I have been to so many conferences, I’d never be able to count them – but only three about food blogging – most recently FBC 2017 in Ottawa.
Conferences are exhausting. The fatigue of travel sets the stage, and once the conference begins you “are on”. Not that you are necessarily “performing”, but you need to be your public self.
If you are by nature introverted and need a certain amount of alone time (yes…) – that must all be placed on hold – otherwise what’s the point of going to the conference? You talk, share, meet new people, listen, learn, and think and think and think. The emotional and intellectual demands are layered onto the physical challenges of spending too much time sitting and eating (although…. yum…)
There are gifts - and I’m not referring to the amazing loot bag. Formal presentations and informal interactions can be inspiring and uplifting. That energy seeks a balance with being lost in quiet reverie – reflecting on what it all means.
In my full time work life, the cost of the privilege of going to a conference was to return to the workplace and share learning with colleagues. The aftermath of an FBC Conference is more introspective – and that introspection may go into high speed even as you travel home (even if the train is not high speed).
“Post-conference mood”? I know I am not the only one who swings between feeling pumped versus slumped.
Indeed, “slumped” was the theme of a session on burnout – so well attended that it instantly offered “It’s not just me” consolation. Practical suggestions valuable to anyone – not just food bloggers – included various writing tasks – and so here I am writing.
Another session asked us to ponder “Branding” (more on that later). I suspect that part of my brand is “too many words” – and if you don’t like too many words, you may be checking out already.
I’m supposed to not worry about that. Try telling that to someone who subscribes to the Jewish saying “Start worrying. Details to follow.” [Source]
One thing that feeds worrying? Contradictions. Let me share a few. They are not criticisms of conference content – in fact philosophers say we worry too much about contradictions. [Source]
The conference theme was “Embrace Yourself” which itself embraces ideas such as “be yourself”, “be authentic”.
No surprise then to encounter the message “Stop looking at other people’s blogs.” I like that. Helps you avoid the “curse of comparison”. (Incidentally, that is truly a cursed, debilitating blogger disease.) “Stop looking. Stop comparing.” That message now lives in my brain - but it has to share space with the opposite suggestion. “Look at other people’s blogs, looks for trends” – and in case you don’t have time to do that, we’ve done it for you and here are the trends. Are you “on trend, Diane”? Um… nope. Should I worry?
One trend? Video – and lots of help on this was offered. I watch too much TV, but am not a huge fan of food videos (though the “silent” one from Peaceful Cuisine was mesmerizing). There are many things better to eat than one’s words, so I will not say that I will never try making them. Bizarre, really, since learning style assessments say I am a visual learner – and yet I have some preference for words, and would rather devote 30 minutes listening to a podcast (e.g. I love The Fridge Light) than 5 minutes watching a video. How does this makes sense? (Don’t worry about answering – it was a rhetorical question.)
There was tremendous support for being ok with who you are – as a food blogger – that’s your “Brand” – what people will see and feel when they visit your site. This was paired with valuable tips on how to clearly and creatively communicate your brand.
I am still not sure what my “brand” is. I worry about that. After three years, some patterns are revealing themselves and I am beginning to think I need not apologize for them.
I describe my blog as a “legacy” blog – mainly, but not exclusively, trying to record for posterity favourite and family recipes. My stories point to a brand that has something to do with nostalgia (family and culture). From the time I was five I knew I wanted to be a “teacher” and that thread has been the warp and weft of my life. (Yes, I used to weave.) The love of learning means I like research (which is why I loved Elizabeth Baird’s presentation on The History of Food in Canada!!) and it also means I offer (wordy) preambles about the history of a recipe; I want to help readers be successful cooks and aim to offer foolproof recipes – that also tends to equate to “a lot of words” (some might say, too many words).
It’s almost easier to list “not my brand” – I don’t share nutritional details, or aim for a niche such as gluten-free, vegan, paleo. (I subscribe to everything in moderation – that even includes full fats.) I have no ads; do minimal food styling in photos (trying to do better); surprisingly I seem to focus more on sweets than savouries; while there may so far be more “classic” recipes – I can be distracted by trends (Squirrel!). I try to make my writing engaging, but see? Too many words.
In a nutshell. I like learning, teaching, cooking, eating, researching, writing and tech. I worry that’s not a brand.
Since I’m already over my planned word count, let me tell you about Seymour Papert – he influenced my teaching and learning. He offers this analogy about learning:
“If I wanted to become a better carpenter, I'd go find a good carpenter, and I'll work with this carpenter on doing carpentry or making things. And that's how I'll get to be a better carpenter. So if I want to be a better learner, I'll go find somebody who's a good learner and with this person do some learning.” [There’s more here, but I hope I have made the point.]
I am a learner (lifelong, every single day) and if you want to learn more about cooking, stick with me. Meanwhile I need to learn more about food blogging and thus persist in my goal of creating my “community of carpenters”. FBC Facebook and Conferences deliver on that in spades!!
By the way, it was also advised that our blog should have a "tag line" – like the subtitle of a book. Not sure what that can be until / unless I can convey my brand in fewer words. So far all I have come up with is “old lady remembering recipes”; or “kitchen wisdom from the wizened”. I worry neither is suitable.
In blogging, numbers are important and a way to quantify the community you want to build. I am very interested in building community and already have a draft post on this. The mastery of social media is a tool for building community – and – here comes the contradiction – one presenter who had three offers from book publishers admitted that she’s not good at Twitter and therefore does not use it much. I’m not a fan of Twitter and have often ignored it for months. Don’t worry – I am not expecting that will lead to book offers.
“Success” is everyone’s goal, and begs for definition – income? celebrity? satisfaction? I am not relying on my blog for income and have not taken any steps to monetize. (I think) I was “a somebody” in my previous life. Not so sure I want to be one in this life. The “issues” and “need to know /do” differ for bloggers on these pathways. I don’t envy them.
I was reminded about the success that can come from being a hardworking, high energy, risk taker. I’m guessing it also helps if one is adorable, and honestly, some of the younger bloggers have the whole package. They are breathtakingly impressive and (as somebody said) today’s technology has stripped away the gatekeepers that used to stand in the way of creative productivity. Their work and achievements almost make me giddy about the talent in this country!
As for me, I’m with Einstein “A quiet and modest life brings more joy that a pursuit of success bound with constant unrest.” [Source]
Unrest. That’s Albert’s word for “worry”. If quiet and modest are the antidotes to “constant unrest” (aka worry), I’ll be adopting that as my mantra.
Pumped or Slumped? Pumped and Slumped? Melissa referred to David duChemin’s advice: “You can’t have this creative life, ask for the highs, and never get the lows… it’s in the lows of the wave where we feed inspiration. If we are conscious of the shape of the wave and the way our process works, we know that wave will crest again."
I’m feeling the next wave.
I’m stealing an idea from Loreto and Nicoletta of Sugar Loves Spices who end every blogpost with the “Song of the Day”.
I invite you to take four minutes to listen to / view Bobby McFerrin singing Don't Worry Be Happy (with Robin Williams).
Feeling my brand. Going to worry less (hahahaha). I write for myself. (But if you are reading this - well - yay!) Am seeking carpenters. Quiet and modest. Pumped.
Grateful for the FBC Community! 2018 – Road Trip!
I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of this. I think much applies to all "creatives". Click on the word "Comments", below. If you enjoyed this read, please take a second to click on "Like"! Don't worry - will still love you if you don't.