I learned a lot of things at the BlogHer14 conference in San Jose.
First, and most important to me, I learned that there are people out there who read my blog regularly and actually like it. This seems like a small thing, but sometimes, as I have said, I feel like I am writing into a vast void. Though the stats tell me someone is reading, I get very little direct feedback on my posts. Imagine my joy at being recognized by a reader at the BlogHer conference!
We were at a breakout session, going around the table introducing ourselves, and when I said that my name is Jennie and I write "Still Life With Crockpot," one of the other bloggers gasped and said, "You write 'Still Life'? That's one of my favorite blogs!" She sought me out later, obviously delighted to have met me, and we took a selfie together. Weeks later, I am still living off the high of her praise. She has motivated me to keep going.
Moments like that make me feel like the effort of writing is worth it. There are trolls out there who can be very discouraging. My husband posted my Hobby Lobby post on his Facebook wall, and one of his high school classmates absolutely tore me apart with his criticism, accusing me of shameless self-promotion and questioning my legal credentials and my objectivity. I don't know this man at all, and I am pretty sure he's not a regular reader, but his words still hurt, because I put a lot of research and effort into that post. I've been writing this blog for a few years now, but I still have trouble separating my work from my feelings. I take criticism very seriously, especially when the criticism attacks me personally. It happens more often than I'd like to admit.
(I'd like to publicly thank one of my amazing cousins, an experienced writer and media professional, who, at a recent family gathering, made a point of thanking me for the Hobby Lobby post. He probably doesn't know how much his words meant to me, but even a small amount of whispered praise does wonders in bolstering me against the criticism.)
I learned - am learning - that I need to just do what I do and not worry about the critics. The BlogHer conference reinforced that idea. It takes courage to write about controversial subjects, and the existence of that courage is important to us as writers and to the marketplace of ideas in general.
Another, more mundane thing that I learned: when I handed out business cards that said "Still Life With Crockpot" on them, people instantly assumed that my blog is about food and cooking. That's not an unreasonable assumption. When I first started this blog, I did not know what it was going to be about. My general idea was to write about the slow-cooker lifestyle: what it's like to work as a professional woman eighty hours a week and still be expected - still expect - to run a home and raise a family and have a meal on the table when the sun goes down. That's a conundrum unique, I think, to my generation of women, the generation that was taught that it is possible, and even desirable, to do everything at once and to do it all well. We now know that it's not that simple, but I thought there were lessons to be learned from the myth. And I thought the Crock-Pot - that piece of kitchen equipment on which working moms like myself lean so heavily - was a symbol of the struggle.
It turns out, I think, that the reference was so subtle as to be lost on most people. Contemporary social, feminist, and legal commentary, which is what I want "Still Life" to become, is a tiny voice in a blogosphere dominated by food, parenting, travel, and crafting. I know I sometimes post about crafts and travel, family and even food, but that's not my primary interest here. And I am in the process of concluding that my blog needs a name change. Something that more accurately reflects what it is about.
If you are a regular reader, or just someone who has recently stumbled on my site, I would very much appreciate your thoughts on this. Does "Still Life" need a makeover? If so, how dramatic should it be? Should I separate out the knitting, travel, and family stuff into a separate blog and use this space to focus on women's issues? Or do you like things the way they are?
Please let me know. I really do value your input.