Thanks to deadlines, general parenting blah blah blah and a sick husband, this post has been late coming. In fact it was a week ago today that I took off for Asheville. But I suppose it has given me some time to let all of it settle in my mind and collect itself into a post.
So how would I describe my weekend at the Type A Moms Conference?
Well, I may have to state the obvious. And state it quite a few times, in fact. You see, this conference gave me a chance to look in the mirror a bit and consider some things that I really should know already. I shouldn’t have been so surprised. I should get this and own it and rock it all by now. But it seems I don’t, not yet.
(Uh-oh, I’m should-ing on myself…)
Let me explain. Here are some obvious bits of brilliance that you might already know but I am clearly needing a little review lesson on.
1. I need to be strategic about what I do. The wonderful and brilliant (and I could literally sit criss-cross applesauce at her feet for hours while she schooled me with her crazy smartness and to the core goodness) Deb Rox led a panel about being strategic about your blog. She asked us to think about what we’re doing, own what we’re really good at, and carefully consider how to make it work for us. She encouraged us not to trip up on our own limitations. Because our limitations can actually push us forward to learn more and BE more.
Of course I need to think strategically about what I am doing with myself and my blog. Of course I need to focus on how I can really fan the smoldering bits of this writing career. But have I been? Not really.
I also need to tack up over my desk a little reminder she gave us during the panel: In all that you do, make sure that it is always smart, fun or kind. Yes.
2. Companies are paying attention. My dear friend Ilina hosted a panel about the interesting way brands connect with consumers both online and off. Some do it well, some not so much. And I guess I knew this. But within hours of her panel, her points were clearly illustrated through a little licorice smack-down. You see Ilina and Deb both started a friendly debate over which were better: Twizzlers or Red Vines. And camps began to form, discussions over texture ensued and people whipped out their stashes of each. Twitter was involved (of course), twit pics were posted and before we knew it, @redvines was overnighting a fresh case of Red Vines to the conference. But Twizzlers weren’t on Twitter (silly people) so how were they supposed to know about this friendly rivalry? Well, a few women got on Facebook (of course) and the next day an enormous shipment of Twizzlers arrived in Asheville (it filled an entire closet, I’m not even kidding). WE ARE BEING HEARD. And it took a whole lot of licorice to tell me that.
3. Bloggers make for fantastic conversationalists – and friends. This fact doesn’t surprise me any longer, I just take it for granted I think. An online world is one I can power on and power off. But walking down the streets of Asheville truly connecting with women I’ve only just met or debating the future of blogging over local beer with brilliant minds late night only reminds me that YES, these women are real and affecting a world that I am very much apart of. I am honored to know each of them.
4. Twittertinis are blue. Talk about stating the obvious. Of COURSE they are blue. (Except when they run out of ingredients 10 minutes before the free drink cut-off and so to keep bloggers from turning into rioters they combine some other something to make them a lovely bluey-purple color but just as delish.)
5. One mom blogger is not like the other. I decided to attend a session about non-traditional moms who blog – but I went in unsure whether I even fit into this category really (yes, yes ironic, I know). On the way in, Kelby said “Yeah, you’re not traditional” and I said “Exactly, I’m totally not…” but walked in still questioning what side of “traditional” I fell. It was a great session. But I sat there thinking about how the rest of the world views mom bloggers. How do they know – or how do we know, really – what a “traditional” mom blogger is? Would that be the Betty Crocker, Soccer Mommy, Susie Homemaker, super reviewers chattering on about their baby’s full diaper? Sure. Go for it. But can we be so many other things too? And still fit some category of “Mom Blogger”? I don’t want to be pigeon-holed or limited with what I do or what I am expected to write about. But who does? The more we can push the envelope of what is “traditional”, the more that will be expected of all of us.
6. We are trail blazers. Blogging is evolving and changing in a way no one could have foreseen. And at the speed things change around here, we certainly can’t assume we know where it will go either. But Laurie Smithwick (who someone described on Twitter as the “Mr. Miagi” of blogging women – and I wholeheartedly agree) used an analogy in her panel about Community vs. Competition that made me sit up straight. She described blogging as a road we are currently creating. As we put our feet down and decide the direction we want to head, we are determining the future of this medium. And if we make some wrong turns or set up negative expectations for those following, blogging will suffer. We need to be very smart about how we do this thing we’re doing. It’s our road after all.
7. Be constructive about controversy. As Jennifer James so wisely put it while she discussed controversy online, “Unless it’s something that will shape our community in a positive manner, let it pass like the clouds”. Because really, will all the hub-bub over whatever it is even matter next year? And if controversy is not helpful, if it will ultimately only tear us down, stop giving it a platform. Let’s be constructive and keep our focus on the bigger picture.
8. Bloggers can be writers too. I got to spend some time with Rita Arens. She’s a blogger. And she can write her ass off. And now she’s working on her second book. Enough said.
9. There’s no such thing as a parent-work balance. I plunked my self right up front for a panel about mommy guilt and trying to make it all work. Hello, someone tell me how to make it happen. Tell me how to do it all without feeling like I am letting anything slip. Tell me how to be better at it and make more money doing it. Well. Not so fast. Turns out the balance will always tip one way or the other. It won’t be still or “just so” in any perfect little way. And I will always be disappointed with myself. But usually those are only my disappointments. So I need to check myself before I wreck myself before I make myself insane over it. As one panelist noted (and this one needs to get tacked up over my desk too): We all need to stop should-ing on ourselves. Because I’m sure we should have done whatever the hell it was, but we didn’t, so be kind to yourself and move on.
11. Dad bloggers are part of this community. I have always said I need to connect with more of these guys at conferences. Luckily, my group of friends and I had the chance to get to know a few out to dinner one night. We discussed moving from blogging to paid writing over pitchers of local beer. We swapped pictures of our kids. We made social media jokes. We shared french fries. We connected as bloggers and friends. Dad bloggers are awesome and duh.
(Wait. Stop everything. You need to read this post written by one of the dads I met over dinner. It’s about his experience at Type A Moms. BRILLIANT. Hysterical. Loved it. Ok, carry on…)
12. Asheville is beautiful. I love that city. I love the vibe it has, the mountains surrounding it, the beer it makes, the art it creates, the graffiti on its walls, the food it serves, the music in the air and the people walking its streets.
The conference was fantastic. The friends I made and reconnected with had my back, lifted me up, and pushed me to be more. But the lessons I learned – no matter how well I should have known them already – were the kind I will carry with me for many many years. Or at least until I need another reminder, and back I go again…