Yesterday was the kind of day that leaves me breathless with amazement that this is really my life. It went like this: I put on a dress and some pretty shoes and I interviewed Tim Gunn, who complimented the shoes, and then went to dinner at a lovely restaurant with a group of smart, funny women who make me want to write smarter and think faster and laugh harder. And then I went back to my hotel and tracked Chris down and we went upstairs and jammed the dirty laundry and the Mrs. Potato Heads from the conference swag bag into our suitcases and talked about the weekend.
Oh, the weekend.
Other people have done a better job than I could of encapsulating what specifically went on this weekend; I don’t feel any need to go over that ground again. But I laid awake for a long time last night thinking about what my take-away was from BlogHer — and no, I don’t mean that I was cataloging my swag bags.
I am a freelance writer. I used to tell people that I was a professional blogger, but that title — blogger — is problematic. What makes it problematic is the perception that bloggers are not professionals; that perception is often reinforced by the behavior of bloggers themselves. Let’s call it the I-elbowed-a-baby-in-the-head-for-a-swag-bag behavior. Just for example.
I do not want a $4,000 swag bag. Really, I don’t. And I don’t want sex toys or anything else you’re giving away. That doesn’t help me professionalize. It just makes it harder for me to get my dirty laundry back in the suitcase when the conference is over. What I wanted from this weekend — although I only realized it today, when I was searching for the take-away — was professional guidance. I want to know how to do this work better.
What I want is help putting together pitches and business plans, and strategies for marketing what I do to people and companies who need it. But that’s not something you find in a swag bag.
Let me be clear: I am not saying that this weekend, or this conference, was a loss. I came home energized and focused, with a list of things I want to get done and people I want to get in touch with. I talked to so many smart, thoughtful women this weekend, about everything from the pitfalls of full-time freelancing to the essential value of personal blogging. They made me think and they made me laugh and they made the trip entirely worthwhile.
I started blogging — I started this blog — not because I wanted swag or trips or boxes of product delivered to my door; I started blogging because I had a story to tell. From the beginning, I have tried to write well, before everything else, and because of that, I had the chance to sit down with Tim Gunn on Saturday and show him how Twitter works.
(More about that tomorrow. Promise.)
Here’s the take away: if you are blogging because you want the swag — the trips and the packages and the attention — that you think someone else is getting, then stop. If you are blogging because you love to write or you have a story to tell or it connects you to other people, then keep it up, please. And if you want to do more than blog — if you want to write, and get recognized and paid for that writing, and maybe even, through that writing, have the opportunity to travel and preview products — then write well, always, because a sincere, authentic voice is what makes a blog — or any piece of writing — worth reading.
Or you can just grab the swag bag and run. There might even be a Mrs. Potato Head in there! It’s your choice.