, my faithful and fascinating commenter whom I feel like I have really gotten to know.
Thank you, all you wonderful readers. I hope you are as ready as I am for another year.
- There’s No Such Thing As Positive Training Because….
- Over Threshold: Failing the Food Test
- But I Want to Use ALL the Tools in My Toolbox!
- What You Reinforce is What You Get
- But He Was Wagging His Tail!