I wanted to go to a blog conference. Simple as that. I love learning and wanted to experience something new. And when the one I originally signed up for got canceled, I found Blogtacular. It is described as: the place for bloggers whose hearts beat with creativity to come together to meet, share and inspire.
It wasn’t until closer to the conference that I realized Blogtacular attracted bloggers who are also makers, crafters and designers. Very creative people. I blog about expat life and travel. So I honestly felt out of my element but given the program schedule, I knew I would still make the most of the experience and learn skills to use in my own blogging niche.
Soon after arriving in London on Friday, I joined a dozen other women for a photowalk around Primrose Hill. It was a chance to meet other conference attendees in an informal, small group setting. On top of that, it was the perfect chance to discover a part of London I’d never been too before. And what a colourful, quaint part of London.
Later that night, we all gathered at West Elm for a Paper Maker Party and refreshments. Surrounding by beautiful home furnishings, we got our creative on. Multiple tables were set up for conference goers to try something new and be creatively inspired. I had my portrait painted in water colours by the talented Ella Masters. She told me she also gets hired for weddings to live-paint portraits of guests. It’s a fun idea and I had never heard of that before.
I then tried my hand at calligraphy taught by Quill London. It is a lot harder than it looks. After a solid 15 minutes, I made some progress but just didn’t quite get the hang of it. I also made a little paper flower with Susan Beech and started some meditative colouring with Heart Zeena. I’d always wanted to try coloring for meditation, but in my brief experience, I found it just made me anxious. Trying to colour inbetween the lines, pick the right colours… I’m too type-A but maybe that’s exactly why I should do it more often.
In summary, I rediscovered the creative part of my brain that is activated by creating something with my hands. It is something I’ve lost touch with over the years. Fun fact: I was an avid scrapbooker about 10 years ago and I created most of our wedding accessories including my hairpiece. So I do have a little bit of maker/crafter in me afterall.
Have faith that you have a unique voice
The Opening Keynote
The next morning, breakfast was served at 200 Aldergate conference centre just before the keynote speech by Lisa Condon. For most conference goers in the craft blogging world, the speaker was well known in the community. For me, I hadn’t heard of her nor any one else on the program. Regardless, Lisa had some amazing tidbits of inspiration and life lessons she passed along. Her talk centered around confidence, vulnerability and living a happy, fulfilled life.
My key takeaways were: It’s never too late to start. She started illustrating and painting at 31 and has become an author and highly sought out artist. Everyone feels the same – that tendency to think about the ways we aren’t good enough. Learn to be yourself. Embrace imperfections. And she shared with us the Girl Power Manifesto.
And one last bit of perfect advice: if the answer to a question isn’t “Hell yes” then it should be a ‘no’. For example: Lillian, do you want to keep blogging, create an online community and authentically share yourself with others: Hell yes!
Well then, I’ll keep at it.
Failure is so important. We speak about success all the time. It is the ability to resist failure or use failure that often leads to greater success. I’ve met people who don’t want to try for fear of failing. – J.K. Rowling
Creative Genius Bar
During the breaks, there was a panel of experts available for one-on-one chats on blog business, Pinterest and branding. I took the opportunity to talk to XOMisse who gave me some great tips on how to improve my site’s speed. She even followed up after the conference with more advice on how to improve my blog. This was a fantastic and invaluable addition to the conference schedule.
The rest of the day was broken up with workshops and breaks and a lunch. The first workshop I chose was Kirsty Smith’s on Content Development. My main take away was just write. Brainstorm ideas, even bad ones, develop those ideas throughout your daily routine, then just write. Just get started. Yes, it will be shit, but you have the opportunity to make it better once it’s out of you. Her presentation was filled with inspirational quotes that I’ve sprinkled all along this blog post.
You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have – Maya Angelou
My second workshop was led by Instagrammer Sarah Tasker of @me_and_orla. She shared her journey to Instagram fame and her tips to creating a following. Some important lessons: Don’t just take a picture of a thing; turn it into a moment. Use texture, angle, layering, negative space, colour and mood. Think of a narrative for each post: who/what/where/why? We then had the chance to use props to style some of our own Instagram posts. I didn’t move quick enough to grab fun props, so I improvised with what I had in my purse.
The last workshop I went to was on writing, led by Laura Jane Williams of Superlatively Rude. It was another interactive workshop where we each wrote a story and went through a series of excises to whittle it down to a microblog post. She had some great tidbits she shared like “Nobody cares”. That’s right: nobody cares what I write. And that’s why you have to write for yourself and not for other people. . And “blogging is dead.” That last point was clearly eye-opening. Her point being that microblogging, Instagram and influence via other media is starting to take over blogs. Her writing tips were great and she shared this quote from Maya Angelou:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
As the 6th person to be hired by Pinterest, Enid has seen the company grow leaps and bounds. It was comforting to hear that there is no such thing as an overnight success. There’s a lot of hard work, sweat and tears that goes behind anything worthwhile. I was inspired by the Pinterest story whose founders had no pedigree or accolades. Her talk was full of great nuggets of wisdom. Risk is equal to reward. There will be doubters and haters. Have a vision, write it down, use it. Keep evolving. Have a process to help you deal with change. Stay positive and refer back to why you are in it. And lastly, time and energy are your most precious resources.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it! Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. – Goethe
After all that, and so much more, you can imagine I left the conference energized, with renewed excitement for my blog. I have my work cut out for me as I try to put all this advice into practice. Lastly, my biggest takeaway was the confidence and comfort I felt in introducing myself, my blog and my story. As I handed out blog business cards (a first!) and succinctly pitched my blog, I didn’t feel the anxiety that usual comes when someone asks me ‘what do you do?’ We were all there as bloggers, regardless of how we make a living. We were all there to share a passion, to learn and thrive off each other. And that’s exactly what I had wanted to accomplish.
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