At the end of July, I attended my third BlogHer conference, the largest social media event for women (and a few brave men). I had a fantastic time, learned a lot, and felt creatively invigorated.
Which is funny because I hadn’t planned on going.
This year, I wanted to attend a literary workshop or something that would progress my serious writing. But I didn’t have any serious writing to workshop. And BlogHer was going to be right down the street from me in San Jose. And a lot of my really good friends were attending. And the lineup of speakers was pretty awesome. And Rev.Run would be performing. So I couldn’t say no in good conscience (my conscience really enjoys swag bags and karaoke).
And just like Rev.Run, I’m going to break it down for you because I am so old school.
Despite what I tell my spouse, the beauty of the BlogHer conference is not the sessions that I attend or even the star-studden line-up of speakers. It is the people. It is my blogging and writing community, because yes, BLOGGING IS WRITING, GODDAMN IT. BlogHer is the May pole around which we all gather and we take the ribbons – the energy, the knowledge, the confidence, the empowerment – and carry them to the far corners.
I might tweet this post and share it on Facebook, but it’s not about the noise of social media, it’s about sitting down to write. A process as old as antiquity, the hieroglyphs, the Bible, Shakespeare and Thoreau, as old as your grandmother who hand-wrote letters to your father when he lived overseas. As the wise Polly Pagenhart of Lesbian Dad said, “Tapas didn’t kill the four-course meal.” Blogging is the meal, writing is the nourishment, and it’s hard to live on 140-character snacks or bite-size status updates.
And because I’m feeling like Sir-Mix-a-Lot-of-Metaphors today, I want to say that preservatives might keep your writing relevant is bit longer, but don’t rely too heavily on processed shit. Rely on the process. On the writing. When in doubt, go back to the basics. Draw a story on the cave wall.
So I re-learned that writing is important. And specifically, that my writing is important. Something that each writer needs to tell themselves everyday because we are creatures who exist in the nebula of comparison and self-doubt. Which leads to me my second biggest takeaway from BlogHer, courtesy of my friend and roommate Nancy of Midlife Mixtape via our other good friend Lisa from Smacksy: the ability to demand, “WHAT IS THE COMPENSATION RATE FOR THIS?”
Wait. Stop. What the… I can get compensated for my writing? You mean to tell me that the half dozen requests that I receive each week asking for content or editorial help – some from major national companies with deep pockets – can pay me?
It seems silly, right? Because this doesn’t just seem to be a writer’s dilemma, but a woman’s dilemma. Trying to be so helpful. To raise my platform, find new readers, blah blah blah. I asked for a company’s compensation rate just the other day – there was none, of course – but it felt damn good.
Which leads me, of course, to Arianna Huffington – like the city of Rome, to which all blogging and writing roads seem to lead. She spoke at BlogHer14 about her new book “Thrive,” which encourages us to digitally detox, to take better care of ourselves, to stop glamorizing being busy. She is an amazing public speaker and I admire her as a business woman and entrepreneur. But during her interview, whispers were going around our table – and around the room – “who’s going to ask her about why she doesn’t pay bloggers for writing on The Huffington Post?” The funny and smart Deb Rox tweeted:
Arianna Huffington says sleep 8 hours to thrive, and with the rest of your free time tell your story on HuffPo for free, please. #BlogHer14
I am a blogger for The Huffington Post. I will continue being a blogger for The Huffington Post and Arianna Huffington knows this, because her compensation rate is platform and readership expansion. But it is hard to financially thrive without monetary payment – my local grocery store does not accept verifications of increased readership. I spoke with multiple bloggers about writing for free, when to do it, why, was it right or wrong – all signs that a larger conversation is emerging and I’m excited to see where it leads.
But hey! You know who offers monetary payment AND platform AND readership expansion? BlogHer.com. And I love them and thank them for it.
The conference ended with Rev.Run’s concert on an open-air city block of San Jose. I’m not going to lie. It was pretty much like The Beatles’ 1969 London rooftop concert. The Rev was in his classic black Adidas track suit yelling, “Where’s my 80′s babies? Clap your hands! Jump! Jump!” And by god, all the 80′s babies and 70′s babies and 60′s babies jumped, despite our aching knees and creaking joints. The 90′s babies jumped too – probably a little higher, but that’s because they’re young. And there was joy. There was pure joy on everyone’s face.
I will be back again next year.