I see most of you as writers. Good writers. But few of you are as good as Tolstoy. The main difference between you and Tolstoy is that Tolstoy would not dance with me at a party, or even return my email. Blogging is writing + the addition of you returning my email. I lose interest in blogs where I don’t have some sort of interaction with the author at least once a year. BlogHer was special to me because it gave me an opportunity to do regular shit with other writers: talk, drink, make fun of people, gossip — as well as discuss common writing and blogging issues. For one weekend, you get the opportunity to break bread and eat Ragu-sponsored spaghetti with people you have never met in real life, but know so much about, from their marital issues, children’s quirks, and what type of vibrator they enjoy.
I was pretty impressed with the conference. The organizers work their asses off trying to make this chaos work. Every year, there are new dramas. If you do some searching, you’ll find a lot of commentary about all the infamous swag bags and Nikon hating babies of BlogHer09. You’ll also see a lot of finger-pointing. The influential PR bloggers will blame the greedy mommybloggers. The mommybloggers will blame the party organizers. The feminists will blame the homeschoolers. Badges will now go up announcing a blogger’s integrity and kindness and allegiance. None of this is surprising to me. Everyone wants to transform the organization into their own image, like God did with Adam.
Can you see the real problem? There is no one “woman blogger.” Some are college professors. Some are truckdrivers. How do you get them all to feel happy at the same table? It is impossible.
My friend became a rabbi after college. He was always into spirituality. He is now a rabbi at a synagogue in New Hampshire. He tells me that his job deals less with religion than personal politics. He has to please the Board of Directors who run the ship. He has to juggle which wedding to attend when two congregants have an event on the same day. He has to say nice things at the funeral of the town jerk. If a congregation of 300 Jews have 300 views at one synagogue, imagine how hard it is to please so many women, black and white, rich and poor, at BlogHer.
If politics is an inevitable part of any organization, with different “tribes” fighting for their role at the table, I would like to push the writer-types to speak up a little more. You shouldn’t let the others steal the blogging thunder away from your blogging world. Writers should be center stage at a blogger’s conference, not those using blogging to sell things, or for self-promotion. Creative female writers should try to force the organization to fit their own image… just like everyone else. The personal is political.
Amy and I enjoyed doing our Storytelling Session (link to live-blogging of session), but I was surprised that the bulk of the sessions had little to do with writing. Where is the writing at BlogHer? Isn’t that what blogging is all about? Writing?
Imagine a conference on the television industry. All the writers and producers of all the network shows come together, from Judge Judy to The Simpsons to Entourage, to meet, network, and learn from each other. Now imagine that 90% of the discussion is about the COMMERCIALS! Advertisers are walking around, trying to interest you in product placement. The most popular sessions are about getting corporate sponsors for you TV show. When there are sessions about the TV shows, it is usually of the practical matter — “How will this show affect the children?” “Should I include my real name on the credits or should I use a pseudonym?”
These are all interesting subjects, but this stuff should be the sideshow. The WRITING should NOT be the sideshow at a blogging conference. That’s why the community keynote is always the highlight of the event. It is about the CONTENT… the bloggers…. the writing… about the reason we are blogging.
The other aspects of blogging are important, but they should accept their place as second class citizens in a writer’s medium. Once you let the sponsors run the show, you get crappy TV shows. That’s why we all watch HBO.
I’m not really complaining. I had a great time. I was honored to be allowed to do a room with Amy. It was fun. But when I read the fingerpointing about the swag bags and the greed and the sponsors, I shake my head and laugh, because no one seems to be looking at the big picture. You get the conference you deserve. If all the conference talk is about PR and marketing, or how to sell your book, etc. then that is what the conference is going to be about — PR and marketing. Even the blog business cards were out of control. The parties were too loud and focused on selling something. I love commercials on TV, but I’m not sure that is what I want to talk about when I go to a television conference. I want to talk about the creative content with the creative people.
And to do some dancing.
I hope this post doesn’t scare anyone off from going. This weekend was one of the most interesting in my blogging career. I would definitely go again. In fact, I insist that all of you go to some sort of blogging conference at least once while blogging, just to jar you from the comfort of your living room.
I did a lot of running around, following people here and there, and I was exhausted by the end. Next time, I would take things a little slower, trying to make more time with certain people, and creating an experience that is more suitable for my personality. I was too much of a “Citizen of the Month” on my first trip, following all the rules, going to all the sessions and parties, and forgetting to make my own agenda.
Thanks for a great time. It makes me want to eventually meet all of my blogging friends.