Blissdom Canada taught me the internet is a very big place! And in its vastness, we often find ourselves settling into a particular community, somewhere we feel at home and connected – but there’s so much beyond our own backyard.
When I went to the World Domination Summit, I was so excited to see in 3D all sorts of people I knew and loved online. Even though it was in Portland, it felt like home to me! When I found out there was a blogging and writing conference here in my very own city of Toronto I was so on it! And it was the weirdest thing to look at this list of speakers and think, I don’t know any of them. Not one. It was like discovering a brand new neighbourhood in a city I thought I knew so well!
Now, if you’re going to go exploring, one of the best things you can do is to go with adventure buddies! It was such a treat for me to spend the entire conference with two of my dear friends – and if you don’t know them yet, let me introduce you. This is a networking event after all!
To my right is the wonderful Tanya Geisler. She is a deep loving, wildly insightful coach who helps people step into their starring role. If you’re trying to find “your thing,” you’ll want to connect with Tanya. And next to her is my dear friend, writer and yoga/pilates instructor Annabel Fitzsimmons. Annabel and I have shared this entrepreneurial journey since our day jobs. She always inspires me with her open heart, clear thinking, fresh ideas and sheer talent. If you’re looking for inspired healthy living, be sure to check her out.
Looking further around the table, it didn’t take long for me to discover that one of the reasons I’m really unfamiliar with this community is it’s really a community of moms. It was clear from the moment I received my first swag, a box filled with mini cereal packages, to our first opportunity to meet one another, where I was the only non-mom at the table. Luckily that sparked a bit of laughter as people remarked that I must also be the only well-rested person there!
Though this picture is fuzzy, the message of the panel was clear: Do The Work! These funny, smart and savvy panelists offered a plethora of suggestions for sticking with and developing your art, from becoming more intentional and setting clear goals for your blog to experimenting with creative constraints to getting help when you’re stuck – from your loved ones, colleagues and community. I was also completely fascinated by the discussion of how, through blogging, we create our digital identity and legacy. Inspiration indeed!
The primary focus of this session was really sponsorship and developing relationships with brands. As the conversation continued, it was clear to me this approach is not one I’ll be taking at Jamie Ridler Studios. However, the takeaway for me was the importance of being clear on your own guidelines and policies and of knowing the value you bring to the table. The homework I got from this panel? Create a media kit.
I loved the way this session was about honouring our work, that by consistently challenging ourselves, consistently committing to our craft (whether it’s writing, photography or whatever), we honour ourselves, the work and our audience. The speakers highlighted basics like spelling, SEO (search engine optimization), working with a style guide and making sure your links always work, as well as encouraging us to continually stretch by trying new things like writing outside our familiar subject matter or trying new media like video or photography. There’s was also a clear message of really owning your work. Whatever you choose to put out there in the world is your legacy. What do you want it to be?
Now this was a lively panel! And it’s no wonder – with this topic, you’re sure to get a panel of women with strong personalities and opinions. Even though the word “brand” is all about business, the discussion ultimately is on something I am deeply passionate about: knowing who you are! These women shared their own stories and how they developed the brand they are today. This was a great discussion about how it takes time to know, develop and trust your voice and once you do, the importance of protecting it with everything you’ve got.
Branding came up in this session too. Without a doubt, knowing, honing and establishing your own unique identity is core to the life of a writer and a blogger. In this session, the panelists also encouraged everyone to think about the big picture, to consider where we want our voice to be heard – on our blogs? in books? in magazines? What is different about each of those mediums and why might we want to participate in them – or not? One thing is clear: the publishing industry is changing. If being a part of print media is aspirational for you, it’s important to take the time to get to know the industry, know the publishing companies, know what will be expected of you. These days, a lot of promotion and audience development comes from the author. The good news is that blogging will help with that.
I’m glad I stepped into Blissdom Canada and discovered this brand new corner of the Universe. There were times when I felt like a foreign exchange student, learning the customs of an entirely different culture. And there were times I was laughing and listening and sharing ideas with a sense of connection and joy.
I know this may sound weird but one of the most important things that this conference did for me is to affirm that no matter where I am, I am a writer and I am a blogger.