I left BlogHer '13 feeling like a loser. This was not the fault of the hardworking women who organized and led the event. BlogHer is the world's largest blogging conference for women and I felt quite privileged to have had the opportunity to travel to Chicago for this year's event, which was held July 25-27. The breakout sessions were informative and to call the keynote speakers inspiring would be an understatement. I was in awe of the confidence of Ree Drummond (better known as the Pioneer Woman) and can't count how many times she made me laugh out loud.
The highlight of the conference for me, though, was the Saturday morning interview with Sheryl Sandberg. Her powerful and unabashedly feminist words were so uplifting I had chills through most of her talk.
Nonetheless, I spent most of my time at my first BlogHer feeling very much out of my league as I was surrounded by women who'd garnered book deals and started thriving businesses thanks to their blogs, and women who said things like "I only have a paltry 5,000 Twitter followers."
In my hometown of Birmingham, Ala., I'm considered a blogging star to some, but not because The Writeous Babe Project gets thousands upon thousands of pageviews each day. (It doesn't. And I only have a paltry 1,000+ Twitter followers.) Folks see me as a blogging guru because I have successfully built a community of women bloggers -- both online and off -- through See Jane Write, an organization for women writers that I started in 2011. And on July 1 I took those efforts a step further with the launch of SeeJaneWriteMagazine.com, an online lifestyle publication for women who love writing, blogging, and social networking.
While at BlogHer, however, I began to wonder if See Jane Write is preventing me from pursuing my personal writing and blogging goals. And how can I be at the helm of See Jane Write if I'm not leading by example with a successful writing and blogging career of my own?
I am a teacher by day and I freelance for a few local and national publications for extra cash because a teacher's salary doesn't afford me the Carrie Bradshaw lifestyle I covet. See Jane Write takes up nearly all of my free time as I spend dozens of hours each week planning panel discussions, workshops, and networking events. All this leaves few hours to devote to pitching article ideas to my favorite websites and magazines and little time for promoting my personal blog.
The women I met at BlogHer built their personal platforms first and then moved on to bigger projects. My process was backwards. I'd done it all wrong.
My sweet husband, who's also a writer and blogger, tried to cheer me up as I sent him text messages declaring that "I suck!"
He said: "You need your own path. Clearly you're doing something right."
But I just tucked my phone back in my purse, sighed, and thought, "He doesn't get it."
Being the Southern church-going gal that I am, I did the only thing I knew to do -- I asked God. The problem with that, though, is that God doesn't text or email and these days won't even set bushes afire to give a girl some direction.
However, a few days later God decided to give me an answer through a video stream. I was watching a sermon I'd missed when I skipped church one Sunday (sorry, God) and one of our associate pastors spoke on "The Most Excellent Way" to change the world. That way, he said simply, is love.
When you do things to help people improve themselves and their lives, you earn the privilege to influence them. When you invest in other people your value goes up. People don't care what you know until they know that you care.
As he spoke I thought about BlogHer itself. I thought about all the hard work co-founders Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page and Jory Des Jardins must have put into BlogHer long before it became what it is today. And I thought about all the women whose lives would have never been touched by BlogHer if Lisa, Elisa, and Jory had given up to focus on personal projects.
Don't get me wrong, See Jane Write is no BlogHer and may never be anywhere nearly as successful. But my little group that could is inspiring women every day -- they tell me so. And that's better than any blogging award or book deal. It's even better than seeing my byline in my favorite magazine.
My husband was right: I am on my own path and it's the right path for me.
Perhaps God does send text messages after all.