I am liveblogging the first breakout session of the Blogher conference, "Finding and Following Your Passion." Here's the description from the conference website:
"Many people define blogging as writing with passion. How do you define passion? Do you follow your passion when you write, when you work, when you go through your day? Could you? Is blogging the only way and time that you allow yourself the freedom to follow your passion? Join bloggers who are blogging about and with passion every day."
Christine Kane said this is a small session and this may be because the concept of "passion" is a more nebulous topic - the whole bottle of "be, do, and have." We should start with what we are and the rest comes from that. How did they start a blog just with the simple seed of what they were passionate about and how it grew. Christine Kane: Why I blog and why I'm here is because of that idea of reaching other people. I've been a songwriter and singer for 15 years. It's about creativity, what it takes to be a performer and hav a career as an artist. I wanted to challenge myself to step out of little "songwriter wanna-be" and realize what it takes to help other people with what she knows.
Carmen Staicer is here because she started a diet and weight loss blog. It's an offshoot of her first blog, about her life with six kids. After her fifth and sixth kids were born, her youngest was diagnosed with a mild form of autism. She was self-medicating with food, depressed. In September, 2005, she made a new year's resolution to lost weight, no matter what. She talked about it so much on her blog that her readers were unhappy. She then started the "ELFF" Diet. It stood for "eat less food fatty". People were offended! She changed it at her husband's suggestion to "Eat less fatty food." Since starting that blogh she has lost 75 pounds. She is training for a half-marathon. She is passionate about helping other women - encouraging them to exercise: "Yes you CAN take a martial arts class. She wants to tell people that they can do it.
Sheila Scarborough's interests are travel and drag racing and NASCAR. She comes at the blogging thing "from both sides of the brain." Her main blog is hosted on an Australian travel site, "Boots 'n all". She retired from USN about a year and a half ago, became a full-time freelance writer. A friend from the Houston Chronicle said if she was going to be a writer, she needed an online presence. She began a family travel blog. Growing up in and then being in the Navy, she traveled the world and uses that experience.
Christine says there's a slow build to being able to be vulnerable, and finding your voice at the same time.
Next question from Cory, who has blogged since 2003. If you take joy in writing and telling stories, you take joy in building memories. When she writes she hopes there's a response, but at the same time it's for her. It's her voice. Once she had her daughter it clicked for her, because she's changing so fast, it's the first time she can really track. Ultimately it doesn't matter to her if no one ever read it.
Christine says some people have that healthy, great attitude...others want people to read and want to be heard. Cory says that would be great, but in response to the fear of getting started, specifically, try to approach it as a gift to yourself and try not worry about other people.
NotSoSage says her process started slowly, where she didn't know what she was doing, and just started writing about stuff. Because of her life circumstances, she may not be able to do what she wants ten years down the road. She's using her blog as a way of telling people about things that aren't very well known. She has a second blog talking about the way health news is reported in the media - deconstructing it. She started off blogging her life.
Christine talks about getting caught up in stats. What the thing about blogging with passion - the mistaken belief, and same thing for the performer, is that your whole essence should be about the contribution and not worry about recognition. It's natural to worry.
Jenny from Three Kid Circus: Should focus be on "passion based in expertise." She's a parent blogger - she's an "expert parent" but it's a learning process. There's a community that supports you and lifts you up and you become better for being a part of it. Does becoming passionate about something make you an expert? Christine says she hates that word. As Elizabeth describes it, being expert is about the process.
Moxie Mom has a question: how do you find your passion? She's not just about one thing and nor is her blog. Basically her blog is a timestamp. This is what' been happening to me. She likes the idea of a unique voice. How do you find a focus?
Christine asks does anyone have an answer? Sheila said that travel was her thing growing up. Carmen would never have believed that exercise would be a passion. She says that your passion finds you. No one is more surprised than her about hers.
Christine says one of her blocks when she started songwriting was she knew all the things she loved but she was really scared. She was too scared to admit she could do it for a living. Her life was not about "you can do what you want." In an hour and a half we can't get to what peoples' passions are, but the central question is "what don't i want in my life anymore," and "what do I want?" Write about it, blog about it. Stop listening to the voices of fear. If you have a kajillion interests -pick one. Follow your heart, and it'll take you where you need to go. Don't get caught up in all the options.
Statement from the audience: She keeps changing her focus. She's had twelve blogs. She writes about "Mom" stuff. Wonders if other people have found a way to keep it about "you" and still keep an audience. She feels her efforts and her audience are really diluted. Christine says you should explore the belief that "If I do it this way there's no one out there that gives a crap." If you find a voice, know your voice, you'll find an audience. There are plenty of blogs out there that are about many topics that have a large readership.
Carmen says reading other peoples' multi-topic blogs show you all facets of that person. SJ has been blogging since '01. She's always been IAsshole, but she's blogged about many things - home birth, divorce, graduate school. When she shut her blog down, people protested. She found her passion in inspiring other people. She got another woman blogging, who appreciated her message and her experience.
Christine agrees. What she likes about "women bloggers" is they aren't as "niche" - don't need all the taglines and marketing tools. It's a lot more "flowy" and "interested in a million things."
Grace wants to advocate for having multiple blogs. She says No One Watching is "totally narcissistic, all about me". She started out not having a large readership and now she does "and it's weird and I have no boundaries." The second blog split off from the personal blog. It's great for her because she has a "URL she can give her mom" and a URL she would NEVER EVER give her mom.
Christine says there's "so much process about it and that's the part that makes us uneasy." There are many blogs about "rules of blogging - it's very very mental." She adds that it's the process of it that makes your passion come up. There's a seed and it grows. There's all these little things. You come face to face with all of your beauty and your wildness, and also all of your complete "screwed-up-ness."
Marty Long is sitting her listening to the questions and wanted to say that she thinks your life can be your passion. It doesn't have to be something specific. Most of the blogs she reads are just life blogs, mommy blogs or journals. She thinks it's okay. It's nice that people are passionate enough about their life in general and want to have that journaling process and archiving.
Jennifer wants to throw out a resource for anyone wanting to find or identify passion - "The Artist's Way". It's a wonderful resource for finding out what you care about. Christine used it too and so did Liz says "I'm a mommy blogger". She never made it past page 2 of the Artist's Way: "the more you fear something the more you need it." She's a mom to a 16-month old son. She stays home every day and it blows her mind. Carmen says she likes people who are real.
Lisa at Nerdy Renegade referred to Renaissance Soul, for people who have "too many passions" - fabulous book, very affirming. Take the pressure off yourself. It might just be what you're passionate about NOW. We want things set in stone. The world is changing quickly and we're evolving as people - what we're passionate about now will lead us onto other things.
Debra Roby hated like hell the Artist's Way. But Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Process" will give you everything you need to know to be a habitually creative person. Sheila says that your passion is whatever you pull the Excel spreadsheet up to hide on your desktop when the boss walks by.
Miriam says she thinks that reading different people's blogs really gives her permission to be, think, do or not do. She could come to this conference because of all the reading she's done. She feels it's been a very great resource for her. Christine says blogs are a great creative writing practice...there is nothing enlightened about "shrinking so that other people will feel comfortable" (Marianne WIlliamson) There is an audience out there that needs what you have to say.
Asks Christine if someone who is expert or more known in a field needs to have a different approach to her blog. Christine has done a different approach. She used to write about the road. She wanted it to be something that contributes to people in their lives. Wanted to say what it was like to screw up on stage, get bad reviews, share her expderience. She wrote one that said what it was like to be on tour" - it was fun, very vulnerable - she got tons of responses from readers who liked hearing about the weird stuff that happens as a traveling musician. She keeps hers focused because she does have bad days, but she likes to stay in service with her blog and focus on how she got THROUGH the bad stuff, not ON the bad stuff.
Christine wants to know what "unexpected benefits" came from blogging. Sheila says as a full-time writer it's handy to have a number of posts to show an editor. It's a ready example of her voice. She's anal and makes sure her blog is in good shape because it's her porfolio. She doesn't get paid for Boots'nall but her writing there has gotten her paying work elsewhere. Carmen's work on her blog has also gotten her paying work elsewhere.
Christine says the benefits far outweight the fears and insecurities. She already had a career. But she got hired by the Federal government to teach workshops on creativity, earns her several thousand dollars a year. They had seen her cd in Borders but reading the blog sealed the deal. Blogging with your passion has all kinds of little doors and windows that will open. If anyone has any questions and requests for practical suggestions, all the speakers are available to help.