When I first started blogging sixteen months ago, I had no idea where it would take me. I have explained previously how I started my blog during a difficult time in my life, struggling with poor health, and desperately needing something to keep my brain ticking over after having the children. I blogged purely because I love to write, I shared it simply because I was a proud Mummy wanting my story to be heard, and I kept at it because, no matter how hard it got, hearing that it helped others made it entirely worthwhile. Had you told me this time last year that I would reach a point where my blog would become something more than just a hobby, I’d have thought you were winding me up. And had you told me that I would be attending my very first blogging conference, I’d have thought you were insane. And yet here I am, on a post-BlogOn high, fuelled with motivation, powered with inspiration and more determined than ever to carry on doing something that I love.
I had heard of blogging conferences previously, read countless reviews of them from fellow bloggers and told myself that one day I would have the to courage to attend one. And yet every time the opportunity arose I always found an excuse as to why I couldn’t attend, always told myself that maybe next year would be the year I finally got round to it. So when the offer of a ticket came up for BlogOn, it was a spur of the moment decision to go and I barely had time to think about it in too much depth as the date came around so fast and there was no turning back!
Having been told that I needed a) An item of Christmas clothing and b) An empty suitcase, I initially thought there was some kind of “newbie” wind-up going on, an elaborate joke that the more experienced bloggers were all in on, ready to point and laugh at us in our Christmas apparel and our empty luggage. “Are you sure they’re not winding you up?”, my Mum had asked when I told her I needed to borrow her suitcase, “It sounds like they’re pulling your leg!”. “It’s for the goody bag!” I had told her, doubt creeping in, “And I need to wear a Christmas jumper” I added, acknowledging just how ridiculous this sounded. “Oh Laura!” my Mum had said, “They’re definitely having you on!!”. And part of me wondered if she was right….
And yet on Sunday morning, after just three hours sleep following an ill-advised night out, and still wearing the previous nights make-up, I found myself at the train station, wearing my bright red Rudolph Christmas jumper, clutching my empty suitcase and feeling sick with nerves. As I sat on the train I thought about the words of a friend during a much needed pep talk the night before, where, over a few cocktails, he told me that however nervous I was feeling about going to the conference for the first time, he could guarantee that everybody else would be feeling exactly the same way. And with that in mind I swallowed my nerves, and that gnawing feeling that I wasn’t good enough, plastered on a smile, puffed out my Rudolph clad chest, and in I went…
It’s hard to describe the atmosphere to someone who wasn’t there on Sunday. Without giving you a blow by blow account of the day, which wouldn’t sound half as exciting as it really was, it is impossible to describe the noise and the chatter, the swarm of people, shrieks of recognition, the buzz and the excitement of the day ahead. I could sit here all night telling you about the amazing sessions where I learned countless things on a whole array of subjects, ranging from monetising my blog, to the technicalities of word press coding, to the practical sessions creating new and fun ideas for Christmas themed blog inspiration.
I could gush for hours about the inspirational speakers, the success stories, the ideas and suggestions that have been spinning around in my head ever since. I could tell you about the interesting and educational chats that I had with various PR agents, the contacts made, the excitement of future projects and collaborations, the feeling that this was the start of something wonderful for my blog. I could write an entire blog post based on the hard work that must have gone into organising such an event, the tireless efforts of Laura and her team to ensure that everything ran smoothly, the guest speakers who shared their trade secrets and their successes and gave hope to each and every one of us that if we worked hard enough, we could be exactly where they are a few years from now…
And yet actually, despite how amazing all of that was, my favourite part was simply being surrounded by like minded people, by fellow bloggers who completely got it, who didn’t turn up their nose when you tell them that you write for a living, or look at you like you’re crazy and ask, “Blogging? Is that an actual job these days?”. It was recognising a face from right across the other side of the room, rushing over and giving them a huge hug and gushing in mutual appreciation how much we enjoy each others blogs, agreeing that we have the most beautiful babies in the history of man, laughing at how our accents are entirely different to those we had been expecting and chatting like old friends. It was the moments where I couldn’t for the life of me link a face to a name, standing there in a sleep-deprived daze wondering how I was going to wing my way through an entire conversation until they too admitted that they had spent the day feeling equally dazed, feeling exactly the same way, and we ended up laughing in utter relief. It was standing there, wearing my ridiculous Christmas jumper, amongst a group of strong, talented, inspirational people and feeling that, actually, I had just as much right to be stood there as they did. Now that, that was a great feeling.
I took so much away with me from BlogOn this weekend, not to mention the amazing goody bag, but the biggest thing for me wasn’t the huge array of contacts made nor the notepads filled with ways to develop my blog, it was a new found respect for bloggers, and blogging in general, and the knowledge that you don’t have to have the most followers in the world, the best photographs, the all-singing website or the most hilarious stories. It’s all about passion and having belief in yourself, and if you have that, and you write from the heart, then you really can’t go wrong.
Between that and the goody bag (this was one seriously amazing goody bag!!), it was everything I had expected from my first blogging conference and more.
To all of you newbies who are right where I was this time last year, doubting your blog, panicking that you aren’t good enough, wondering if you’ll ever have the courage to go to BlogOn 2017 next year, I say do it. Absolutely do it, and I’ll be seeing you there.
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