01 November 2011

Things That Are True - Blissdom Canada and Why I Blog

I went to Blissdom Canada, and it was seventeen kinds of awesome. I sat at a table of people who called themselves writers, and no one told me I was in their seat, or sitting at the wrong table. I called myself a writer out loud in front of other people and no one laughed.

We discussed the narcissism inherent in publishing on a public platform. We asked what makes a person a "real" writer. We talked about audience, and voice, and where our own boundaries are about what we feel comfortable with putting out there.

The conference sessions I attended were fantastic. I drank it all in greedily; this knowledge and practical experience of (dare I say?) my peers, and it left me giddy.

The takeaway, for me:

Blogging, women's blogging in particular, seems to break down into two basic styles: review/product/brand ambassador blogging, where it's a job, or a gateway to a job or some kind of income; and more personal blogging which is less a means to an end and more a need to get things out. I'm not saying one style is better or more engaging than the other, and there are those who do both and those who do neither. Generalization's always a tricky thing, but I did notice the same faces over and over again at the art track sessions I attended.


I just have to write. As Tanis Miller, Bonnie Stewart, and Elan Morgan said in their session on finding your muse: inspiration is bullshit. Over and over again, I heard people talk about the need to just write. To get over the being stuck, to get past the fear of writing badly, to take it seriously enough to do it even when (especially when) it's really difficult. I realized that I actually don't care if I'm not one of the cool kids because I'm still using Blogger. I don't give a damn about ranking on google, or writing posts that are the right length and have the right keywords. But I will admit that writing at all is often a struggle for me, despite the fact that I can't imagine not doing it. I left Blissdom feeling so connected, so ready to come home and blog fearlessly.

And then I didn't.

I think about writing all day, every waking minute. I'm constantly composing posts and articles in my head, knowing just how I'll word what I want to say, and then I sit at my keyboard and excuses start to flood my brain. I get caught up in my own head, I worry about who might be reading, and I get stuck on things I need to write about that aren't entirely my story to tell.

It was liberating to hear that other people - people whose writing leaves me gasping, grinning, and weeping - struggle too. I've been inclined to think of myself as a failure because I can't just sit down and have the words flow magically all the time, even though I know intellectually that no one can.

What I need to do is just write.


Finding your tribe is a powerful, powerful thing.

Catherine Connors, in her opening keynote, talked about intellectual hubris, the echo-chamber of surrounding yourself with people who already agree with you, and the importance of seeking out the other in order to make meaning and build community. It was a tremendous speech, and I don't disagree, but there's also value in finding the people who do think the way you do - if only to reassure yourself that you're not entirely crazy.

Like BlogHer back in August, Blissdom Canada was an amazing experience. The sessions were informative, and hilarious, and inspiring. The parties were fun!

But like BlogHer, the real takeaway for me was in the smallest of moments: staying up all night like college girls talking to my most excellent roommate, Jeanette; sharing a tearful moment in a crowded room; grabbing lunch at a restaurant with real tablecloths just because we could; connecting about the experience of living up north, bonding over a shared crush on Peter Mansbridge. None life-changing in and of themselves, but in the aggregate, a powerful thing.

These moments, these interstitial moments - away from the busy-ness, and business, of the conference itself - these shiny bits of truth are what I take home with me and treasure.


And now I will hit publish, because I finally sat down and just wrote something.


  1. Excellent post....I love reading your blog.

  2. Once upon a time your mother said to my mother, if you want to do art, pick up the brush.
    You are learning the same thing about writing. I never picked up the brush because I thought that there was no way what came out of it could ever come near what I had in my head. My mother did pick up the brush and - in time - wonderful things came through it from her mind to the canvas.
    Courage, mon brave.

  3. I'm commiting myself to writing more openly and honestly this coming year - and them I'm going to treat myself to my first blogging conference - in NYC. BlogHer, here I come... and I can't wait to finally meet these amazing women I keep reading - you included!

  4. And this post just inspired me. I know that I made the right choice to start my blog just so I can "get it out". And little by little, I will. Thank you! So very much, thank you!