Mumsnet Blogfest 2014

iHijinx at Mumsnet Blogfest 2014My day did not start well – I was up before dawn and had no coffee for the next THREE hours. I pounded cobbled streets in heels dragging an overnight bag and arrived at Mumsnet Blogfest a hot and bothered mess. Downstairs I found my friend, the lovely Michelle @mandalastyle and Coffee (capital C!). I made my first new friend of the day, the gorgeous, Nadine @GermanGirlinLDN five minutes later. My day was on the up.

The first keynote kicked off to get us all in the right frame of mind for the day. My frame of mind, however, took a little more coaxing – not because the coffee hadn’t kicked in. Sitting behind me were three ladies who decided the opening keynote was a good time to catch up. They spoke loud and clear, no discretion. A shame because the discussion sounded like it might be interesting. Having time away from home and children is a rare treat and I wasn’t going to let rude inconsiderate people spoil #Blogfest for me. (Confession: I did have an Ally McBeal moment where I karate chopped their heads off leaving lipgloss stylo’s sticking out of their silent mouths… I’m a writer, I give good imagination… ahem)

More coffee – praise be! I am aware I sound like I have a caffeine addiction – I don’t. It’s not a problem at all *twitches, takes sip of coffee*. Met more fellow bloggers – properly lovely people. In business I was able to put on a networking/sales head when I needed to. Now I’m neither in the habit nor am I inclined to it. The atmosphere at Blogfest was so relaxed it wasn’t an effort. Also, I didn’t encounter a single scowler, grump or snoot all day.

Michelle and I hooted our way through the next session – How to Find Your Funny. Agony, we were advised, is funny – not your average hammered thumb but proper hideous life agony. Jon Ronson was told he had type 4 cancer only to be told, “Oops, soz, we got it wrong – here, have some cream for it!” the next day. Hilarious! (Yowzers! might take a little practice) We were advised to switch off our, “what will people think of me,” censor and enjoy honest writing. Arabella Weir made the most technical statement of the session with, “if you don’t have a sense of humour you’ll never be funny.” I scribbled it down in my notepad with inner dialogue of, “oh, crap… do I laugh? …erm, yes! I laugh a lot… even when I’m not supposed to!” Sense of humour – tick!

Think Bombs next. Something light hearted and airy – great! Think rhymes with stink, ergo funny (I’m working on my funny… stay with me). WRONG. Camila Batmanghelidjh blew me right out of my boots in the first minute of her Think Bomb. She imparted the true definition of philanthropy and what it means to us as humans to be connected and the positive results that connection gives us. Philanthropy is rooted in equality but has become perverse and selfish. This bomb deserves more of my time and has prompted a thought process for a blog post.

Next was Suzanne Moore. She gave a soul boosting, empowering talk. Self sabotage overpowers us and it shouldn’t. She shared nuggets like, you say: “if I write this, people might not like me…” her take, “assume nobody likes you and write what you want. Write it from your heart. If you feel you’re not good enough – pretend!” As someone who falls foul of self sabotage too often I have taken this as permission to stick two fingers up at my SS demon – piss off you little shit, I never liked you anyway! I feel lighter already.

Francesca Martinez posed the question, What the F*$@ is normal? “Culture fears difference,” she said. An issue I have battled with all through my teenage years and beyond. You are right, Francesca, it’s hard to say, “I like myself,” easy to type, hard to say aloud – especially after Camila’s speech. It’s not a simple statement is it? At this point I’m deep in thought and in awe of Francesca’s inner peace. This bomb will take more time and introspection to figure out.

The most wonderful thing happened during Think Bombs – here were three very different people with different messages, those messages were not what I had expected at all. Delving deeper into simple concepts certainly revealed bombs/a slap of truth and honesty right in the kisser!

Lunch time – otherwise known as conscious consuming courtesy of #ClearAplate by Unilever and Oxfam is a good idea – food, like any resource should not be wasted. As a family we actively try to reduce food waste and make regular donations of food. As a parent my concern would be an underlying message of food abuse but I haven’t firmed up my thoughts on this yet. I saw the TV ad last night and it was very moving. Lunch BTW was yummo! But. I wish I’d had somewhere to put my drink while I ate. Once my plate was clear I took a stroll around the mezzanine which provided more encounters with cheery Blogfest folk. (I’d like to say at this point that I’ve become aware of those who felt excluded – it’s easy to feel awkward if you’re on your own and I wish I’d met you.)

I’d booked into the Advanced Social Media session next. The information imparted during this session was good, solid, useful stuff but the delivery? It might as well have been written on the side of the Eurostar train, try taking notes while that sucker’s whizzing by! Kate Rushworth’s YouTube talk was calmer and jam packed with well structured teaching. I was able to process the advice and make coherent notes. Kate Rushworth came across as a warm, friendly, approachable person. Her talk made me more inclined toward YouTube as a company.

This was followed by afternoon tea – more food and drinks. I was so very glad dinner wasn’t booked till 8.30 that night. I also found the #ClearAplate image I’d tweeted via @ihijinx got a RT from Unilever. Yaah!

The final keynote panel were amazing. My novel is still a WIP, I was keen to hear what advice these experienced writers could share. There were no real golden nuggets in this session but it was a comfort to know such experienced writers share the same insecurities and time pressures as me. Nick Hornby asked the question, “could you stop writing? If the answer is yes then stop. If you can’t let it go then keep going”. Lynn Barber stated that if you made money from writing then you were a writer. I couldn’t disagree more. I don’t think you need money to validate a passion. Lisa Jarmin was ace – real, grounded and, as yet, unsullied by fame. The others came across really professionally – confident and self assured. Gah! What I mean is I connected with Lisa Jarmin because she sounded like an ally. Her advice (just as valuable as Nick Hornbys), “amend your email signature to include Freelance Writer when pitching your writing to magazines.” Sounds like a plan, I’m on it!

  • Find time to write – we are too good at putting things in the way of our goals
  • Be disciplined – make yourself do it
  • Write so it’s as natural as brushing your teeth
  • Look after your inner writer – park your anxieties
  • Blogging is about spontaneity
  • Finally, we were given permission to think differently

Lucy Porter rounded off the sessions with some honest, agony fuelled humour. She told us we should do stuff without the need for validation. Actually, I thought, I DID need validation. I needed to feel like I was doing something right rather than battling in the dark on my own. That’s where Mumsnet came in for me. Very early on in the life of my blog Mumsnet picked my post as their blog of the day – the blog wasn’t picked, I was. That’s what it meant to me – I could do it and people other than my kind friends and family – strangers – thought I could too. Motherhood can be all consuming – it’s easy to feel like you’ve dropped out of the real world. I pretend a lot. I show a face of calm and order even when I’m falling apart. Most people think I’m really confident – I’ve been described as a go-getter. I don’t feel a fraud, I do it to get through my day.

I usually keep my posts down to 600’ish words but I felt this deserved more. Mumsnet have given me support, not only with blog of the day or front page, but that silent support you get from being part of a big team. No big egos, a we’re all in it together kind,  of attitude. Mumsnet Blogfest left me buzzing, enlivened and energised in a way that I’m still feeling today as I polish this up ready to post live. I started Blogfest with a yawn and a stretch, blinking in the half light. I left Blogfest, eyes bright, head up with a strong confident stride. My aim is to keep that stride and see where it takes me.

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