It’s the last day of the 2012 Type-A Parent Conference, and it’s time for the We Still Blog keynote panel with Cecily Kellogg, Katherine Stone, and Tanis Miller.
“How many people remember blogging?” (Hands raise amidst laughter.)
Katherine is reading Overwhelmed by Motherhood: The Anatomy of an Anxiety Attack. It’s bringing tears to her eyes, and it’s really touching me to the core. I’ve been there with the anxiety attacks. Our childhoods were very different, but as a fellow anxious introvert, I feel like we still have so much in common. Anxiety is not rational, and it can sneak up on you. The shame we shouldn’t feel because of our illnesses.
She got a standing ovation, and she deserved it.
Cecily is reading a post about sticking to her guns and not dieting. I cannot find a link to it. The Special K commercial where the thin woman who gets stuck in the chair meant for a child and vows to lose weight on the Special K diet.
Tanis is reading a post that isn’t funny, like she had intended. Dinner with Anissa inspired her to read My Son Has a Super Power. There is a lot of sniffling in the room and dabbing at their eyes.
“That’s why. You guys crying, you guys responding. That’s why we blog,” Cecily says
Community, writing, and therapy. That’s why they say they blog.
Next month is her eight year blogiversary. “How is it possible to do this for eight years?” She started blogging because she felt alone and isolated when she was suffering from postpartum depression. She couldn’t stand the idea of someone else feeling the way she did. She didn’t have a plan, but she had a sense of purpose…to help somebody. That’s why she started, and that’s why she still does it. Her purpose is much greater than her.
“I love you guys.”
She started blogging because her son was 5 years old when he died. She lived in a remote area with no visible neighbors, and she was alone in the house all day long while her other two kids were in school, so she turned to the Internet. She found mom blogs, but no one who knew exactly how she felt. She didn’t know how to laugh or how to feel anymore. “Grief is a dark, dark place that will smother any kind of light you have…and it doesn’t matter how many years it’s been, but sometimes I still have to remember how to laugh.” She blogs to remember how to laugh. If one person is touched by what she writes (or what any of us write) then it’s worth it.
She started blogging because she couldn’t have a baby. She’s talking about the fertility forums where women talk about “baby dancing” (sex) and sprinkling each other with “baby dust.” It was so not her. Then she found some bloggers who were really real.
One of the things about being a long-term blogger is the struggle to stay relevant.
Differentiating Your Story
Tanis says her kids were already 8 and 9 when she started blogging, so they could already read. Their family dynamic has meant that they’ve always realized that that their mom is going to make fun of them online. But as they’re growing up, she writes stories that are relevant to her, and it’s the small moments in life that are most relevant to everyone in this room. We all have big problems. If you’re waking up in the morning and putting yourself out there, you’re taking another bite out of life.
Katherine says she has it a little easier because she blogs in a niche that isn’t going to go away. She has an audience that is always coming in as more and more women have babies. Her challenge now is that she’s getting farther and farther away from the immediacy of postpartum depression. It was just her blogging when she first started, but she had to give up control (and she’s OCD) to let other women tell their stories on her blog. She says she’s more of an editor right now. She also has a new blog at Babble called Something Fierce. She worries that she’ll only be known as “the PPD girl.”
Branching Out, Transitioning
Cecily has been blogging since before Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. There was only your blog and your comments, and that was it. There was no way to promote your blog outside comments. After she lost her boys, she lost the ability to be funny in long form on her blog, so she does funny on Twitter while her blog remains more serious.
Tanis says she was very overwhelmed with social media when it first came out. She said she quit Twitter after two days and didn’t come back for over a year. Now people keep asking her to write other places. Her blog and her Twitter feed became her resume. Her Facebook page is like a cover letter. She has never made much money off her blog, but she gets other paying opportunities because of her blog. She doesn’t shut her computer off and has to force herself to walk away from the computer to spend time with her kids. (I totally understand that.)
Katherine says, “Twitter became my place to be me.” Her blog readers were dealing with such big problems with PPD, they didn’t want to hear about what she was having for dinner or where she was going for vacation. Like most of us (yep) she has social anxiety, so the thought of going to blogging conferences was like putting forks in her eyeballs. But once she actually started going, she started forming relationships, and that’s when people started asking her to do things. Although she still doesn’t get many invitations, because “Who wants to invite the DEPRESSED girl?”
Get out there, be yourself, and it doesn’t matter how much success anyone else has or hasn’t had.
Tanis says her unofficial tagline is “dead kids, disabilities, and dildos.” There are lots of brands that don’t want to touch her, but there are brands who have embraced her. No matter how you brand yourself, as long as you are being yourself, you can inspire brands to want to work with you.
Katherine says that sometimes it does hurt when you see something going on with a brand, and you didn’t get picked, remember that they are a business, and it’s not necessarily anything wrong with you, but working with you and your blog doesn’t necessarily meet with their particular goals.
It’s Not Always About Pageviews
Cecily is talking about having influence, taking ads off her blog, and how she makes enough money to support her family even though her pageviews have fallen off since the time her sons died.
Katherine can’t stand Klout and all of those things that have ridiculous rules for gaining their measured influence. She’s never going to stop following people who don’t have a lot of followers. She’s never going to buy Twitter followers. Remember that thing you wanted to do when you started your blog, write it down on a piece of paper, and look at it whenever you think that you’re not getting the fake measures of influence that are supposed to be important in the blogging world.
Tanis is talking about how she never really had influence. After destroying herself with disappointment in the numbers game, she decided that she only worries now about the influence she has with her friends and the people she cares about.
How to Keep Blogging
Cecily is talking about losing track of how many times she’s wanted to quit blogging, and it’s usually because somebody said something horrible. She’s talked about not calling people trolls, but “invested critics.” There are two ways to disagree, “I disagree with you and here’s why…” and “You’re an idiot and here’s why…” The first is definitely preferable.
Heather Armstrong actually saved Cecily from quitting blogging when she emailed her and told her how many people she helps everyday.
Tanis says her “best troll story” is that she made up her dead kid story for pageviews. (Shocked gasps and head shaking throughout the room.) But then she gets an email from someone whose child just died and they don’t know what to do, and she keeps going.
Katherine says that wanting to quit is more about being overwhelmed. “All these young whippersnappers keep inventing new things,” like StumbleUpon, Pinterest, and all of the things we’re expected to get into as a blogger. She feels like she’s mediocre on so many levels. She gets too much email she can’t get to. Her husband calls it “drinking through a fire hose.” She doesn’t quit because she looks back at that piece of paper that reminds her why she started – to help other women with postpartum depression. Remember your purpose, talk to your friends, and let people talk you back down when you want to give up.
“For me, the best thing ever, is that I have gotten so many beautiful people in my life, including many of you.”
Tanis agrees, saying, “Thank y’all for being my friends.”
Cecily says she eats up all of these new platforms, and she’s thankful she can geek out about Google+ on Mom Crunch.
Cecily’s favorite moment in blogging is when she had a woman who railed against her, telling her she was horrible and she had killed her sons when she had to terminate her pregnancy to save her life… the same woman emailed her again in a few months and said that she was in the same situation. She had to terminate a pregnancy to save her life. While the situation was horrible and heartbreaking, the woman’s conservative Catholic community was reviling her, but Cecily’s blog community embraced her and provided the support she needed.
Katherine is talking about how having a mental illness means she needs sleep or you won’t see her for days because she’ll be in the hospital. It’s hard for people to understand that when you’re a blogger and a mom. It ties in with what Cecily said about FOMO: Fear of Missing Out.
Amy wants to know how the panelists deal with people nearby in real life that just suck compared with all of the wonderful women in this room. Tanis says that not everyone in your real life understands what you’re doing. She jokes about how her husband says there are two Tanises – the one in real life, and the one who lives on the computer. But she says she owns what she’s writing, and if you let the people around you affect the way you blog, then they win.
“Whenever I come to a conference, I feel alive,” says Katherine. I think we all know exactly how she feels. And then she goes home and gets the “dog face.” She explains:
“So what is it you do?”
*cocks head to the side like a dog*
“Here at conferences, I am Cecily. I am not wife. I am not mom. I am not daughter. I am Cecily, the woman.”
And we’re running way over the time limit, and there’s no way I could type fast enough for all of this Q&A.
Thank you all, ladies, for sharing your stories with us. This has been a very inspirational session.
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Tags: blogging, conferences, Type-A Parent