The first year I went to Blogtacular in faith, trusting in Kat and Kat’s vision, and delighted to see it come to life. Last year I went to be filled up with inspiration and to see friends. And this year I wondered how on earth we could top it. Oh me of little faith. Blogtacular this year was the best yet, and I don’t say that lightly.
If there was a theme to my Blogtacular this year it was “quality not quantity”, a lesson that felt wonderfully at odds with a lot of mainstream chatter about posting on every social media ever in quadruplicate before you’ve even finished breakfast.
Sara Tasker’s brilliant session on iPhone photography was never about how many times a day you should post to Instagram, but about finding your photography ‘dream style’. For the first time I got what ‘curating your feed’ should really look like. It’s not about always posting the same perfectly staged photos, but discovering what appeals to you in your own style, and then making sure that the photos that you share are the very best examples about what you love, and as instantly recognisable as your written voice.
We talked about capturing moments rather than simply taking photos of things, of styling, and about getting yourself into the frame, and after all of that we still had time to play with some props (including a tea towel from West Elm that I may now have to buy because blue and orange ducks are too awesome to pass up on).
If you don’t already follow Sara as @me_and_orla you really should; her main feed is truly beautiful – and then there is the joy that is @meandlukeskywalker which made my husband giggle until he wept – in a good way.
Kirsty Smith of the brilliantly named Eeh Bah Mum ran a session on turning your ideas into content that was never about SEO, or writing the sort of posts that get you the most hits/shares/likes/whatever else there is, but about stretching your mind. It was about coming up with all the crazy and utterly useless ideas you like, because in the rough are the diamonds, and then making your mind work on them (note the “making”), so that the good ideas have time to justify themselves and expand to their full potential, and the not yet ideas and the really rubbish ideas can wait. It’s one of those things that I can see with hindsight; some of my favourite posts have been the ones I’ve thought about for weeks and finally written down when the words just wouldn’t stay inside my head any more.
Enid Hwang as the closing keynote put to bed once and for all the concept of overnight success. When most of what we see on blogs and social media is the edited highlights, it’s easy to forget that you’re not seeing the whole story, and unless it’s your family or your best friend, you’re unlikely to be seeing the true beginning. But I found there was a flip side too; in reminding us that Pinterest once came from a team of six (of which she was the sixth), working in a tiny two bedroom apartment and struggling to get software engineers to understand what it is that they were doing,she also told the story of grit, hard work and staying true to your values eventually turning into that not-very-overnight but wholly deserved success.
A whole hour and a half writing workshop with Laura Jane Williams of Superlatively Rude was something that would be pure indulgence in my daily life. It wasn’t always easy, but it taught me volumes about how I edit (or don’t!), and the power in editing. And because it was Blogtacular I wasn’t scared to swap pages with my neighbour (the lovely Sally Strawberry) and I wish I could do it more often. Being forced to go beyond the very polite English response and say why I liked her writing forced us both to analyse what it was that made things resonate and the whole thing was a huge and wonderfully stretchy learning curve.
Admittedly it was a learning curve that set me for a little spin in the world of “nothing-I-have-ever-written-is-good-enough-wow-everyone-in-that-room-could-write-beautifully-oh-my-goodness-that-post-I-wrote-in-a-hurry-what-was-I-thinking” once I got home again, but actually I’m glad of that too. It’s been a good solid nudge to remind me that if want to write more, I need to edit more. It’s not that I don’t like what I’ve written, it’s just that I want to keep getting better, and that means putting the hours in, and putting the thinking in. And if two speakers in one day have told me to do the thinking, that’s probably a hint I ought to take.
But the talk that I really needed to hear, the one that completely blew me away both in what was said, and what was not said, was Lisa Congden’s opening keynote. As someone who came to a new career in her 30’s, and almost by chance, you’d be forgiven for thinking she would speak about believing in yourself, having courage and patience and being prepared to go the distance. But she didn’t.
She spoke about what truly matters, what a good life boils down to, and asked why what is actually essential (love and connection) gets trampled beneath what we are conditioned to aspire to (money and power), and the reality it leaves us in (feeling that we are never enough). I’m a wife, a mother of three, I work full-time, I love to make things, to write, and to take photographs and I want to do it all, and do it well, and get better at it. Accepting that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything and be everything is my biggest challenge. To have that conundrum so sharply brought into focus was oddly freeing. If it’s universal then it’s not just me. And so I can tell myself that in everything I do today and in everything I do tomorrow, I am enough.
It doesn’t mean I’m not striving for the stars; I will always want to be the very best me I can be, but it is shouting to my subconscious that the very best me isn’t out of reach, it’s right here, right now.
And that’s the thing about Blogtacular. It’s not, and it’s never been a conference about telling you how to blog. It’s a conference about creativity, to inspire you to do you, in whatever shape or form that might take, to the very best of your ability.
Now how many days is it until next year?
Photos not of tea towels thanks to the very lovely team at Mollie Makes who sponsored them again – you’re stars!