Spending two days with 500+ mummy bloggers (and a handful of very brave Dads!) at BritMums Live! has been an incredibly thought-provoking, inspiring, uplifting, escapist, tiring and slightly confusing experience. My mind is overflowing with so many ideas, dilemmas and resolutions that I think it will be a good few days before I digest everything fully.
I began blogging as ‘MummyMcAuliffe’ just under a year ago after deciding that I needed a creative outlet for my journey as a mother. I’ve always loved writing and I’ve found the whole blogging experience to be incredibly cathartic and rewarding. Many of my friends have come along with me for the ride and they have been a great support, and encouraged and reassured me when I’ve doubted myself. But to this point I haven’t really felt a part of the Mummy blogging world, and I really hoped BritMums Live! might help to change that. And to a point, it has. It’s certainly increased my already massive volume of RSS feeds to read, and I’ve connected with some great new kindred spirits!
I now have a much more ‘real’ sense of how driven, talented (and dare I say it, competitive!) the Mummy blogger space is. It’s something that I’ve always known but now I have a much truer sense of it. While I only managed to speak to a fraction of the 500+ bloggers in person, those who I did meet were intelligent, witty and mostly friendly (and very tired and hungover on the Saturday!). A few weren’t quite how I had imagined – you definitely get a sense of the dual personality syndrome that creeps in with social media!
Now that I’m back home, sitting at my desk and composing my thoughts…I realise that I want to challenge myself more with my blogging, and in particular, use it as a platform for hopefully achieving something good and worthwhile.
There’s so much I could write about BritMums Live. Thankfully I made notes, lots of them (you’ll never take the journalist out of me!)…and I’m sure there are the makings of several blog posts…but for now, here is a round-up of my ‘top 10 sound bites from BritMums Live!’ (in no particular order):
1. Polly Gowers from Give as you Live: “Next time you want to get passionate about something…use every tool in your box and share” – the ‘Blogging for the Greater Good’ discussion den filled me with hope and optimism, as it brought to light the potential power that the UK Mummy blogging community has to make change in places where it really matters. “I am filled with hope that the truth is mobilised by the [Mummy] blogging community”, added Camila Batmanghelidjh.
2. “If you wouldn’t talk about it [in conversation], don’t blog about it” – such wise words from Polly Gowers, and something that I’ve learnt already in a lesser context. If you’re going to use your blog for the greater good, make sure it’s a cause or subject that is close to your heart and that you genuinely have some empathy or affiliation with. Spend time seeking out the cause that sings well with you, if one doesn’t immediately spring to mind.
3. “We end up with people with multiple degrees writing for us for free” – enlightening and honest words by Dan Elton from Left Foot Forward. There’s been a lot said recently about the way in which writing as a skill is becoming incredibly devalued, and this comment said it all, unfortunately.
4. Sarah Ebner of The Times’ School Gate: “Look for things that might not get coverage in mainstream news” – as a blogger, I have complete editorial control over what I write. Having worked as a journalist for a number of years, that’s the part about blogging that I really love. It also means that we have the scope to notice the holes in mainstream news reporting, and fill them.
5. “Create a page or post about your writing aspirations – [book agents] want to know what sorts of books you want to be writing” – a great tip from Erin Niumata of Folio Literary Management. I’m sure many bloggers secretly dream of getting published (I know I do!), and if that’s the case, having a place on your blog where curious book agents can take a look to find out more about your writing aspirations seems a really clever trick.
6. Sarah Brown: “You need to maintain that bond of trust and sense of authenticity…Your blog will develop and shape itself over time, as will you” – I am already finding that my blog is changing shape and scope, less than one year into beginning it.
7. Cherry Healey: “Lots of people here have blogs which have massive telly potential…and are perfect for a wider audience” – I LOVE Cherry Healey and was so excited to hear her speak, and she didn’t disappoint. I was really taken aback by her honest advice. I doubt my life has TV potential, but great words of advice for those Mummy blogs that might have. But more than that, how inspiring is it to know that TV producers are reading our blogs for programme material and ideas!
8. “However the world treats you, don’t let it change the way you want to treat the world” – such an inspiring quote from Sarah Brown, which I found particularly pertinent to us working Mums. Since becoming a mother I’ve discovered that the world has treated me very differently – particularly within the professional side of my life. I remember my first important business meeting after having my daughter, which massively over-ran. My husband was waiting in the car with her and I knew she would be screaming for her feed (she was only six-months old and I was breastfeeding). I was the only woman in the meeting and I knew I would be judged if I spoke up and said that I needed to leave to feed my baby. So I didn’t say anything, and finally returned to an incredibly stressed baby and husband. Sometimes I find it very hard not to bear a grudge towards the professional business world, which sometimes makes it so difficult for working Mums, and particularly those with babies and young children.
9. “Light travels in a straight line” – such a useful photography workshop by Julia Boggio, author of ‘I carried a Watermelon’. Remembering this simple fact of light will, I hope, enable me to improve my blog photography.
10. Andrea Stuart on writing about your life: “Start writing where you are most excited. Don’t do it in a linear way” – while this advice was given in the context of writing a memoir, I believe it to be true of most pieces of feature-based writing. So often I find that if I try and begin a blog post at the beginning, I often get writer’s block. But by beginning with the crux of the message or story that has grabbed your interest, you can then shape the rest of your piece of writing around it.
Three personal BritMums Live! highlights for me were @SarahBrownUK following me back on Twitter (!), meeting Cherry Healey in person, and this heart-warming video that Julia Boggio shared with us at the end of her photography workshop, showcasing her dirty dancing with Patrick Swayze! I’m green with envy. Scroll forward to the two minute point and enjoy!
If you’re a #BritMumsLive blogger reading this, and we didn’t get a chance to speak this weekend, please say ‘hi’ below. All feedback and opinions are always welcome…