I could have titled this post, Karen Went to BlogHer and All She Got Was Some Creative and Possibly Existential Angst, but a) that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, and b) if I learn nothing else from social media conferences, it’s that SEO seems to be really important, and there is exactly none in that title.
I went to my second BlogHer – it would have been my third but I had to ditch on San Diego at the last minute because we decided to move to the country on a whim that month – and it was very different from my first BlogHer experience in 2010. I knew it would be, of course – same city, same hotel, but that’s about all that’s remained the same since 2010. I have changed, and blogging has changed. And BlogHer has changed.
In 2010, I was a Voice of the Year keynote speaker – pretty amazing, and pretty insane for my first BlogHer experience. I was 100% completely dedicated to the conference – to being on that stage, to attending the sessions, to wringing every last ounce of bloggy goodness I could out of the experience. I barely noticed I was in New York City, and I came home inspired, motivated and enriched as a blogger.
Two years later, and I am not that same blogger. And BlogHer was not that same conference for me.
In the past two years, my writing life has changed. I have given up my full-time copywriting job to be a freelance writer and to finally write a novel. We moved to a small town partly so that I could do this. I am dedicated to this pursuit, and work at it everyday. To the detriment of my blogging.
Or perhaps my blogging is to the detriment of writing.
BlogHer was supposed to help me re-establish my passion for blogging, or at least, to help me reconnect with it. In one way, it did – I am completely nourished by the social density of BlogHer.
Many will complain that BlogHer was too big this year, and logistically, I suppose that argument could be made: I didn’t make it in to several sessions I wanted to because of capacity crowds; line-jumpers at the Martha Stewart lunch set off my heated sense of injustice and Canadian do-goodism; the literal heaving of the dance floor at Sparklecorn had me moving into slight panic-attack territory when I thought the whole place was going to fall crashing to the second story below it. But otherwise, I am ok with crowds, and more people at the conference meant more people to meet, more friends to see again or for the first time.
I am a people person, so the volume of people was not an issue for me.
But while it was easy to find friends and meet new ones, it was decidedly more difficult to find sessions that I wanted to attend. Crossing one session after another off the list, I was confronted again and again by the feelings that have been brewing for the past two years: I am at a blogging stalemate.
I’ve been blogging since the end of 2005. I’m a veteran, but I have never moved into celebloggger status, happy to bob along in my anti-A-type way. I know a lot of people because I’ve been doing this a long time, but I have never aspired to any sort of status as a blogger beyond being known as a decent writer.
I don’t want to win the internet. I want to win a Pulitzer.
To that end, I am a writer. Is blogging writing? That is a question for another post, but going to BlogHer, I was looking for something to help me enrich my writing, not just my blogging stats. The first session I attended was Blogging for the Love of It, which is all I’m doing, seeing as I am totally non-compliant with SEO rules in my personal writing, I have no ads on my blog and have never thought of myself as a brand (barf).
But is blogging for the love of it enough?
I used to say that I started my blog because I wanted my own personal editorial column in my own personal magazine. I do let bare my soul in this space, but I measure my words carefully, for effect and intent. I have had positive feedback and many opportunities have been born out of blogging.
I have been told many times that I am a good writer, and I have loved it, believed it.
(I don’t have to make the disclaimer that all bloggers are narcissists, do I?)
And then, earlier this summer, I attended an intensive writing workshop with some of Canada’s best and most accomplished authors, and some of Canada’s best and most promising young writers. And I had to rethink everything I thought I knew about myself as a writer.
I learned that I needed to murder my darlings; that I needed to put every word on trial as if for its life and that I desperately needed to invest in the economy of language. In order to be a successful writer, which is all I really want, I need to basically stop doing everything that blogging allows, encourages and rewards me for doing.
Try writing a blog post with no adjectives. It’s
Yes, blogging exercises the writing muscles, and even my mentor at the workshop told me not to stop, that all writing is good, but all writing will not lead me where I
ultimately want to be.
completely self-indulgent. We do not need to
edit, we do not need to carefully control our language, we do not need to
agonize over each word in order for it to be ‘good enough.’ We receive praise,
heaps of praise, because we relate and do not critique. We encourage and
support and that is important, that is so unbelievably important for therapy
and for community and for our heart and for our soul.
But is it good for writing? For my own writing and my own writing goals?
I was desperate for sessions that helped me deal with my meta angst and looked for them among the plethora of choices.
I didn’t find the session entitled, Why Am I Still Doing This? but I’ll suggest
it for 2013.
I ended the conference with the #Blog2012 session, which was about as close as one could come to answering such a question.
In the end, I enjoyed BlogHer ’12
immensely. Felt privileged,
even as a Canadian, to be addressed by President Obama; enjoyed unapologetic
Martha; was part of the collective uncomfortable cringe when Malaak
Compton-Rock froze onstage; met and reconnected with seriously amazing women.
Was that enough? I’m not sure. Tickets go on sale for BlogHer ’13 in a month’s time. I’ll see what I’ve figured out by then.