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Finding My Voice

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One of the most recurrent themes at BritMums Live this year was the need for bloggers to "find their voice".

This is something I have been thinking about ever since I started blogging way back when (2006 I think it was, I lose track!) It was mummy blogs that introduced me to the blogosphere even though I was a long way from being a mummy myself at that point, and so I struggled to find a voice for my blog.

I then started to find home and craft blogs and so, as I set up home with TJ in 2008 and then left full-time work in 2010, it seemed natural for me to start blogging about those things.

But you know what? I'm a terrible housewife (well, compared to all those with homemaking blogs anyway!) and although I love crafts, I have so many other passions as well.

I switched from one blog to another, changing my voice each time (and sometimes even within one blog) and eventually started "Amanda's Patch" (which later became "The Family Patch")  so I could write about anything and everything.

This coincided with my leaving work due to ill health caused by my Endo, so I naturally started writing about that. We were also planning a wedding, so I wrote about that. And then we started thinking about trying to conceive. So I wrote about that too. 

I even started a series on iVillage.co.uk about it.

And then I had the worst pregnancy I could ever have imagined. And I hardly ever blogged. Instead of writing all the "what I'm craving this week" and "look at my bump now" posts I had planned, those few posts I did write were very often focussed on just getting through the pregnancy and surviving HG.

And then, of course, Little Man came along and I barely had time to think let alone blog. But I had so much I could have written about. Like my difficulties breastfeeding. I covered this briefly but not really as much as I'd have liked. And although I have touched upon HG and the book I am writing about it, I haven't had huge amounts of time to write about the other things that are important to me.

And I always put it down to time… or rather lack of it.

But BritMums Live made me realise that this was just an excuse. It wasn't time that kept me away from blogging all the things I was thinking about (although that is a factor, I must admit!) Nope, it wasn't time but lack of direction.

One of the things that people have consistently commented on when reading my blog is the candour and honesty that I write with. And I do indeed find it incredibly easy to pour out my heart when it comes to things like Endo and HG. But these are major issues in my life. And like all those other bloggers who write about the more challenging and traumatic events in their lives, sometimes it is therapeutic to get those things out and onto paper (or screen as the case may be).

And yet, sometimes I don't write about the "day to day" difficulties. I forget that these can be just as important as the big issues I tackle. It's like I've been censoring my posts and only writing those that I felt were "worthy", or rather "meaty", enough to warrant attention.

And that isn't the point. BritMums Live introduced me once again to the reason I first started blogging: to write. I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy every single comment and wish that I could generate as much conversation as some blogs do. Not just for myself but also to prove the popularity and therefore need for books like the HG one so that I have a chance of at least interesting an agent and/or publisher. But too often I can get hung up on stats and comments rather than just writing from the heart.

Which brings me back to the idea of finding my voice and where I want my blog to go.

Well, that's a hard question. Even though I can recognise that I need to forget about stats and comments and just write from the heart, it is hard to actually put that into practise. I am an open and honest blogger. People in my real life see my blog as well as those in the blogosphere. I like it that way, but it does mean sometimes I find myself holding back. 

What if I write something that someone in real life didn't realise about me and it puts them off? What if I write something and one of my new blogging friends does the same? It's scary stuff…

But it also needs to be faced. I've known this for a long time and BritMums gave me the kick up the bum that I needed. My life is diverse, so my blog should reflect that. I needn't worry that blogging about one area will detract from another. Sure, writing about my spirituality on here may not really coincide with the "public" impression I'm trying to give in terms of the HG book, but this is my personal blog. When it comes to marketing myself for the book I can always set up a separate page for that, if needs be.

My voice is honesty. It's saying what I feel, rather than what I think needs to be heard. It's sharing how deep and dark certain health issues and life choices are. And it's sharing the faith that gets me through that.

By holding all this back I am denying a part of who I am and weakening my voice. The very act of worrying about what others will think is stopping me from being who I am. And what's the point of having a blog if you can't be who you are on it?

So, with that in mind, here are 10 things I want to address over the coming months, in order to find my voice and let it sing:

  1. HG (of course). This is a biggie, so it's natural to want to write about it.
  2. Endo (see above)
  3. Depression, anxiety and CBT. These are major things in our lives right now, so why not talk about them?
  4. Housework (bleugh). I am so bad at housework you would not believe. I have times when I want my house to be perfect and times when I just don't care. It's time to talk about that.
  5. Faith and Spirituality. I have skirted around this so often you'd think I didn't really know what I believed. But I do. Kinda. It's high time I let go and discussed it properly.
  6. Lifestyle choices. Tim and I have some pretty strong views about certain things, and each one has a reason. They affect how we raise Little Man, so again it's time to write about them.
  7. Frugal living (I hate the word frugal, it sounds so frumpy!) We live on a low budget. It's tough. But we get by and I think I should write about that sometimes.
  8. Dreams (we all have them). Our dreams are what keep us going. They can be happy, aspiring, even painful! I'm a big dreamer, it's time to admit that.
  9. Insecurities and fears (we all have these too). I'm fed up of pretending not to have these… let's be honest about them. I do this in CBT sessions and it is so therapeutic.
  10. Parenting (the highs and lows). Parenting is the most wonderful thing ever, and yet the most draining, challenging and downright brutal task you'll ever undertake. I want to write about it all, not just the "fluffy" stuff. 

I'm sure there are many more things I want to write about, but most probably fall under one of these ten categories. 

So, tell me, how are you finding your voice?

What I learned this week

This past week I have been busy.

And I have learned a lot.

In fact, I've learned so much I think I'm going to have to split this into three parts.

Here goes…

What I learned at the Pregnancy Sickness Support Annual Conference

  • It is an incredible feeling to be in a room full of people who have experienced the hell of severe NVP and HG during pregnancy. Knowing that whatever you say will be answered with a "YES! That's so true!" or "I know exactly what you mean!" rather than the "Have you tried ginger?" and "I was sick too, but I just had to get on with it" (as if simply surviving every new day wasn't "getting on with it" enough) was ever so slightly mind-blowing.
  • The need for local support groups as well as online support groups is crucial. If a single day in the company of people who truly understand made me feel that great, just imagine how much of a difference we could make to so many women suffering during pregnancy!
  • I'm not the only one who was never hospitalised, and that I should stop saying, "I never vomited, I only ever brought up bile and suffered from awful nausea" because that is still extreme and traumatic and devalues what we went through. Thanks Mother Eartha for that one!!
  • The experience of severe NVP and HG can have as much, if not more, of a traumatic effect on the partners, parents and friends of sufferers as it does on the sufferers themselves. Often it was the mum or husband who struggled to talk about their experience. This needs to be highlighted and makes me glad I have planned a section in the book to cover it.
  • There are some experienced and talented volunteers who have so much they can do to help raise the profile of the charity and build up funds. It makes me so proud to know that people come from all walks of life to try and make a difference to others following their own experiences.
  • I want to do so much more to help the charity Pregnancy Sickness Support and I need to work out how I can use the skills I have to help them the most.

What I learned from BritMums Live

  • There are so many ways that I can use my blog to raise awareness of the things I am most passionate about. 
  • I do not want to work with brands and look at monetizing my blog. Reviews, sponsored posts and advertising are extra work that I'd rather not do right now and though I've dabbled in these on here for the past few months I don't think they really fit. I enjoyed blogging without any responsibility to anyone but myself and my reader and bringing in brands just complicates things. If I review anything from now on, it will simply be because I have bought/used something and truly loved it and think everyone should try it.
  • It's going to be hard to turn down offers from brands. It is so alluring. But I need to stay true to what I want from my blog.
  • Finding my voice is esential. I have known this for a long time but I just didn't know what it really was. Everything and everyone seem to suggest finding a niche, but I don't have one. I forget who said this, but someone said 'our lives are diverse so why shouldn't our blogs be diverse too?' I still need to find my voice, but I'm guessing it centres around passion, support and honesty!
  • Engaging with your audience involves writing things that they can relate to. Finding the words to touch someone's heart (whether that be in a way that makes them feel passionate about a cause too or which makes them laugh and think "that's just what my life is like too") will give my blog a really good energy.
  • I don't post enough photos on my blog, and by utilising light I could take some really amazing photos even with my phone. I want to practise this as soon as Tim is free and willing to be a test subject!
  • I should write about what feels good to me, rather than trying to write what I think will sound good to my audience. It is so easy to get drawn into stats and popularity and I know I have fallen for this so many times. But remembering why I started blogging reminds me that I just wanted to write, and so I should just write and enjoy it.
  • You'll always find bullies and trolls online, but I need to remember that they are everywhere. If someone attacks my work I need to remember it isn't an attack on me personally. And if I see someone attacking someone else, I can always step in and counter-comment. We need to all stick together to get rid of cyber-bullies.
  • eBooks are a great way of getting your work out there. I have so many things, not just the HG book, that I could ultimately turn into eBooks (or PDF downloads if they are heavily formatted and might not translate to eReaders very well). This may be a much better way of earning a bit of extra cash than selling out to advertising and brands which I feel won't sit right on my blog. Advertising and reviews work for some blogs, but they don't work on mine. I need to find my own product, and eBooks may be the way to go.
  • Google+ may not be as bad as I thought it would be. I didn't want "yet another thing" to look into, but it may be worth having a look before deciding one way or the other. I don't want another "twitter" where I avoided it for years only to find I actually loved it once I finally joined.
  • Some blogs are big hits, but there are just as many bloggers out there who are still "small fish in a big sea" and enjoy blogging for the fun of it.  I'm much more like them and should be proud of that in my own way. 
  • Having the confidence to speak up and share your experience or ask a question can lead to some amazing connections and conversations. 
  • So many people have been through such heart-breaking things and the community and support offered by blogging is immense. Grief is grief, no matter what caused it or what form it comes in. By standing together we can find common ground and support each other through things.
  • Sometimes changing our voice is hard. If we've been writing about something emotionally charged and then switch to something lighter and/or more positive we may lose some readers who liked the drama of it all. But we'll always gain new readers. 
  • Dad bloggers are lovely and I want to spend more time reading their blogs and getting to know them. There shouldn't be this distinction between "mummy" bloggers and "daddy" bloggers… we're all parents!

What I learned this week as a whole

  • I like going to conferences and could get used to travelling, staying in a hotel (especially in London) and meeting up with people, discussing things I am passionate about, and learning new things
  • I want to use my voice to help change things. I am a strong writer and I am also discovering that I am quite a strong networker (and, possibly in the future, speaker too). I should be using these abilities to make change, especially as I enjoy doing it!
  • I need to learn to let go once in a while. I don't have to have control over everything in my life all the time.
  • Seeing pregnant women and babies no longer hurts me quite the way it did before. I must be finding peace and healing in some way. That just blows my mind.

I am sure there are so many more things I learned this week. But these are the major ones.

Tell me, what have you learned this week?


BritMums Live! 2012 – well, where do I start?

Hello all!

This last week has been a bit crazy! Thursday, Friday and Saturday involved two conferences for me (PSS and BritMums Live!) and between those and all the travelling I'm totally wiped. But, as Oscar is currently asleep, I thought it a good time to start on the long list of things I want to blog about following these two conferences, starting with BritMums Live!

I don't want to write a ridiculously long post about what happened, because I'm sure you've all heard it before, right? But what I did want to do is write a list of my "highlights". Please do share yours with me too.

  • Visiting The Brewery. I've never been welcomed by a gentleman who tipped his bowler hat and said, "Good Morning Ma'am, welcome back to The Brewery" before. That in itself was worth the price of my ticket!
  • Walking past so many faces I recognised. Let's be fair, I get as excited about seeing the faces of bloggers I've seen online as I do "famous" faces. To me you're all just as famous as those "big names", except you've probably actually replied to one of my comments and so it's even more exciting to see you "in real life". 

              Brown

  • Listening to Sarah Brown. Phrases like, "Don't let the way the world treats you change the way you want to treat the world" and "There's nothing cool about a bully with a Blackberry" just blew me away.
  • Learning how to take the best photos ever, even with a smartphone, thanks to Julia Boggio. She made it clearer than anyone (or any book) ever has, and I cannot wait to try it out. Who wants to be my guinea pig  *ahem*"model"? Also, her video almost made me cry (and I'm not one to well up in public usually!)
  • Attending the workshop on eBooks with Antonia Chitty and getting to chat with her afterwards. I now have much more direction for how to get my HG book out there, and make it the most accessible and useful resource I can. And that includes changing the format in ways I never even imagined.

             Lschka

  • Getting to chat with Luschka from Diary of a First Child and Janine of birth&baby network about HG, all because I happened to raise my hand in the eBook session to share what I was working on. They are both amazing ladies, please do go check out their sites!
  • Getting to meet so many other mums, including (but not limited to) Jacq from mymumdom, Lynsey from Lynsey The Mother Duck, Kate from Two Cats, Youngling and Me, and Gem from Three Become Four (who was lovely enough to share her adoption story with me when I asked!)
  • Listening to the most amazingly inspirational stories during the "Sod the Stats: Blog for Happiness" session. The atmosphere of support, love and empathy in that room was just breathtaking and the heart-wrenching stories of loss, grief and also recovery really touched me deeply. If you were there, you are amazing!

              Greater Good

  • The fantastic advice and support given in the "Blogging for the Greater Good" session. I have so much I want to take from that session to help in  blogging about both HG and Endo. 
  • The fabulously quick and easy intro to Google+ during one of the coffee breaks. I didn't have chance to go to the session about it, but the five minute demo was really helpful. I had initially thought "oh no, not another thing to take up my time!" but it turns out it could help me be more organised instead. 
  • The fantastic amount of freebies and gifts we all got given (even if carrying it all back to the hotel on the tube was a mission and made me fall on top of another lady when the train moved off suddenly as I was trying to unladen myself at one stop!)
  • Getting to work my way through all the herbal teas offered as an alternative to regular tea and coffee, and the wonderful cocktails made by Welch's juice.  The lychee one was my favourite.

               Ruth

  • Spending some time catching up with Ruth from Mixed Bag of Allsorts (sorry, Ruth, you shouldn't come bottom of my list at all, can we say I "saved the best 'til last"?) Seriously, it was great getting to spend some time with you after all our chats this past year via FB.

I didn't get to go to the BiBs party or awards. TJ had offered to take me to dinner and I was not going to miss that opportunity! I cannot wait to hear more about it though (I heard the words "buff men" being metioned at one point?)

I also missed Ruby Wax as we got lost on the way. So if someone can tell me the highlights of her speech I would be much appreciative.

And I also missed the Bloggers' Keynote as we decided to try and get an early start home. Good job really, as we didn't get home until 10pm (and we'd left our house at 8am on Wednesday morning so were ready to fall into our own bed!) So is there going to be a link to all the blog posts featured in that? Does anyone know?

And finally… who wants to share their highlights of the weekend with me? Anyone?