a peek inside the fishbowl

18 Oct, 2011

Some post-Blissdom mulling

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Misc. life|The business of blogging

There are a lot of posts floating around the blogosphere about the Blissdom Canada conference I attended this past weekend. I’m suffering from a bit of conference hangover, and worse, it’s mixed in with a sore throat and what I’m guessing is a pending cold. I am feeling like a ratty old wrung-out sponge at the moment. I’ve had so much on the go that I’m letting myself get run down, and I don’t want to do that. So I’m lying here on the couch trying to mend. And while I’m mending I’m doing a lot of thinking about the people I met this weekend and the things that I learned at Blissdom.

What I’m about to say is not exactly a new discovery, but it’s something that I need to keep in mind. These past few days have served as a reminder of what things are important for me, and here’s one:

I cannot let my decisions be made in fear. Because this would be stupid.

A life well-lived has to include some risks, because risks have the potential to result in interesting outcomes. But risks are scary. And I should know… I’m a closet introvert who pretends she’s otherwise.

The word “courage” has a rather interesting etymology. “Cor,” in Latin, refers to the heart. In the Middle Ages (circa 1300) it was believed that the heart was where all of our inner feelings and strength came from. It wasn’t until much later the definition of courage was narrowed down to something akin to bravery. But that heart is still in there, isn’t it? (Coeur in French means heart too!) To be brave means you have to have heart, and so to enter into something with all of your heart is, ultimately, to be courageous isn’t it? And that’s how I came to Blissdom.

Little known fact: I was hiding in the ladies room ten minutes before my panel presentation. I can’t believe I’m admitting this here, but I was secretly hoping I’d pass out and get carted off on a stretcher because it’d be less humilating than the total public failure that could occur in front of 150 women I admired and respected. But, you know what, I sucked it up and did it. And I think I did okay. And no stretcher required! Phew.

Life is too short to be ruled by fear. I see fear as some kind of demented traffic cop (“Go this way little lady, it’s easier!”) but I refuse to let him dominate me and tell me where I can and cannot go. Because if I go the EASY way I’d be missing the HARD way. And there might be something very cool and interesting at the end of the hard way.

It’s scary, for some of us, to march up to someone and introduce ourselves. It’s hard to sit down at a table and eat lunch with strangers. It’s a risk. I mean, god, what if I said something stupid? Or got someone’s name wrong? What if I got a piece of parsley wedged in my teeth? (I have done all of these things MANY MANY TIMES.) But but but, if we want to get something out of a conference it has to be done. We must talk to people. We must reach out, shake hands, or sit down with a plate full of food with a table full of strangers and trust that it will end up ok. And it will be ok. Parsley or not.

Amazingly, this is partly where I got the most value out of my time at Blissdom. Those in-between moments were where the best connections were made for me. At Blissdom I often saw people in pairs, huddled together in corners. I could have been that person too. In fact, I have often been that person, the one who only surrounds themselves by people they know and takes the “safe” route, but I think if we do that we’re not taking advantage of the opportunities to meet new people, learn new things, and make new connections. It’s these NEW things, those risks, that make us into better, stronger, smarter people. Of that I am certain.

Other things that have been on my mind:

  • Making money off a blog isn’t the be all and end all. It happens to work for me, but it’s not for everyone. You can make money with your blog (i.e. selling ads) or because of your blog (i.e. using your blog as a portfolio of your work). I’ve done both. I don’t know which brings the most satisfaction. It’s like asking a parent to choose their favourite child but I think I’m doing the right thing here.  I’ve figured out a way to do this that works for me, and I am happy with that.
  • In some circles, selling ads on a personal blog is still seen as selling out. This saddens me a little, and although I don’t care about what people think of me as much as I used to, a small part of me still hopes no one thinks that I’m a sellout. Gah.
  • I feel sorry for the poor “review bloggers,” who are seemingly being slammed all over the place. I too miss “the good old days” of blogging where everything revolved around content and community. I don’t spend time visiting review blogs but I accept them for what they are. To think less of them is unfair. It’d be like an investment banker looking down her nose at stay-at-home moms who sell Tupperware, Pampered Chef, or Avon… or authors of fine literature looking down at romance novelists or comic book artists. The world we live in is made up of a whole bunch of different people and there’s room for everyone. Not everyone is meant to become an investment banker or a published writer. Not everyone wants to land a book deal either. If I don’t like a blog, I don’t read it, but people shouldn’t judge that blog (and by extension, the blogger) because their focus is not something they’re interested in.

That and MORE is running through my feverish brain. I should quit while I’m ahead, so I’m off to make a cup of tea, pop some more Ibuprofen and take a nap. If you have thoughts about any of this I would love to hear them… whether you were at Blissdom or not. :)


18 Responses to "Some post-Blissdom mulling"

1 | Alex

October 18th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

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I first want to say that I do NOT think less of review blogging, but I think it’s a sad state that bloggers in general feel pressured to go that route. I love that there are so many options for people now, I think that’s healthy.

Growth always means growing pains, though, and I think social media in general reflects this very well. What the blogging world is now, varies greatly from what it was a decade ago. There will always be conflict, but it’s not always negative.

What makes me saddest is that of all the things discussed, this is the one that is the hottest topic. There’s more to all this than slamming one side or the other. The internet’s big, there’s room for all.

2 | Candace

October 18th, 2011 at 1:57 pm

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Having lunch with you was one of my personal (and professional) best moments at Blissdom. The in-betweens are also always the best times for me. Rest up. Feel better.

3 | andrea

October 18th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

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Alex: Are bloggers pressured to go that route? I don’t think I agree. I think that some people see an opportunity to get free stuff and grab on to it. I see it as part of the evolution of blogging, and of the WWW in general. And yes, the Internet is a big place, and it’s a big mirror of the world we live in. Perhaps the focus on $$ is a result of economic worries?

4 | Giulia

October 18th, 2011 at 2:23 pm

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I agree with your comments – I really agree with not choosing the safe way, it’s hard to push yourself in that direction.
My blog is not my income so it might be easier for me to write freely not worrying what others think. But even so you wonder how things are seen – kind of like the parsley in your teeth for all to see – not just your dinner partner.
Like you said – if I don’t like it I don’t come back and I expect not to read my blog if they are not interested in my little stories.

5 | Cynthia (Crumb) Kinnunen

October 18th, 2011 at 2:26 pm

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I’m so glad I mustered up the courage to introduce myself to you. Say hi to Kris up there for me. And I hope you feel better.

I’m off to continue trying to make sense of my Blissdom experience and hopefully actually focus on my paid work (that have deadlines!).

6 | alimartell

October 18th, 2011 at 2:36 pm

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First of all, I cannot even tell you how I happy I am that after a million years of blogging, I FINALLY got to meet you. and you are so so so wonderful :)

The thing I liked about Blissdom, actually, unlike blogher, is that I was NEVER with the same people even, it seemed. I ate each meal with a different group of people. And I even went to some sessions and panel all by myself. and you know what? It felt great! I got to connect with lots of different people, but, sadly, didn’t get enough time with each person.

Also, I agree. 100% I wrote this before, but it was really those in-between conversations that were the most powerful for me. Discussions over meals. Talks in hallways. So great. I learned so much from those.

:)

7 | Ginger

October 18th, 2011 at 3:08 pm

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I have never attended a blogging conference of any kind. I have often wondered about them. But I don’t know….I don’t make money off my blog. I am not sure I even want to. I don’t have a huge following…I sometimes wish I had more readers…but that isn’t really why I have a blog. I wonder if there is even a place for me at a big blogging conference.

But maybe that is MY fear holding me back.

8 | Hollie Pollard

October 18th, 2011 at 6:00 pm

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You know first I was glad to meet you this month..and I know what fear is and I know what it is to push through it, thanks for pushing through it, and for sharing what works for you, we all benefited from that.

9 | SoberJulie

October 18th, 2011 at 6:17 pm

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Well I’m glad you came outta that bathroom! I felt the feeling of fear and trepidation about approaching people and when it was appropriate I set it aside.
I hear you on the style of blogs/type of blogger, for someone new such as myself it’s daunting but I can only be myself and as things come along I’ll evaluate them.

You are a huge help to myself and many others out here, your directness is refreshing and has helped me navigate the waters.

10 | Diane

October 18th, 2011 at 6:58 pm

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I was not at Blissdom, nor am I a blogger, though I am a frequent blog reader. I enjoy them and admire the people who take time to write them. I’ve been reading a lot of the post-Blissdom posts. I just wanted to drop you a line here to say I thought this post made very valid points (I especially liked bullet 3) and to thank you – for taking the time, for being candid and for sharing. Hope you feel better soon.

11 | Rebecca

October 18th, 2011 at 7:48 pm

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Andrea, hope you feel better soon!

I think the conversation – although there was only one specific monetizing panel – went to money a lot and into a ‘sell out/$’ concern too much.

That choice isn’t for everyone (and for those of us who monetize, certainly in my case, it’s not a pot of gold! ;) but I hope that bloggers realize they can be whoever/whatever blog they want. That’s the beauty of blogging – it’s our own little piece of the online universe.

I agree that we all have different paths. I hope people make informed choices and decisions, but ultimately, what they write about if their choice.

What I took away from Blissdom is the support and love of so many amazing women. I hope we all reach out to offer support to fellow bloggers (as you certainly have with me Andrea!)

12 | Alison

October 18th, 2011 at 8:48 pm

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This is a great recap. I too felt that review bloggers and those that like getting free stuff were portrayed by some as ‘less relevant’. I don’t think all bloggers are trying to gain a foothold in print media and/or dream of Pulitizers. If you do, that’s great. If you don’t that’s great too, and there should be a space for everyone.
BTW, I heard you were fantastic in your panel.

13 | Candace

October 18th, 2011 at 9:51 pm

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I love that you feel this way and not in a “look at how insecure she is” way, but a “holy cow, I’m not alone” way. I find it hard to believe you were hiding in the bathroom, because I always feel you are so put together. I found the best moments outside the conference room too, connecting with new and old people. Thanks for sharing this. Going to read your rate sheet blog now!

14 | lacoop

October 19th, 2011 at 4:50 pm

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Andrea…your bathroom story is great! Doing something, in spite of our fear, is the definition of brave. That characteristic is something great to demonstrate to your kids…they will never forget, which is so good because there are plenty of times in life when we need to be brave.

15 | DaniGirl

October 20th, 2011 at 12:46 pm

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Andrea, I thought of you and this post yesterday listening to CBC. Jian Gomeshi was interviewing Tony Bennett (bliss!) and Tony said any decent performer, no matter how long they’ve been in the biz, still gets that butterfly feeling before a performance because he or she cares and is invested in the performance. Loved the idea, and it made me feel better about my own preperformance anxieties.

:)

16 | Molly

October 20th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

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You are an aboslute delight to chat with & listen to – I’m glad the stage fright doesn’t stop you from getting up there. You contribute a lot to the blogosphere – hope you’re feeling better!

17 | Loukia

October 20th, 2011 at 8:58 pm

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I just loved BlissDom Canada, and it was great to see you again. Every time I come home from these conferences, I fall in love with blogging and our community all over again.

18 | Sara

October 22nd, 2011 at 10:19 pm

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I wished for more in between moments this year at Blissdom, I think that’s what I missed out on the most. I found it hard to think and process with so much happening and was torn between not wanting to miss anything and wanting to connect with as many people as possible. One of my highlights was dinner with you and the rest of the Used Everywhere crew on Friday night. Funny how we have to travel all the way to Toronto to sit down and talk :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human daughters: Emma (20) and Sarah (18). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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