by Alison Chino
Last year at AWBU, the conference for Arkansas Women Bloggers, I took a lot of notes. I had a lot of conversations. I laughed a lot. I cried a little (or a lot). I hugged a lot of ladies (and a couple of fellas). And I ate a lot of food.
But after the conference.
After I flew back to Scotland from Arkansas.
After the dust settled a few weeks later…
I still had this one thought or idea floating around from keynote speaker Alli Worthington.
Her talk was called Editing Life.
She told the story of how she had to let go of running a very successful blogging conference (BlissDom) in order to start the business that she is doing (and loving) now.
She asked us to think about all the commitments we have.
And then she said,
What can you let go of that feels like a relief?
The first thing that popped into my head was Social Media.
And I breathed a little sigh of relief even at the thought.
If I could stop worrying about Social Media, I would be so relieved.
However, I did not immediately stop using Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram.
I was afraid that my blog + writing would fall into oblivion.
It’s a bit of a Catch-22. The brain space that I need for writing is often taken up by social feeds, but if I leave the streams, will anyone know that I am writing? Will anyone read it?
But I had felt the cool breeze of possibility blow by when Alli asked her question,
the hope of the relief of letting go of something I no longer wanted to do.
So I decided to do some experimenting.
I got off of Facebook in November for #NaNoWriMo.
Then I went back on in December with limited access, giving myself fifteen minutes a day.
I tried to carry that into January.
By February I was back to checking All The Things All The Time.
So for the spring I tried to scale it back and return to a daily time limit, and I tried to keep myself to the same time every day, using alarms.
I learned some things from all of these experiments.
Here’s what I learned:
I deeply struggle with time limits.
A little bit of social media interaction is still a big distraction.
My blog readership does not vary greatly because of my social media activity or lack thereof.
In May and June, I did some work for a company and part of my agreement was to provide Social Media coverage. I worked hard to keep everything updated and even to create videos from the day. But then in July I was going on vacation with my family and nothing we were doing was sponsored by anyone. (Nor for a lack of trying + asking!)
I realized that I was under no obligation whatsoever to keep up the kind of Social Media coverage I had done in May or June.
I remembered again what it would feel like to give it up. Relief.
Before we left on July 3, I deleted all the social apps off of my phone. I went radio silent for the whole month.
I went on walks with my family without thinking about what would be the most perfect pic for the Instagram frame. I played cards in the evenings. I read six books. I wrote lengthy journal entries instead of my usual fragmented phrases to later jot my memory. I went out in the evenings without even carrying a phone or a camera. One night I felt so free I did cartwheels in a giant field with my daughter. Another night I watched the sunset without taking a single photo. I bought a new set of watercolors and a sketchbook.
On August 1st, I asked myself if I wanted those apps back on my phone.
And I was almost surprised to realize that I did not. It really was a relief.
I’m still not sure I’m done for good with Social Media. I may find I need it again for a project, but for certain I will approach it a new way if I decide to re-engage.
And at the moment, I am enjoying the benefits of silencing that social buzzing in my writing life. Uninterrupted, less distracted time to write my heart out.
Friends, a year ago at AWBU, I walked away with a notebook full of ideas and thoughts.
I later narrowed those down to one idea. I let that idea sit with me and turned it into a goal that took me almost a year to even seriously consider. This journey of blogging (and life) is slow progress for me, y’all.
Listening to and connecting with other bloggers in person has been a huge gift to my growth as a blogger and a writer! I’m grateful for a place to continue to try on new hats and experiment from my tiny corner of the internet!
Can you remember something you learned at AWBU last year? Share it with me in the comments!
What are you hoping to learn this year? Are you going? You can still sign up to attend AWBU this year!
PS If it’s your first time, here’s a little helpful post I wrote this time last year for first time attendees of AWBU.
Help! My First Blogging Conference and I’m So Nervous!
AWBU is just a few short weeks away.
You’ve got your ticket. Maybe you’re a planner and you’ve even started packing. Maybe you know one or two other people going to the conference. Maybe not. Maybe you’ve been blogging for a long time, but you are just now beginning to network. Or maybe you’re brand new to blogging and networking.
Wherever you find yourself in the big wide world of blogging, let me just put your mind at ease by telling you that you have chosen a great conference to attend. In my opinion, Arkansas Women Bloggers is the kindest, most gracious group of women bloggers on the planet. If you walk up to one of them and say, “Help! I’m new!” you can be fairly certain that you are going to be taken care of. This is not the high school lunchroom folks. Arkansas Women Bloggers is a happy place and whether you’re looking for tech advice or just someone to sit by at dinner, you are in the right place.
If this is your first conference and you are looking for a little advice before you go, here are a few tips for your first AWBU.
Make some goals.
[Tweet “What are your goals for #AWBU2014? We want to know. See you soon.” @alisonchino]
Are you hoping to meet more bloggers that live near you? Do you want to improve your Pinterest boards? Are you looking to gain new inspiration in your writing?
Writing down what you want to get out of your conference experience will help you make the most of your weekend.
Of course, you might end up having completely different takeaways from AWBU than you planned, but it’s helpful to have a few goals in your head. It will also help you decide which sessions to attend.
If there are four or five specific people you really want to meet, tell them ahead of time on Twitter or Facebook. Then you’ll be more likely to make it happen.
What to pack.
[Tweet “Oh my goodness. Are you already packed? That’s impressive. #AWBU2014 #ARWB” @alisonchino]
Clothes: Everything goes as far as clothes at AWBU. There are lots of blogging conferences where what to wear is a really big deal (Alt Summit comes to mind) but Arkansas Women Bloggers come from all walks of life and every possible blog genre is represented. For certain, there will be some gals who are looking their best, and if getting dressed up is fun to you, then go right ahead. But if clothes are not your thing and you feel more comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt, no one is going to look down their nose at you.
Business Cards: I find it helpful to have a stack of business cards at a conference. If you don’t have any yet, you can order them for fairly reasonable at MOO and they will arrive quickly. Don’t forget to include your social media handles and current email address.
Other things: Also, I always bring a notebook and a pen for scribbling down ideas. Some people use their IPads or phones for this. Bring an extra battery and charger because your phone will wear down faster with all that tweeting and IG-ing. If you throw in a power strip, other gals will thank you for not using up all the outlets.
Be open. Be kind. Be generous.
Remember what I said about Arkansas Women Bloggers being kind and gracious. Well, you have the power to add to or to take away from that truth. Because you ARE an Arkansas Woman Blogger. You are part of what makes this community wonderful, even if you have not yet met anyone.
So come with an open heart. This might sound cheesy, but if you are super nervous and you walk in a room where you don’t know anyone, look for the person who is standing or sitting by themselves. Go introduce yourself. If no one is by themselves, just walk up to a group even if they are mid-conversation and join in.
And when you meet people, really listen to them. Ask questions. Pull out your phone and follow them on Twitter. Use your social media for generosity.
“@deltamoxie is looking PRESH today! #AWBU”
“I love @bethanystephens’ energy! #AWBU”
is so much more fun than
“I’m drinking all the wine at #AWBU 2014! #SorryBoutCha”
“I’m having more fun than anyone else here! #NaNaNa #AWBU”
I’m totally kidding but you get the general idea.
We all have the opportunity to add to the richness of this community. Of course you want to network and we each have goals for where we’re going with our blogs and our businesses, but I want to leave the conference feeling like I have blessed and encouraged others as much as being blessed and encouraged myself.
Now I’ve got to go get packing!
See you there!
Shameless Plug: If reading this post made you excited about connecting with other bloggers, I would love for you to come to my session Breathe Deep: Practices for Your Heart, Soul and Mind on Saturday at AWBU, where we will do just that. I will pair you with another blogger and give you both a chance to listen, to dream and to help each other! Also, there will be chocolate.
When I started ARWB years ago, I never could have imagined the close-knit community of women that would gather here. Over the past year, we have grown tremendously and in response to some of that growth, it is necessary to add some new areas to the ARWB site.
First up, CORPORATE BLOGS. With businesses starting to “get” the importance of having a blog on their site and of course, ARWB/The Women Bloggers is very involved in this as we are the content providers for Taste Arkansas, provide around 14 posts per month on OnlyinArk.com, and also contribute a post a month to Visit Rogers blog. All paid gigs! So, if you have a blog on a business site, this is where you will need to be. You can sign up under the Join Us tab and make sure to choose Corporate.
THE DUDES. “I have broken the glass ceiling,” said James Busvlogger when I told him that I was adding an ARWB Dudes category to the site. Yes, we are Arkansas WOMEN Bloggers, but we also are here to help elevate the blog world, and we can not leave the dudes out completely. Tell the blogger dudes in your life to go sign up on the Join Us page.
I am sure we will tweak and change as we continue to grow, again, I never imagined this when I put up a site six years ago with a thrown together header that said Arkansas Women Bloggers.
Thankful and blessed to have you all in my life,
Stephanie, The Park Wife
On behalf of First Security Bank, I am happy to announce the launching of OnlyinArk.com, a site focusing on and celebrating the uniqueness of our state.
The Women Bloggers has been hired to provide five posts per month for this wonderful site through our Arkansas Women Blogger gals.
Go check out some of the wonderful stories already published on the site, such as;
Hoof it for Heifer by Lisa Mullis
Canoeing the Mississippi River by Talya Tate Boerner
Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America by Sarabeth Jones
Museum of Discovery by Natalie Zanatta
An Ode to Hwy 71 by Bethany Stephens
Johnny Cash Boyhood Home by Kat Robinson
“There’s a lot to celebrate in Arkansas. It’s unique. Southern. Delightfully eccentric. Which is why we love every nook, cranny, cave and corner. In fact, some of our favorite things can’t be found anywhere else. They’re only in Arkansas. So we love them even more. The attractions we visit, the food we crave, the festivals we attend, the mountains we hike, the rivers we float, the stories we tell and the company we keep – it all adds up to one incredible state. And that familiar, meandering silhouette? Looks like home to us.”
by Karen Weido
I started blogging in 2010. I didn’t know too much about blogging other than it could be a place to record our family activities and memories. I soon discovered that blogging was so much more. It could be a community. It could be friends. It could be a brand. But I had no idea how to get that.
I discovered Arkansas Women Bloggers just after the new site launched. I signed up and started following all across social media. Soon there was talk of the 2nd annual conference – Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged (better known as AWBU). It sounded like fun and something I needed to attend.
I actually tweeted myself to a scholarship for that 2012 conference. As attendee lists began coming out, I started reading blogs from these women in Arkansas. I soon found out I was way behind in the blogging game. Maybe even over my head? My blog was small, tiny actually. At most I had around 20 page views per post. Some of these blogs I read got that many comments on one post! I suddenly found myself a little terrified, but still excited, about my very first blog conference.
I headed north for that first conference and found myself face to face with Arkansas Blog-ebrities (you know, bloggers who are celebrities). Did I introduce myself? Did I try to talk to them? I soon found I didn’t have to make that first move. These women who had this blog thing figured out were also nice and outgoing, and very welcoming of a very tiny fish in this big blogging pond.
I spent the weekend soaking it all in. There were promotion tips listed on chalkboards. There were storytellers that told us how to make our blog our own. There were experts that shared their knowledge. I took it all in. I took in an entire notebook worth of notes. I left my first blog conference with more knowledge, confidence and determination than I knew I had. I was ready to enter the blogging world full force.
I came home and started putting some of my new knowledge to use. I started treating my blog as more than a blog and more like my corner of the world. I made friends with some of the Arkansas bloggers and found out that they were as willing to help as I was eager to learn. I worked hard and often referenced my many notes that I had from the weekend. I noticed my following starting to increase. Those graphs on Google Analytics started heading up.
Over the past year, I’ve watched my blog become my brand. My hard work has paid off through blog ambassador programs, paid opportunities, and life experiences. My blog has grown in ways I couldn’t have possibly dreamed a year ago. My blog has value and it is a place where I can tell the world my story.
It all started at the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged Conference. It was a weekend that truly changed me and completely changed my blog. It was a weekend that I’m looking forward to experiencing again in September. I’m already registered for AWBU 2013. Are you?
See you there!
Karen lives in South Arkansas with her husband and two kids. Somewhere between chasing kids and her full-time job in healthcare marketing she blogs at Ting’s Mom Blog. You can also catch her sharing it all on Twitter and Instagram.
Welcome to July!
This month rolled in nicely with unexpected cool temperatures and almost no humidity. Is this really Arkansas in July? While I have a feeling that the “dog days” aren’t too far beyond the horizon, I’m happy to relish in this relatively spring like weather for a few days.
This month we’re talking about a few things that are near and dear to my heart: travelling abroad, summer camp, and blog conferences. While these three topics seem unrelated, they really have a lot in common.
Attending summer camp is the dream of a lot of kids. I spent between 2 and 6 weeks at summer camp every year growing up. I loved my camp friends and all of the memories and would spend the other 46 weeks of the year looking forward to camp season. Summer camp was where I belonged. It didn’t matter whether I was the jock, the nerd, or the band geek. I was IT at camp. Everyone was! I was also quite the charmer at summer camp and broke more than a few hearts over the years. “Julie loves __________(fill in the blank) 4-ever!” is carved all over the rafters of Ganderbrook Christian Camp. Honestly though, that unabashed love that you can freely hand out when you’re a kid is really a wonderful thing. At some point, we grow up and mature and with that we hand out our love a little more selectively than we did when we were ten.
Travelling abroad has some of the same mysteries as summer camp. There is exploring to be done. Sites to be seen. Food to be tasted. Language barriers to be overcome. The feeling you get stepping out of the plane and onto foreign soil is not all that different from climbing out of the van and walking up the steps to the camp lodge for the first time each summer. There is excitement and anticipation, nervousness and even a little fear.
Blog conferences are an oddly delicious combination of the two. The location (at least here in Arkansas) is a lot like a summer camp. Okay it IS a summer camp! We come to it with some of the excitement as we do summer camp or travelling abroad. We are heading into our element. We have spent months or even years learning the language. We’ve check out all the sites(bloggers) ahead of time. And we come hoping to have adventure and to leave feeling like we came, we saw and we conquered.
Right now, your ARWB Team is hard at work planning a conference that we hope will knock your socks off. We can not wait to hang out on the porch or sit around the campfire with our old friends and our new friends by our side! Hopefully YOU will be joining us at AWBU2013!
This month we’ll be hearing from several ARWB members about their personal experiences at summer camp, travelling abroad and blog conferences. Do you have a story you’d like to share? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you do!
We hope you enjoyed the Kick-Start My Blog challenge over the last five days!
With resolutions, vows to turn over a new leaf, worrying about “one little word” and the aftermath of the holiday season and January blues, we know that this can be an overwhelming month. Julie devised this “teaser” challenge to help you ease your blog into the new year. Hopefully, you learned how easy it is to make very small but very effective changes that drastically improve your blog.
The fun continues in the coming months – we’ll be running a series on blog crushes (keep that list you made yesterday handy!) and doing a little blogger matchmaking in February, and then kicking off our full-fledged Better Your Blog series in March.
You’ll also note a few changes around the Arkansas Women Bloggers site – just like you, we wanted to kick-start our (your!) blog and make improvements for the new year. Here are a few things you can look forward to throughout 2013:
We hope you enjoy all of these changes and the continued evolution of Arkansas Women Bloggers. If you have not already, be sure to visit our newly-launched sister site: Oklahoma Women Bloggers! We have several additional sites in the works and plenty of other exciting updates to share with you this year.
And, of course: what year would be complete without Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged? We are so pleased to share with you that for our third annual blogger conference we are going back to camp again – literally! For now, all we can tell you is that you are NOT going to want to miss it, so please mark your calendar to join us on September 13 – 15 and stay tuned for the specifics – you are not going to believe the ridiculous fun and shenanigans we have in store for you at #AWBU 2013! All the details are coming soon – and you can read about #AWBU 2012 if you are wondering why grown women all over Arkansas enthusiastically go “back to camp” every year!
BlissDom, BlogHer, Blog Sugar, Bloggy Bootcamp, Haven, dot Mom, of course, Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged, and oh so many more. How do you decide which Blog conference to go to? Well, that depends on so many factors. But, what we at AWB want to do is help you find other bloggers in our state (oh yea, and our sistahs from Oklahoma) that will be attending conferences in 2013.
So, please post a comment below of the conference/s that you are planning on attending in 2013. We will help you navigate the conference world and could even help you find a bloggity gal that might be wanting to go to a conference but does not want to go alone.
We will be announcing the Arkansas Women Bloggers Unplugged date and location shortly, so make sure that is on your list!
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