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.