Sunday, July 27, 2008

do as i say

I say:
  • Eat lots of vegetables
  • Get some exercise
  • Drink more water
  • Reach out
  • Speak up

Yet I:

  • Rarely remember to prepare vegetables at meals, much less consume them
  • Call it "the E word" and avoid it regularly
  • Find myself with a throbbing headache and sore, dry throat, taking a few grumbling minutes to realize I am thirsty
  • Think of many great, admirable ways to connect with neighbors, old friends, homeless people but rarely follow through. And it's not because I'm that frigging busy; I start to imagine the time involved after I make a connection - and will I feel obligated then to do other things? Am I responsible for maintaining a relationship I've begun or reestablished? Why do I think so much? There is something wrong with me.
  • Clam up. I suppose I use my voice now more than when I was a kid, but that's not saying a whole lot. As a teacher I encourage my students to ask for what they need, go for what they want, yet I often shrink from the hard stuff. When I get to a point of Speak Now, my heart races; I get sweaty & can't catch my breath. And usually I just stay still, shut down.

Take the BlogHer conference, for example. I have been trying to wrap my brain around why I was so disappointed last week. I was so excited when I registered nearly six months ago (and not just about leaving town & staying in a luxurious hotel for the weekend. Not just...). It sounded like a fun way to meet people who read my stuff, and whose stuff I read; I looked forward to learning things about blogging that I haven't figured out yet - some technical layout stuff, some networking stuff.

My best friend Jen decided to come with me even though she doesn't blog (and barely has time to keep up with mine); it was a decision made of love & support, plus a little curiosity about another blogger who planned to share our room, who Jen believes is really a bald man living in his mother's basement. This element of the trip - sharing space & time with a real life girlfriend and a cybergirlfriend who I was certain would be fantastic fun [if she didn't turn out to be a bald man] - made everything crisper, brighter, failsafe.

Issue #1 came up when the blogger friend cancelled Friday morning. I was sad for her circumstances and sad for me not getting to meet her, but I was also embarrassed (PROOF THAT SHE REALLY IS THE BALD MAN WITH AN OEDIPAL COMPLEX!) and because I don't make a habit of speaking up about my feelings, the embarrassment was transferred to the entire conference and suddenly it needed to be The Best Thing Ever.

But then, Issue #2: I know I am smart and [usually] funny; I have confidence in sunshine in rain that spring will come again in me, but I am not a walk-up-to-read-your-microscopic-nametag-and-say-HOWDY kind of gal. I'm really more of a walk-in-sit-down-glance-around-and-wait-for-you-to-approach kind of gal. (And on that note - thank you JCK, Restless Housewife & friend Wifey, Foggy City Mommy & fellow San Franciscan Rachel for being adventurous ones). So aside from those delightful ladies who took time to seek me out, I wandered through hallways and rooms like a slightly disdainful specter; I'm lucky anyone came near me. Strike two for the unsuspecting BlogHer.

The first session I attended was about networking & syndication. What I did not realize was that "panel" meant "not an organized format," meaning it was a Q & A. That can be fine, sure, but really I was looking for a serious onslaught of definitions and directions and try-this and avoid-that. In the end, I got a few useful tips and called it mediocre.

Lunch was tasty, freebies from sponsors was fun, still didn't break into any of the fabulous smiling circles of Others.

Then I attended the Writing Workshop. I have a couple of English degrees, teach various writing classes, um, I write - so I was mainly looking for reinforcement of things I do well (and alright, a gentle suggestion to stop doing things that stink would have been okay) and possibly some new & interesting techniques, brilliant resources, maybe a few time-saving tips. What I wasn't looking for? The speaker announcing, in response to a "How do I deal with people who want me to post everyday?" query [this was another disjointed Q & A], that the posting everyday thing is "Bullshit." Yes, she did. In quotes, with emphasis, met with a round of cheers and applause.

Now, truly I am accustomed to being told by students and my own children that various assignments/chores/recommendations I give are stupid/boring/unnecessary (maybe even bullshit, from the mouths of the more petulant [not of my loins] ones); that is a product of my teaching that it is important to SPEAK UP. I have no problem with someone having opinions about what I say or do. However, I find it irresponsible to make a blanket statement like that without qualification. Some people who post everyday are indeed stinking up the place and thinking themselves fresh flowers; some people don't take the posting everyday challenge as an opportunity to practice their craft, improve their skills. But isn't it possible that some people are becoming better writers by attempting something everyday? Some people might be flexing creative muscles or exploring new ideas or promoting other blogs or sharing interesting discoveries or how about building a sense of community by posting. every. day.

But I didn't say any of those things out loud. Instead I let myself feel insulted, then a little embarrassed and ashamed - what if I really am a bullshit writer who only thinks she's not? Then I got angry, because I not only know who I am and like who I am, I trust the people who read me, and by saying my technique is bullshit, bottom line, that woman was calling into question your intelligence and integrity.

Essentially, it was downhill from there for poor BlogHer. I got lucky with the session led expertly by Elise Bauer but other than that, I was checked out. I turned to shopping, eating, movie-watching, drinking, and wandering aimlessly with my camera.

Really, my analogy about the smart guy vs. the hottie was backward - BlogHer ended up being the flashy one disguised as a nerd, but I was hoping for just the nerd, whether he dressed up or not.

Next time, I'm reaching out & speaking up. And maybe eating more vegetables.

23 comments:

CamiKaos said...

I freaking love vegitables...

katydidnot said...

i'm sorry. truly.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I think posting this was brave.

I have met Kate, irl. She is not bald (nor is she male). But I totally get the being embarassed about it with your other friend.

You and I share many of the same qualities and opinions. You must be a phenomenal woman. JK. Or not.

Mel, A Dramatic Mommy said...

I'm sorry it wasn't what you hoped it would be. But, as someone who really wanted to go, it's nice to read a "real" account of the conference. So far, it seems it was one giant love fest.

i am very mary said...

Next time you are coming to my house because I am totally a huge nerd. I am petrified of crowds and of appearing to be the redheaded stepchild (no offense meant to miss didnot), and I set my expectations FAR above reality. So, you are coming here and we are just going to plan to do notadamnthing. And no one will be disappointed. Plus, you can bring Stu. He and Very David can do things with wood and caulk while we do notadamnthing.

San Diego Momma said...

Glad you posted your experience. I suspect I might feel the same. Either way, your account was honest and not victim-y and brave.

Thanks for sharing it.

KD @ A Bit Squirrelly said...

Your honesty is so refreshing! Oh and eat your vegetables.

EatPlayLove said...

On the eating your veges fruit is just as important, I try to have a fruit and veg at every meal. And stick some cucumber slices in your water or lemon, it's so refreshing.

thanks for sharing about your experience. I'm not really sure what I would anticipate, but probably not the whole bullshit thing... I personally didn't feel worthy to attend, maybe next year. LOL.

Lisa Milton said...

This post is brilliant; I didn't know if you would write further about it or not.

Yep. I'm back to brilliant. I'll bring veggies & maybe come up with something brighter later.

(Good luck with the tattoo artist today. ;])

Amy said...

I'm like you in that I would totally clam up in a situation like BlogHer.

If someone doesn't come up to me to talk - I'm not talking. (unless there is alcohol involved!)

Professor J said...

I'm sorry you didn't have as much fun as you had hoped. I have often thought that a smaller gathering at a local home/bar would be much more fun than a group of thousands. I don't do well in big crowds, either.

Texan Mama said...

I really liked what you said. The blogging world is so new that I often think, who decides who is qualified to lead those sessions? I mean, what makes a person experienced enough to be an expert in their field? And just because a person is good on the computer doesn't mean they can do diddly squat in front of real breathing humans (e.g. the "bullshit" comment - maybe she's better received in typing than speaking). It sucks that you had a bad experience there but it just goes to show that life can never measure up to our grand illusions. But for the record, I really respect people who can hold their tongue because it shows much wisdom. Those who just shoot off their mouths often get themselves into trouble (like myself unfortunately).
(((HUGS)))

missburrows said...

Oh sweetie. You are awesome and wonderful and real. I'm sorry if Blogher was a disappointment. Maybe next time, Cami and I will join you and set up Camp Naughty on the grounds.

Coach said...

I often go to conferences with a bad attitude to start with and then silently demand that they prove to me why I should be there. (especially the employer mandated ones that start at oh-dark-thirty!)

Thanks for sharing your heart. Isn't that really what blogging is all about? Granted, some are trying to monetize and earn additional income while raising kids, but some, like you, are just trying to connect.

Good for you!

Fog City Mommy said...

by the way....

I am SO not adventurous at all. In fact, I am actually painfully shy. No really, I know you are rolling your eyes and saying, "yeah, right" but it's totally true. the night I met you I had to PEP TALK myself to go to the FREAKING PARTY! Even meeting Rachel was hard.

Next time you come to SF, let me know and I will take you about in style. :)

phd in yogurtry said...

Could the Q&A'er have meant that "it's necessary to blog daily is BS?" Not that its BS if you already DO blog daily?

I really appreciated your frank account too. I tend to be a chair flower, too (not brave enough to stand near a wall). Parties of any size or number and I retreat to a comfy spot and S.T.A.Y. I'm not a "nice to meet you, my name is _____" kinda gal either.

Fog City Mommy said...

PS maybe because I am so shy I work with dead bodies all day? or maybe I work with dead bodies all day because I am so shy?

you decide. :)

apathy lounge said...

I would SO have hung out with you! Your reasons for not liking BlogHer are exactly the ones I think about when I decide against going. If I were Dooce and I was able to keep a roof over my head (and that of my family) with my writing...I'd totally do it. Doing so would mean that others would want to know what that life was like and how...possibly...they, too, could have that life. It's hard (I imagine) to talk normally about having something so great when so many other people don't have it. So now you're on Good Morning America. How can you downplay that so that it's nothing more thrilling than picking up your pants at the cleaners? You can't and so it's easy for people to believe you're a snob.

Now...some of these people are snobs. Don't get me wrong. I haven't met any of them, but after awhile I'm sure you start to believe your own press. I'd be tempted if newspapers and magazines kept wanting to turn me into some kind of blogging wunderkind. And then you get asked to lead a panel...attended by hopeful bloggers who expect to get good advice on writing and increasing exposure. And what do they get but a whiny, woe-is-me diatribe about how awful it is when people expect you to do more of the thing you profess to love...mainly because they like the way you do it. They go in the hopes you can turn that mirror back on themselves so that they can leave the seminar affirmed and confident. Instead, people find a firm line drawn in the sand between the blogger glitterati and the rest of us. The haves and the have-nots...and never the twain shall meet. At least...not at BlogHer. Call me a "hater". Call me critical, but I think those folk have mostly abandoned their mission to instruct and to uplift. We just need to have our own BlogHer...on our terms. Screw the Alpha Moms. I mean...we make them possible by reading and commenting. What have any of them ever done for us?

Gizmo said...

It is so funny that I have a big mouth and can talk to anyone. You on the other hand talk, but not to just anyone. I am not even sure of the first thing we said to one another, but I am pretty sure it was followed by a comment similar to "who the hell was THAT guy?" You are also going to have to teach me how to post all the pictures and other goodies scattered around the blog page. I need more decorations.

elaine@bloginmyeye said...

Yea you for posting a such cogent description of the disappointment.

Moxy Jane said...

It seems like most anything...BlogHer probably started out sincere and well-meaning. But then it turned into a popularity contest and now it's all "one size fits all" cookie cutter shit. I am glad that you went. Just going and STAYING was brave. And I'm glad you gave yourself time to process the experience and shared it with us.

In real life, I shoot my mouth off. Blogging gives me time to think about things before I put them out there. Which is why days will go by without a post! I admire those who are able to hold their tongues and don't need to set others straight all of the time...I am working HARD on that.

The question of why we blog needs to stay unique to each blogger (although I think the underlying human need for community is probably a common thread). There is no right or wrong way...unless you're needing to find a certain audience in order to make a dime? I don't know...that's way more than I want to think about right now.

I love your blog. It's one of the few I check in with regularly. And I've noticed that the common thread between the blogs I enjoy most is the attitude of, "Hey, this is me, this is my life, take it or leave it."

I'll take it (could you see that coming?!).

just jamie said...

Somehow I've forgotten to come on over here. Holy what-was-I-thinking?

Truly a bummer about your trip. That sounds trite, but I mean it. I mean, I don't mean it to be trite. I mean it like, in my heart. Ahhhh, where was I ? You're making me feel a wee bit better about not making it to BlogHer. Does that help? No. Didn't think so.

foolery said...

Was gone for five days and am only now reading the BlogHer write-up I'd hoped you would post . . .

Kudos to you for your honest and insightful critique, of both the conference and of your own expectations.

I was eager to meet Bossy when she did her cross-country tour, but when the time came to go to San Francisco, I couldn't pull the trigger. The scheduling and monetary constraints were very real and easy to explain away; my insecurity was NOT easy to explain away.

I want to meet more bloggers, just a few at a time, and ones of my choosing.

Sorry to write so much -- thanks for posting your experience!

-- Laurie @ Foolery

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