All photos in this post are from the #BlogtacularPhotowalkWest, taken by me, except where I’m in them obviously (or the group shot at the bottom by Will Ireland, courtesy of Mollie Makes).
This blogging malarkey often has me wondering what on earth it is I am doing – why am I sharing my life and my DIY disasters (and occasional triumphs) and recipes I tried and liked with the world via the internet? A lot of my friends don’t get it … they would rather have teeth pulled. They ask me what I get out of it, and most of the time I am not really able to articulate it, other than to tell them that I really enjoy it and it has given me the push I needed to start exploring my creative side again after many years of stifling it with law and tedium. And then I usually say that I started it because I wanted to get into writing for a living, and was frequently told that blogging was a good way to do so.
It was only last weekend when I attended Blogtacular – a blogging conference for creative bloggers – that I realised that my blog isn’t a means to get into writing….my blog IS writing! And some bloggers who I really respect and admire told me that they liked my writing, and that meant an enormous amount to me. Because blogging is an element of my transition from an unsatisfactory ‘career’ to a fulfilled and enjoyable life, and a very crucial one. It is how I realised that my fiancé and I both love to do DIY projects together (and we’re pretty good at it), and made us decide that we wanted to buy a house that we could renovate completely. It is how I have begun to focus on my photography again and reinvigorate that passion. It has been the prompt for finally buying a sewing machine and beginning the journey to making my own wardrobe. It has reminded me that my skills are more than my law degrees, and most of those other skills are a lot more fun. It has given me the courage to take up watercolour painting simply to design my own wedding stationery.
Most of all though, blogging has introduced me to a whole new world of people just like me. People who understand why I blog because they blog too. They get the need to edit life ever so slightly for Instagram. They understand what it’s like trying to balance a job, grow a blog, and find the time in between all this to actually create things to blog about. They know what it is to create, and to be passionate about it. At Blogtacular I found 350 people with whom I already had a huge amount in common – 350 people who were my kind of person. Many of them I’d been following on Instagram for a while, and meeting them in person was not strange at all – it was like catching up with an old friend. I felt instantly accepted, part of the gang. All my worries and nerves disappeared within minutes of joining Friday’s pre-conference photowalk, as the beautiful pastel houses of Notting Hill and the bright yellow rainjackets of 50% of the attendees gave us all something to chat about.
The Friday night #papermaker party at West Elm on Tottenham Court Road was awesome. Not just because it was a chance to hang out in my favourite shop after hours and lounge on the beds with a glass of wine as though we owned the place. Not just because there were all sorts of fun paper crafts to take part in (I tried calligraphy with Quill London – it looked a little like a drunk Grandma had done it, but still, a start). Not just because there was a photobooth that did instaprints. Not just because there was wine and the most delicious little asian salad pots and cake. Not just because we had a huge discount on everything in the shop. Mainly because I spent the evening going round seeing familiar faces and greeting them like old friends, getting my picture taken with them, hugging and chatting as though we’d known each other all our lives. Such instant connections happen rarely – for so many to happen all in the same night, well, that says something. I went to bed that night exhausted but exhilarated and totally excited about the day ahead.
Blogtacular itself was even bigger and even better than I could possibly have imagined. Greeted by giant gold balloons suspended from the ceiling (the ‘A’ of which is currently chilling in my living room in Huddersfield, having survived a 3 hour train journey and a week of being pestered by cats and a pug (Billy is just scared of it)) and some very smiley and helpful ladies, my first stop was my usual….the coffee machine. Pretend you’re not nervous at all, just in need of caffeine. Standard tactic. I thought it would buy me a little time to scan the room for someone I’d met the day before to go and join. As I was waiting for my espresso to appear, a person did at my elbow…”You’re Anna right? I recognise you from Instagram…so great to meet you!”. And so it continued – the whole day was a cavalcade of new-but-not-new faces, new ones that I knew would be familiar faces soon, and a few famous ones that I had to fangirl over a little bit. (Okay, a lot).
The keynote speech was given by the inspiring Lisa Congdon, an artist and illustrator from the US. When I heard she was on the programme, I didn’t really think she’d have much to say that I could benefit from, not being an ‘artist’ as such. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Her talk was one of the most inspiring I’ve ever heard and resonated with literally every person in the room in some way, for many people in a very profound way. I’m going to tell you what she said in another post, because I think everyone deserves to hear it, but suffice to say, she kicked off a day of brilliant and engaging speakers who delivered content that was relevant to all of us in some way. I learnt so much in just a few hours, and so many of the thoughts about my blog that plague me were echoed, debunked, explained, and developed over the day by some really great speakers.
I went to Blogtacular with a feeling that my little creative blog was a bit of a bizarre hobby that I filled my own “spare” time with, and wasn’t something that could really go anywhere. I left Blogtacular feeling part of a huge tribe of amazing, smart and brilliant women who accepted me as one of their own, and valued the things I write about and create in a way that has given me such a huge sense of validation, and a new and renewed purpose.
So that’s why I think every creative blogger needs to attend Blogtacular. It can give your blog and your creativity an incredible boost, but it can also help you find your people – the ones who ‘get’ you like no other – and it is the most amazing fun. I am already looking forward to next year, and setting myself goals to have achieved before I do. I won’t be attending full of a sense of ‘impostor syndrome’ – I’ll be attending as part of a ready-made family. ©
Thank you so much to Kat Molesworth and to Kelly, and to all the other amazing ladies who made Blogtacular possible, and who made it such a game-changing event for so many. Thank you for welcoming us to your tribe. We are delighted to be a part of it.