Today I attended (much of) the Minnesota Blogger's Conference. Originally founded four years ago by my friend Missy and Patrick's friend Arik, the conference has undergone a lot of changes over time, from a kind of rough-and-tumble beginning at CoCo, to honing for two years, and then a slightly pulled-back-but-still-incredibly-valuable event today. The conference is involving more people — more volunteers (it seems), more people on the steering committee, more topics — and even more male presence (it looked about 60/40 female to male today, a big difference from Year 1 where the group photo with Patrick and a whole bunch of hot women would make a lesser wife very jealous). As it addresses more ideas and topics, it also struggles with some growing pains, but the sheer ability to meet lots of other bloggers, and learn how to be a better blogger while doing so, is incredibly valuable.
(you would think that after all these years and networking and education that this would be a better blog, but I digress...)
A lot of the bloggers there today were new to the conference and even new to blogging, with many having written for less than a year (many of those people maintain multiple blogs as well; how do they keep it up?) Many people who I have known for years through Twitter and blogging were not there, and made me think about how they have subdued their online presence lately — and I miss them. Life is so changeable, and the online efforts that are so important to you at one point in your life can become your total last priority a year later; they ebb and flow just like real life friendships and time do. But it doesn't mean you miss your friends any less.
With new people come new emphases. This year, at least in the sessions I attended, there was a lot of talk about SEO and optimization and making money and the like. Again, important to others — totally not my scene.
Which is what made my friend Kate's remarks on the first panel so much more striking. I've been a Kate fangirl since I first encountered her (also at MNBlogCon), in a break-out session led by the fabulous writer Kate Hopper (who was not at the blog conference today because she was speaking at the Minnesota Book Fair, see earlier comment about shifting time and priorities). When it came time in that break-out to read what we had written, Kate (Selner's) piece was so raw and poignant and beautiful, wrapping up cooking and remembering her mother and everyday life that it forever changed my relationship to all of these things. So, Kate's like that.
Today, her comments were true to that vein. About being your authentic self, about writing what you are called to, about not worrying about analytics and optimization and branding and monetization — but about what you are fully called upon to write.
That's why I write this humble little blog, with its sporadic entries and wide-ranging topics and enormous inconsistency. But even more, it's why Patrick, whose blogs are thousands of times more successful than mine could ever hope to be, also writes — which gives that approach a lot of validation. I'm not saying that the slick, optimized blogs don't have their place in the world.
But I'm going with Kate's approach every time.