When I attended my first Blissdom Canada as part of a panel about creating social change with your blog, I was new to the entire world of blogging, brands, and conferences. Everything was shiny, exciting, and I was in awe of the entire process. I had read about bloggers taking trips, getting sponsorships, working with brands, and thought that I was getting there - I was becoming one of them, one of the people in the bigger leagues, who I had read, followed, and admired online.
Sitting in a car on the way to the airport when it was all over, Barbara Jones turned to me and asked where I wanted to be in a year. I don't remember now what I said, but she turned to me and said,
"Oh, you're a writer."
At the time, I didn't really understand what she meant, but now I do. I'm not a businesswoman. Thinking of this place in terms of a 'brand' and 'business' doesn't really occur to me. I have no idea what my stats are. I write because it's a natural extension of me, and has always been, as long as I remember. For the years that followed, I tried to be a 'brand'. For the most part, I was pretty successful at it but the longer I went along with the partnerships, the posts, the freebies, etc. the more I felt like people weren't really interested in me, they were more interested in what they could get in return. Sometimes, I felt used.
That's a pretty crappy way to feel.
The last year taught me many things, one being that I can be given the most wonderful material things through blogging, and I still find myself happiest with the simple things. A night out with friends, a lazy Saturday with my husband, sharing an afternoon browsing a food store with Kevin, or puttering in my kitchen is what makes my soul sing. Writing on a Sunday morning, curled up by the fireplace with a cup of coffee is my favourite place to be (which is what I'm doing right this second). One can send me all the products they want, and it won't even touch the high I get from writing something that I know is really good, and hitting the publish button.
You can get everything you thought you wanted, and realize that it's not what you wanted after all. Strangely enough, once I watched an interview with Britney Spears where she talked about hitting the massive success she did in the 90s. She talked about how she had worked so hard for so long, suddenly had everything she wanted, and wanted it all to stop.
Now of course I'm not saying I'm anything like her (or even remotely as successful) but I can relate, in some tiny way, to how that feels. Suddenly your inbox has pitches and people want you to post here and there, tweet this, facebook that, help with this campaign, pick your brain about that product, and all I wanted to do was write.
I wanted it to stop but, on the other hand, was afraid to make it stop. Wasn't this what I wanted? Weren't people counting on me? What would happen if I did? I mean, it's so flattering to think that people want YOU, and listen to your opinion or that they want your endorsement because suddenly your words mean something. Why did my words suddenly mean something once Jamie Oliver listened to me? Is that all it took? Was that the only reason why? Was this going to be a popular today, old news tomorrow kind of thing? Did I really have to constantly work so hard to stay where I was? Do I want to be constantly working to get the next thing to make me some how better, like an iphone, new design, new header, logo, go to conferences, and more off that never ending list, even though I don't see results anyway? Do I even WANT to?
It took my life completely falling apart and then re-arranging itself for me to figure out the answer to that last question. There's something about serious illness and death of those closest to you that makes you really look at your life and decide what's important.
I tried to be the businesswoman for awhile, but the honest truth is, my heart was never in it.
Writing is my first love, and always has been. If I never work with a brand or am paid for my words again, I'll still be here, weaving my prose. No longer do I even care about hits or status, lists or where I fit. People have commented that it must have been a hard decision but no, it wasn't. In fact, it was the easiest decision I've ever made. As Martin Sheen said at We Day , "We are not asked to do great things. We are asked to do all things with great care."
For the past while, I tried to do great things and realized that truthfully, it's not always what it's cracked up to be. The competition, vying for hits and status, the gossip, the online drama, the neverending suckage of time with those I love, the toll on my health and waistline, the constant pressure to preform, is not something I want to be part of. Bloggers are a dime a dozen these days, and you don't necessarily have to be a good writer to succeed, just be a good businesswoman. I see that now.
Instead, I'm choosing to do what I love with great care.