Last month I went to my first ever blogging conference – Mumsnet Blogfest. It was fantastic. I’ve already written a post about how much I got out of it but I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say in one post without it becoming ridiculously long. I wanted to write more about the inspirational aspects of the event though, so I’ve decided to share my favourite quotes from the day. (N.B. I made a note of these as they were said but can’t promise they’re word for word quotes. Often I was too gripped by the speaker to do more than glance at what my pen was writing.)
Five inspirational quotes from Blogfest:
“Creativity is the road to revolution. It is challenge. It’s the way we fight back against those who would oppress us. So embrace it, whatever form it takes”
I loved this. Val then went on to say that if anyone tries to “burst your creative bubble” you should tell them to go away or “put it more forcefully using a phrase involving sex and travel… “. She was really funny and inspiring and made me realise the real power involved in creativity. That literature, art and music make us think and question everything around us, opening up the world and encouraging humanity towards all sorts of achievements. So don’t doubt yourself – go, create.
“Social media is where we raise a little flag of self. Offence is used to put wind in that flag.”
Ok, this isn’t really an inspiring quote so much as a thought-provoking one. David Baddiel was, as you’d probably expect, very funny and insightful. He showed us lots of examples from his Twitter feed of how easily offended people are by him. You could see in the zealousness of some of the tweets how much those people were actually rather enjoying taking offence and how it was making them feel more important – in classic bully style. As he was talking I could visualise everyone on social media desperately waving their little flags, trying to be seen amidst the masses. It made sense of how I feel on Twitter (teeny, tiny) and why trolls do what they do.
“Equality is better for all of us: it is better for our daughters. It is better for our sons.”
Sandi Toksvig OBE
Sandi Toksvig was talking about gender equality with reference to her own political party – the Women’s Equality Party which believes “Equality for women isn’t a women’s issue. When women fulfil their potential, everyone benefits.” – something I wholeheartedly agree with.
I’m frequently staggered when I read statistics about inequality. Even in this country there are huge divisions between the way men and women are treated and it seems to happen across the board. I was reading an article recently that suggested you are far more likely to get a publishing deal if you submit a manuscript under a male name rather than a female one. Yes, here in the uk. yes, now, in 2015.
But lack of equality isn’t just relevant for us as women, it’s relevant for men too. The sexism that props up our system starts when our kids are tiny. It is there when girls are called ‘bossy’ (while their male counterparts are rewarded for ‘confidence’). It’s there when we praise our daughters for their looks rather than their brains, and laugh off our sons bad behaviour with ‘boys will be boys‘. And don’t get me started on “he’s just lazy – typical male!” that I’ve heard mothers fling at their young sons.
None of these gendered expectations are helpful. Bit by bit they teach our kids that some things are ok for boys and not ok for girls, and vice versa. It constrains and alters them as kids and affects their choices as adults. We need to treat our boys and girls equally so they can grow to be the people they are meant to be, not into the roles society expects of them. Equality is better for all our children.
“As bloggers, authenticity is key. Trust is your power.”
This was during a session on ‘building your brand’ and Jude Brookes was reminding us that, as bloggers, we are free from the constraints that writing for another publication or speaking for a company would place us under. We speak for ourselves and if we are authentic people will come to trust us. She encouraged us to focus on telling engaging stories and building relationships. 100 engaged readers are more valuable than 10,000 twitter followers who you never interact with (and may well be ignoring all your tweets anyway).
This resonated with me as I do sometimes wonder if I should write in a certain way – follow a few more trends perhaps? – to get more followers (not to mention promoting myself more which I am rubbish at). I have worried about the risks of being too open in the past and held back a lot. Jude made me reflect on the value of honesty and it was good to have the idea of ‘quality over quantity’ reinforced by a brand specialist.
“Could I have my photo taken with you? And Maddy, I can take a photo of the two of you together if you like…?
This was when the lovely Sumbel from Mama Not Dumber– my friend of a mere few hours at that point – asked Tim Dowling if she could have a photo with him and also encouraged me to do so too. This was obviously very excellent because it meant I got THIS photo!
But it was more than that – Sumbel knew what she wanted and went for it. And she was lovely enough to notice that of course I too wanted a photo with this talented, funny (and handsome) man. Given we’d only met that morning, it was pretty insightful of her…. or perhaps I was a little too obvious in my fandom. But anyway, the fact is, she asked something I didn’t dare ask, was thoughtful enough to take me along for the ride and, in doing so, gained me a memory that makes me grin like a cheshire cat. A lesson in ‘going for it’ if ever there was one. Thanks Sumbel.
So, what have I taken away from these quotes? Be brave, be honest, be creative – and do so for all our sakes. Be thoughtful. Wave your little flag with kindness and empathy, rather than anger and offence. Let the winds of creativity and passion fly it high. Believe in yourself and go for it.
This week ‘The Prompt’ is ‘believe’ which fits with the overall feeling of self-belief I got from Blogfest.