13 Aug
2010

My Brand

You know it’s no ordinary conference when you need both hands to count the number of people who approach and ask, “How are your boobs?”

(They were (are) fine, by the way. After skipping feeds both Sunday and Monday morning, I was fearing death-by-chest on Monday afternoon, but then a few Twitter friends suggested I do a final feed just until I was physically comfortable (they actually said I should pump, but I don’t even know where it is anymore), and then after that I should be fine, no need for special sage teas or cabbage leaves or binding or agonized despair. I followed that sage (yet sageless) advice–but oh, the tears!–and wore a tight sports bra to bed that night, and ever since have had zero issues, save for a certain tiny person who still occasionally paws at me and says, “Boobies, boobies,” although he just as often says “Boobies no! Boobies no!” which is proof he understands the situation. Anyway, we’re done and we’re fine.)(*sob*)

When I went to my first BlogHer, in 2006, I knew it was no ordinary conference. Catherine was weaning Emilia, I remember, and in addition to talking freely about how it felt (in all senses of the word)–not exactly your everyday cocktail chatter–she was also wearing star-shaped pasties on her tank top, which, again, I doubt you’d have much of at most other conferences. As a chronic oversharer and a person whose personal boundaries are generally thin and permeable, I knew that this was where I belonged, that these were my people. How lucky that I should end up in this place when This Place didn’t even exist when I first began writing about my life on the Internet, right?.

When I started blogging, in 2003, I never thought it would lead to five years (and counting) of meeting–and then immediately hugging–”strangers” from across the continent. Nor did I think having a blog would result in my one day being taxied down the Avenue of the Americas while smooshed in a two-seater pedicab with an accountant and mother of three from British Columbia and a young lobbyist from all over the East Coast while our driver huffed to get us to the Central Park Boathouse, even as his fellow pedicabbies were heckling him for being dressed like Mario, giant felt moustache and all.

(As a Nintendo Brand Ambassador, I was invited to attend Brand About Town’s annual dinner, and a caravan of Marios was our transportation. (I tried to take what photos I could, but the ones from the event’s official photographer’s full set are better.) There was whiskey at the Boathouse, and filet mignon and friends, and if that wasn’t enough we (and our guests) each left with a DSi and a car ride down Fifth Avenue past the Met and the Guggenheim and the Plaza. This, when all I wanted to do so many years ago was get online to post pictures of my cat!)

Awww.

Now that everyone and her grandma has a blog, I wonder how often the newbies get into this with the intention to just write. BlogHer itself has influenced the community’s emphasis on monetization and branding and blogging-as-business (just look at this year’s panels), and although there’s nothing wrong with that (and indeed much good to come of it), I do think we personal bloggers sometimes get the side-eye for doing what we do simply because we are compelled to share. I can see the words caught behind pursed lips: “You mean you just want to write about your feelings? For free?” They seem to imply that there’s something creepy about opening yourself up to the world gratis, but, I don’t know…shouldn’t it be the opposite? Isn’t there something dirtier about only getting intimate if the price is right?

(Obviously, I do get a small monetary kickback for what I do here, but that has never and will never be my motivation. Contest winners make more than contest hosts on most campaigns, and the ads have never driven content on my main site. I have no qualms getting paid for something I’d do in the absence of pay.)

During the conference, I was invited to stand up with a handful of other bloggers at a private meeting with several dozen CEOs of major (MAJOR) corporations to talk about why I blog. I was last, following, among others, a food blogger who turned her site into a book deal within her first year and one of the cofounders of a big Hollywood gossip site. And then there was me. Who blogs about hookers and how infrequently I bathe my child. Who blogged through a broken engagement and a miscarriage and–much less tragic–finding out our imaginary girlchild had a penis. Stuff that I care about.

So what was I doing there? What business had I being one of a handful of faces to stand for the thousands and thousands of others out there doing thousands and thousands of different things on and with their sites? Lisa Stone called me an “influencer,” a “leader in the community.” I responded with a charming gutteral and then looked away. Now, obviously I’m not the most popular or most successful or most ambitious or hardest working or longest-running blogger out there, but I am, to an extent, representative of what I imagine is still the biggest population of bloggers: people writing about their lives, and not for fame or profit or awards or RTs but because, really, truly, we do just want to talk about our feeeelings. If that’s what I’m known for–being an old-school life blogger–I’m proud as hell of that.

I usually come home from the conference full of ambition and inspired to make my blog bigger, more substantial, filled with more capital-C Content–stuff you’d want to Digg or Stumble or “Like” on Faceplant. This year I only attended one panel, and the rest of the time I spent with friends, talking about things like…well, like how my boobs were doing. It was a different conference for me because of that. I feel more centered and less frantic and desperate because of that.

That’s not to say I’m shunning opportunities because I’m certainly not (major corporations, tweet me!), but the fact that I’m not beholden to some larger goal outside of wanting my blog, first and foremost, to be a journal, means that more often than not that’s what I’m able to share with you–personal things, things that might resonate with you because they’re familiar, or things that might resonate because they’re foreign. Not just stuff I want you to buy.

When I started this site, I was twenty-four years old. I’ve grown up in this world, and it’s as much a part of me now as where I went to school and how long I took piano lessons and what kind of music I listen to when no one else is around to hear. I respect the work others do in using their blogs to become community leaders, activists, voices for important messages, but I’m equally (albeit in a different way) proud of those of us who do it on a smaller, more insulated scale. It doesn’t mean we care less or work less hard, or that we’re less important. Standing up in front of those CEOs and CFOs and CBOs talking not about the brands I’ve worked with or the sites I’m paid to write for or the special privileges I’m allowed but about the people in this community, all of you who have shared your lives with me as I’ve shared mine with you…that, to me, is what makes personal blogging distinct from anything else out there in the world (including chat rooms and message boards and even Twitter).

I love to be important, but it’s more important to be loved. Last I checked, money and fame and popularity don’t hug back.

By    19 Comments    Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries


19 Comments

  • I’ve thought a lot about this and when I think what I want my site to look like when I look back on it one day (and when Kyle looks at it) I don’t want it to be a review landing page or a sponsor kiss-ass or censored in any way. The only way I know how to avoid all that is to write, just write, for me.

    (If the money comes, great, but, man, the writing has to come first.)

  • I almost did ask you about your boobs, but decided not to. Glad to know it all worked out.

    And I’m with you. It’s ok to just blog about your life… for little or no money. I mean, that’s what brought us here in the first place. When someone is only doing it for the bling and the bank, it’s obvious in their writing.

  • I’m a big fan of this brand of yours. Your blog always seems so real, and if I ran into you on the street, I’d probably force you to hug me (creepy, but true; watch out if you’re ever in Portland).

    Little known secret, I had a blog for a couple of years, (2003-2005) and way back then, it was all about the things in your head coming out into an html field. Period. There wasn’t any branding other than having a consistent tone to your writing. We did it because we felt the need to get things out, to process while writing, to SEE what we were thinking. It’s funny, some of the people who were my very best blog-friends are now big! Name! Bloggers! Who make money and everything. And while I do not for one second begrudge them any success, I sometimes miss the honesty and openness that are harder to expose when sponsors come into play.

    My point, is not to say that anyone is doing it wrong (it’s the internet, we are still making it up!), but rather that I like your blog. That’s all!

  • I’m a new blogger and just want to write. Every day, like no one is reading and even when I know I sound like a complete idiot. While there is quite a large subset of new bloggers who actively mine for pageviews and sponsorships and all that jazz, I’d like to believe there are a still a few people new to the medium who just want to sit around in a circle and talk about feelings that would make a stranger on the street blanch.

    Oh, and I’m glad your boobs are fine.

  • Thank you for writing this. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I blog (thus one of my more recent entries), and for me, it really is just to write. It’s nice to hear someone like you say that it’s OK not to want a “brand,” etc.

  • That last photo emphasizes more than ever that, looked at from the other direction,

  • Huh. Stupid HTML.

    Let’s go with “less than 3″ looks like a ballsack from the other direction, then.

  • The personal blogger will always be my favorite. I wish it were more lucrative for you (all), but understand why it is not. I will likely never be at one of those conferences or summits because I don’t have a way of branding or monetizing my eyeballs (they are not equipped with counters for page views or click-thrus or trackbacks or whatever). :-) Thank you, L&S, for sharing your life with us.

    -x-

    There was a brief moment reading a blog some years ago (must be 8 or so) when I considered starting one. A fleeting thought, passing through the transom of my mind, etc. But I didn’t. What I wanted to share then was too personal and I was too afraid.

    Years passed and I considered it again, but I didn’t want to make it my job. And gaining readership would have been like a job for me. Have to post all the time to drive page views. Have to start a flickr account and post pictures and comment regularly. Have to email everyone who comments to encourage them to like me. I was thinking that a blog doesn’t exist without readers, so I never bothered.

    And yet I remember watching some now moderately well-known bloggers get started exactly that way – by viewing it as a job and devoting a ton of time to it. Seeing their comments pop up on highly trafficked sites. The indiscreet mention of their URL. Occasional fawning, more than likely non sequitors (so, I imagined, curious commenters will be all, “huh?” and follow the link).

    I’ve stuck to my journal, with ink smears on my right pinky to show for it. It suits me just fine.

  • Yeah, exactly. I starting blogging back before it was even a WORD.

  • The personal blogger will always be my favorite. I wish it were more lucrative for you (all), but understand why it is not. I will likely never be at one of those conferences or summits because I don’t have a way of branding or monetizing my eyeballs (they are not equipped with counters for page views or click-thrus or trackbacks or whatever). :-) Thank you, L&S, for sharing your life with us.

    -x-

    There was a brief moment reading a blog some years ago (must be 8 or so) when I considered starting one. A fleeting thought, passing through the transom of my mind, etc. But I didn’t. What I wanted to share then was too personal and I was too afraid.

    Years passed and I considered it again, but I didn’t want to make it my job. And gaining readership would have been like a job for me. Have to post all the time to drive page views. Have to start a flickr account and post pictures and comment regularly. Have to email everyone who comments to encourage them to like me. I was thinking that a blog doesn’t exist without readers, so I never bothered.

    And yet I remember watching some now moderately well-known bloggers get started exactly that way – by viewing it as a job and devoting a ton of time to it. Seeing their comments pop up on highly trafficked sites. The indiscreet mention of their URL. Occasional fawning, more than likely non sequitors (so, I imagined, curious commenters will be all, “huh?” and follow the link).

    I’ve stuck to my journal, with ink smears on my right pinky to show for it. It suits me just fine.

  • I’m sorry. This seems to be happening to me often lately. Get an error message that my comment didn’t post and then it does twice. Am I doing it wrong?

  • I love that you blog because you want to, not because its financially viable to blog. I have watched other bloggers that I discovered around the same time as you go on to bigger and more lucrative things but the content, tone and look of their blogs has changed too and now I feel like I am watching a sitcom on tv rather than sitting down in someone else’s front living room. I will have been blogging for four years this October but have never tried to increase traffic or revenue or followers, my blog is just a little place on the internet where friends can stop by to find out what we are up to. Sometimes I wish I could be more out there but then I remember that my Mother-in-law still reads and that my girls are growing up and soon enough time will come when my blog changes. Thank you for remaining true to your brand and for your beautiful, honest and genuine writing!

  • That video makes me super bummed I wasn’t there for the Brand About Town shindig!

    Also, very eloquent and well put as usual.

  • I really love this post. I started a blog just to share. As a new mom, I find blogging is a type of grownup/modern play group. I rely on your blog (and others) to remind me I am not alone when I am having a lonely mommy day, that all kids do “that”, and for a good laugh or a needed cry. There is no gain other than emotional, and for me that is worth more than money.

  • Because I didn’t have reason enough to love you already. I love this. LOVE this.

  • Official Internet Grandmother, you are.

    I love this post.

    Also, as a fellow boob reclaimer, http://www.nakedjen.com/ told me that Sage tea would help with the weaning. And she was right. Immediately right.

    I couldn’t have found that without the BlogHer.

  • I really enjoyed this post. I’m new to blogging and I find myself getting overwhelmed by the idea that I’m not marketing my blog enough. All I really want to do is write, inspire some great conversations, and get people thinking. Thank you so much for reminding me what blogging is all about. Of course I have fantasies that I might make money off my blog one day, but I’m also still waiting for the Bogeyman to jump out of my closet and for my Fairy Godmother to make all my wishes come true. Sigh…..

    ps

    Hope your boobs are feeling better.

  • It’s perfect time to make some plans for the future and it’s time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or advice. Perhaps you could write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it!

  • Impressive post on the blog bro. This amazing is just a completely nicely structured article post on the blog, just the information and facts I was looking just for. Cheers