Why oh Why do we do what we do...

This weekend I realized something. I am a purist.

Kinda...

Let me explain.

I attended my third blogging conference this weekend. It was the inaugural Blogwest 2012, the brainchild of my friend Felicia Dewar and a much-needed convergence of bloggers, sponsors, and experts in the social media and blogosphere world for Western Canada. In September of 2011 Felicia and I both attended the ShesConnected conference in Toronto and it was very clear then that western Canadian bloggers as a whole were both missing and also not being targeted by brands and sponsors. I am positive that it was after this conference that Felicia's wheels started to turn and that weekend, the beginnings of what would become BlogWest sprouted in her head!

At the time, I was quite excited about being invited to ShesConnected. I truly believed that connecting with brands and sponsors was what I wanted and needed to do with my blog. What happened in fact, was the exact opposite. I left the conference with a big case of information and sponsor overload and to be perfectly honest, I was also a bit disheartened by the focus on monetizing our online spaces and what it takes to work with brands (even though this really is the POINT of the ShesConnected brand and conference and overall it is a very worthwhile event to attend, if indeed this is your focus).

Fast forward two weeks later and again, Felicia and I (and fellow Edmonton blogger, Jennifer Banks) attended Blissdom Canada, also in Toronto. This much bigger conference brought together bloggers from all across Canada, but still only a mere handful from the west. The presentations, panels and sessions at Blissdom were divided into two tracks, the Arts one and the Business one. And while my brain was still telling me I needed to go to the business focused (read monetizing) sessions, my heart was telling me otherwise. For the majority of that weekend, and like I do in most things in my life, I followed my heart. I attended the Arts track and it has made all the difference to me. (I feel like a Robert Frost poem!)

Once home from both conferences and able to fully digest what I had learned, about blogging and about myself, I think what happened next can only be described as the perfect storm in my brain. I had a crisis of identity. Identity as a business owner, as a blogger and in the end as a mother and wife too. I was being pulled in far too many directions and not doing any of my "jobs" particularly well. So, I took some time off, closed the store for the holiday season and did some personal regrouping. And then I made some big decisions.

I decided that my identity was not that of an online retailer. That the Natural Urban Mamas brand was so much more than what I thought and that I had the power to shape it into something even better.

Just over four weeks ago, I closed my online store for good and flipped the switch on the newly redesigned Natural Urban Mama Blog.

And this past weekend at BlogWest 2012, I discovered even more about myself and the blogging world. For one, I met a whole schwakload of Western Canadian bloggers! Even some from my own city that I did not know about! I got to connect again with the likes of the very funny Kathy Buckworth and Julie Cole, and meet the lovely Maureen Dennis, with 4 month old Baby S in tow, who all came to BlogWest from Ontario (on their own dime, may I add) to be part of this western conference. I went for a great dinner with ever inspiring @SoberJulie and a few others thanks to the generosity of the Adult Essentials brand (one that I absolutely believe in by the way).

And I took away some very key messages about life and blogging and also further validation for my decisions over the past 6 months.

One of the major themes that kept coming up at the conference, was that of WHY? Why do we do what we do? Why do we blog? Why do we write at all? Why do we get up in the morning? In two of the sessions I attended, the amazing Simon Sinek was brought up along with his powerful message of The Golden Circle. If you have not had a chance to see his TED talk, PLEASE watch it, I promise it will change your life in some way or another.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zFeuSagktM[/youtube]

Simon's whole concept of WHY was what I had been looking for to explain my reasons for hesitating about the whole "monetizing" and blogging as a business model. And it wasn't until I was reminded of it at BlogWest by Kim Page Gluckie's "Getting Over The Fear of “Having Nothing To Say” session and then Jared Tabler's "Passion, Making Blogging Dreams a Career Reality",  that the proverbial LIGHT BULB went off over my head.

And I think it can be summed up very succinctly as follows:

"The goal is not to do business with people who need what you have,

the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe"

~ Simon Sinek

Now, as you may or may not know, I have some very strong beliefs about a lot of things.

I believe that babywearing is an essential parenting skill, I believe in breastfeeding my children and advocating for more education and resources for ALL mothers regarding infant feeding. I believe that a more hands-off approach to birthing from the medical community would empower more women to seek natural options in this regard. I believe that we are all women travelling together along this long and dusty road of motherhood and that we need each other to survive and thrive. I believe in leaving a legacy for my children and their children's children and not further polluting or disrespecting the Greatest Mother of all, our Earth.

And I also believe in standing up for myself and my beliefs and I am not afraid to express how I feel about them. Sometimes that means that I swear, sometimes that means that I tackle subjects that are controversial and polarizing, and sometimes it means that I take a very critical eye to a product or service. In all of it I am honest, about my biases, my opinions and my sources.

So where does this leave me and what does all this have to do with the Blogwest conference?

As I stood up in the middle of the 'Monetizing your Blog' session on Saturday morning and said the following (thanks to @lainiegal for tweeting it)....

...I realized that I am a blogging purist.

I write for me and because it is something that I love. It fills a need in my life. It fills my heart and my soul with love and joy and my mind with thought and wonder. I write to connect with people who believe what I believe, and for those who don't know it yet, but may want to come on over and believe what I believe (or at least hear what I have to say)! And if this happens to be a brand or a sponsor and they are good with ME and all that I believe in, then I welcome the opportunity to work with them.

My amazing (and much younger) friend, Tanis Miller, aka, The Redneck Mommy, the most famous (infamous?) of Western Canadian bloggers, gave the closing Keynote speech for BlogWest 2012. It was her story, and while it is a heart-wrenching one to read about, it is 10 times more so when you hear it from her in real life, her voice cracking as she recounts the mere 2 hours that changed her life forever. Tanis came to blogging to heal, to recreate herself, to laugh, and to celebrate and advocate for her children. She put in the time and effort to grow her corner of the interwebz, to become The Redneck Mommy and further than that, the incredible woman who is Tanis Miller today. She paid her dues. And 6 years later, she makes a living doing what she loves.

 

Simon Sinek also said this:

"...those who lead inspire us ...we follow them not for them, but for ourselves."

I am inspired by Tanis and many other great bloggers who do what they love, write from a place of honesty and with a rawness that I connect with. And yes, I follow them for me and because I believe!

And so in the end, what I learned at BlogWest 2012 this year and what I think I shall continue to refine at future conferences, is WHY I blog...

I blog to BE that inspiration for others.

That is my WHY!

{And if someone wants to eventually pay me for this... GREAT!}

What about you? What is your WHY?

Please share...

Mwah!

Natasha~

 

 

 

 

Finding my Blogging Bliss

Two weeks ago I went to my first big blogging conference.

And I learned a few things about myself.

I am a writer.

And a business woman.

And a mom.

And a wife.

A friend. A fan. A partner.

A very bad singer.

And one hell of a One Man Wolf Pack.

I was very excited about going to Blissdom Canada 2011. I bought my ticket the hour they went on sale and suspect that I might have gotten THE last one available that day!  And fresh off of my time at ShesConnected two weeks prior, I thought I had a 'plan' going into this one. Yet once again, what I came out with was so much more and not really what I had planned at all. And to be perfectly honest, in reading some of the other attendees posts after the conference, I have learned and discovered even more. About myself and what it is that I want to give and get in this world we call the "blogosphere".

First and foremost what I want is hours and hours more to sit and talk with a few very special people who I met. I have been doing a lot of back reading this week of some pretty amazing blogs and wishing with all my heart that I had more time with their writers. Thank goodness for Twitter and comments and all the multiple ways we can still 'talk' to each other online. Otherwise, I think I might descend into a deep depression!

Secondly what I want or maybe what I got was perspective. As in, what we think we want is not always what we need. On day one of the conference at the CBC Live Welcome Reception, I was interviewed by Social Media Week and was quoted in their #BlissdomCanada post this past week. In it I am referred to as the Healthy Business Blogger and when I spoke to the interviewer I was focused on my 'plan', I talked about how I was at Blissdom to build momentum for my blog and interest from the brands and sponsors present to get them to venture West to the great Prairie plains that we blog from! This may still be part of the plan, but after the two days of sessions, the screening of the documentary MissRepresentation and the many conversations with my fellow bloggers, with the brands and sponsors present and with other small business owners like myself that walk a fine and often very different social media line that others, the 'plan' has been refined.

I think there are some really great companies out there that I am very excited to work with. And essentially what I took away from Blissdom and from reading some great post-conference posts from the likes of Alex from @Clippo, @BonStewart and Annie from @PhdinParenting, is that at Natural Urban Mamas, I am here for YOU. And I will NEVER compromise my voice, my talent, my writing or my opinions for the almighty dollar. If and when I do work with brands, they will be in line with my values, they will ADD value to you, my readers and they will be fun people to work with!  You know...like you and me! ;)

Once I wrapped my brain around this and took a step away from the "Business" track of the conference, I was able to connect and get to know some rather amazing women and a few cool dudes too and focus on the 'why we do what we do' part of blogging.

I ended up attending more of the Art Track sessions at the conference than the Commerce Track (not what I thought I would do, but these were the people and rooms that I was drawn to). The 'Social Media for Social Good" session was a very big reminder of how we can change the world and how a simple harnessing of the power of social media and directing it to "do good" for others can really affect change. I had a hard time keeping the tears from streaming down my face as I sat at my table with the incredible Heather Hamilton (@tjzmommy) and watched a video of her sweet baby boy Zach, who is gone now, but who lives on in the hearts and on the Twitter avatars of so many with that tiny little Elmo. The most powerful message that I got from that session was that it is not always about doing big things and changing the world, sometimes it is simply about doing something to change even one person's life. And we can all do that.

Next up was the session on 'Taking your Craft to the Next Level'. This session appealed to the perfectionist in me. Spelling and grammar matter to me, and it seems that I need to get myself a writing Style Guide too!! Seriously--if you ever find a typo in my posts, please send me a DM or email so I can fix it! The panel consisted of some great writers, including the very funny Karen Green (@Karengreeners) who had one of my favourite lines of the day..."I am not interested in winning the internet, I want to win a Pulitzer!" and the every witty Aidan Morgan (@palinode) who gave us a fabulous 30 second writing for search engines tutorial (which we all made him repeat very s-l0-w-l-y). And yet another of my online super-crushes, Elan Morgan, Aidan's wife and the woman better known as Schmutzie, was sitting at the table next to me. Needless to say, I felt like the kid who just walked into the "gifted" class by accident. I may have also Googled one or two of the bigger words used that day! Thank Gawd for the Merriam-Webster online dictionary!

I then managed to squeeze into the standing room only session about "Defining Yourself and Your Creative Work", the beast also known as 'personal branding'. This particular panel did not disappoint their audience and kept their moderator, Julie Cole from Mabel's Labels on her toes! Dee Brun (@CocktailDeeva), Gail Vaz-Oxlade, Kimberly Seldon and Patti Sullivan all showed us just why they are who they are and why we love them so much. The overall message I got from this session is that it is OK to be you, just know then that YOU may not be what everyone is looking for. Having conviction, knowing who YOU are and not compromising your integrity, your values or your voice matters, not only to those hearing or reading you, but to your kids, your community and most of all to YOU! This was a good session for me and um...why yes, it did end with Gail giving me a big old smooch...right on the mouth!!!

I would be remiss if I did not give a shout out to some of the great women I met that weekend. The highlight for me may have been meeting and spending time with a woman whose writing, whose insight, and whose activism is an inspiration to me every day.. yes, I am talking about the amazing Annie Urban of Phd in Parenting. And she is one heck of a dance partner too!!

To Hollie Pollard (@commoncentsmom) for welcoming me with open arms first at #SCCTO and then for being the first familiar and friendly face I saw when I arrived at Blissdom Canada. This woman is truly one of the kindest, most genuine human beings that I have ever met and I am honoured to count her as a friend! Thank you Hollie for taking me 'under your wing' and for facilitating some very important introductions!

To Tilley from @Preshusme for giving me my baby and babywearing fix while away from my littles! Seriously woman, you make some damn cute babies and that little Peanut of yours practically stole every heart at Blissdom Canada this year. I swear I can still hear his crazy babbling and sweet baby laughs!!

And finally to my incredible friend and fellow Edmonton Blogger, the amazing Jennifer Banks (@JenBanksYeg). Thanks for being my roomie, for kicking me under the table when I was talking too loud, for being the Yin to my Yang in practically all that we do and for well...just being the ever so awesome YOU! I am so glad that we got to share this experience together and were able to actually have time to just hang out, meet some great people and come away with a whole new plan for our little corners of the interwebs!

Refreshed and with a new plan,

Natasha~