While scrolling through my Facebook feed a few weeks ago, I caught a glimpse of some of my favorite bloggers at one of the season's first conferences. I read their tweets – brilliant little tips and sentiments picked up in one session or another, hash tagged and collected. I watched as they communicated with one another virtually in the hopes of finding one another physically. For a brief moment, I dreamed about what it would be like to be right there with them.
And then my son, who had been nursing this whole time, popped off my breast. Milk sprayed everywhere as he smiled up at me with his gummy smile. I put the conference away and went about changing clothes, feeling oddly thankful to be drenched in milk and far from sessions and business cards and networking events.
I’ve spent three conference seasons this way – blogging and writing and growing, but staying home, safe behind my computer screen. I’ve used all kinds of excuses. First it was, “I’m too new and just not ready yet.” Then, “I'm pregnant and just can't this year.” And, finally, “I'm a new and nursing mom and just can't make it work.”
These are, of course, nothing more than excuses. And I’ve just about run out of them. Next year, I’ll no longer be new, and I won’t be (or, at least, really shouldn’t be) pregnant or nursing.
I will still be shy. I will still be introverted. I will still be scared of meeting new people and feeling awkward. I will still have nightmares of walking in and knowing nobody and sitting all by myself, scared to say hello to the bloggers I stalk. I’ll still prefer to curl up in my pajamas and watch it all happen from the safety of my couch.
However, I've begun to fear that as I sit at home, I'm missing a few big pieces of the puzzle. Three years in and ready to make some big strides in my career as writer and blogger, I’m definitely missing some know-how, some tips from the pros, some inspirational sessions that will send my mind reeling and cooking up new projects.
But I’m also missing something else.
“I think that conferences are great for learning some information and just meeting people in real life," shares Christine Yu of Love Life Surf. "You now have a personal connection and shared experience with other bloggers and are more likely to remember each other."
Yes, that’s it. Personal connections and shared experiences, these are the things I’m missing.
Image: Chichacha via Flickr
I’ve made quite a few blogging friends in my time as blogger – friends whose words I read almost every day and who I can count on to engage with the words I write. I enjoy sending comments back and forth, exchanging the occasional email or tweet, and welcoming these new friends into my world. I enjoy these online connections. All this time, I’ve been seeing them as just that – online connections. I’m now starting to see that they can be so much more.
“I’ve made most of my networking connections online,” shares Kate Coveny Hood, blogger at The Big Piece of Cake, “Conferences have provided the opportunity to meet those people in person. And I really value that – going to BlogHer enhanced the connections I had previously made.”
Blogging and writing, it turns out, are not solitary activities, as I once thought. Blogging is all about community, personal connections, and shared experiences. I’ve been slow to learn this lesson. Accepting that blogging is not just something I do from behind my computer screen has been a tough one for me.
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a couple fellow bloggers in person. One-on-one, over a cup of coffee, I’ve started to see the power of this foundation of online connections. I’ve begun to realize the value in meeting people, the ones I email and tweet at, in real life. “For me, the more meaningful connections have come from one-on-one interactions - lunch or coffee dates that I've had with other bloggers,” admitted Christine, “That's where my relationships have developed more because we have the time to chat and talk.” Yes, me too. One-on-one, I can handle. I still get nervous and anxious but it is not quite as daunting to meet someone for coffee as it is to face the opportunity to network with hundreds or thousands of people.
I don’t have any conference plans this year. But I am committing myself to focusing on those relationships. One-on-one and one-by-one, I’m focusing on people and connections.
And who knows. Maybe I’ll find my stride and I’ll build enough relationships and friendships and confidence that by this time next year, I’ll be ready for my first conference.
Anyone want to meet for coffee at BlogHer 2014?
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