On Friday, I spoke at this year’s Northern Voice Blogging Conference at the University of British Columbia. I spoke on a panel Saturday, too, but that’s another story for another time.
The conference was great, but I’ll leave the recaps to others.
Speaking? Whew. I was fucking terrified of my speaking engagement.
Not because I think I can’t talk. I know I can. Just because I knew where it had to go.
In a nutshell?
I started “sex” blogging to discover where I really stood on my own sexuality. I went from 75 hits a day to 1,000 inside of my first three weeks, then as much as 5,000 within 7 months. I was getting raves all over the web in places most writers hope to get mentions — Nerve.com, Salon.com, Fleshbot, et al.
At the same time, in “real” life, in only a FOUR-MONTH period?
I ran out of unemployment insurance four months earlier than expected, came close to losing my home, started onto a birth control pill that would cause a massive chemical depression for two hard years and lead me to suicidal thoughts within 3 months of my blog’s peak, with a cry for help to a therapist when I thought I was gonna harm myself, lost a job for sex blogging, got laid off on my first day at another, had a relationship go horribly awry then end, and a few other little things.
I mentioned the whole going-completely-suicidally-nuts-with-chemically-induced-depression thing?
The gist of my talk?
Wanna write a blog and have people read your story as you figure out where your little blogging journey’s gonna take ya?
Careful what you wish for, honey. The worst thing that can happen to you is to have 30,000-plus people a week reading your figuring-shit-out journey every time you post something. Especially if you start the wrong meds a few months later and take a walk on the Dark Side.
What DIDN’T I get to say in the 30-minute speaking engagement?
That I would do it again — I’d walk away from a failing blog and say “Fuck it” and focus on my life. In a heartbeat.
I kept blogging, but I didn’t care about traffic, I didn’t try to get ads or advertising product, I stopped reading blogs so I wouldn’t be writing much about “hot-button issues” that might draw attention to me, I didn’t try to write great content or be relevant to any cause or way of life, I didn’t engage my audience anymore or even try to gain their loyalty.
I just… wrote. For me.
And I’d do that again. I’d walk and figure my shit out and use my writing for me and only me.
(But I’d share it still. We all need to do that more. We owe our truths to one another. Strength in numbers isn’t just a cliche.)
Know why I’d walk so casually again?
Because I wrote the content that made me a success in the first place. When I wrote that early content, my life was going much as it is now — fairly smoothly. I had time to write and a willingness to do so.
Now, though, I’m different. I don’t doubt I can write, I don’t doubt that was my “golden” period in writing. I don’t think I’m done for. I’m not really sure where I want this to go right now. I’m just… ready to give it a shot, ready to say something.
Ain’t worried at all. Because it’s about just being real, going where you need to go.
I have the guts to go there. It’s my THING. It’s what I DO. Truth is good. Knowledge is power. Like I said Friday, rip the fucking Band-aid off and just go.
I’m looking forward to the journey back into sometimes-sex-blogging. I know where I’m at in much of my life, and this is a path I’m willing to retake. It’ll be a fun ride. And I’m pretty confident my voice and what I have to say on the matter is relevant. I’ve got that part covered.
That’s one thing about having had the ticket to ride, getting that acclaim and that success so easily before — I know precisely how I got there. I think I can get there again. It’s about content. Period.
And how do I feel about my speech?
Fantastic. I’m loving how many people took the time to tell me how much they got out of it. I love that I got to talk to a lot of my audience over the two days, and how genuinely they seemed to dig what I had to contribute to the Northern Voice experience. People who pulled me aside to make sure I heard what it meant to them really rocked my weekend, and I thank them for returning the sharing.
It was a big fear, getting up there and being raw and talking about my experience with mental illness and how it crushed my creative soul and killed my opportunity, and the price I paid to win that fight after I made all the horrendous decisions through which I killed my blog and walked away to quietly lick my wounds and return to figuring myself out.
I mean, that’s vulnerability, man.
“Hi. I’m a fuck-up who went a little nuts and wrote really hot shit about sex, got lauded in important publishing centres as an exciting new voice, and sorta became famous for five minutes and then pissed the opportunity away. LOVE ME. Hear me!”
For 30 minutes.
But I really, really, really wanted to go there.
And it was a fucking awesome ride for me. Awesome audience!
I knew it’d be scary — the first real time I’d addressed a crowd since I was 20, in college, in 1993. More importantly? First time I’d ever talked in person to a crowd about sex blogging, why I do it, what I wanted, how I fucked up, or how nuts I kinda went.
And I barely scratched the surface, but that’s why I want to write the book, I guess. Whew. There’s a wild ride, baby.
My only goal?
I wanted to tell the truth and be honest and raw. I wanted to make no excuses and pull no punches. I didn’t want my shame to get in the way of what I had to say, I didn’t want to hide behind my pride at the expense of not teaching others what to learn from my mistakes.
I know it’s powerful when people tell the truth, and I really wanted to be genuine and honest.
I told my two best friends Mark and Jon on separate occasions that all I wanted was to be like I was in our quietest, most real conversations. I wanted that conversational and open tone, the snarky humour and the quiet vulnerability that I get when I’m with a really good person I trust.
I just wasn’t sure I could conjure that side of myself for an audience of 125, plus standees.
That I’m told I did conjure her just blows my mind and makes me so happy. I loved it. I’m thrilled I’ve given people food for thought, and I look forward to speaking more often and being a part of a new dialogue on both mental health and healthy sex.
My engagement was probably as cathartic for me as some people in the room tell me it was for them, too.
It’s a really, really, really great gift of an experience on a weekend that, for 10 years, has usually sucked. I hate Mother’s Day thanks to the Dead Mom Factor. I miss my mother a little today. But for the first time in a long time, I’m not sad this Mother’s Day and I’m not angry.
Getting the fear of opening up in public speaking off my back? What a gift.
I’ll probably be writing about things this weekend has stirred up for a while.
It might not be the kind of conversation and end product Northern Voices normally results in, but I think it’s true to the life of the conference — the belief each of us needs to not only find our voices but sound them out.
It’s a message I’ve been on for years.
Speak up. Being heard is a beautiful thing.
Own who you are, live out loud.
The video will be aired on the web someplace and soon, when it is, I’ll post some linkage for those who are curious and couldn’t be at the engagement. Thank you to everyone who wished me well.