10 Things I Learned at BlogHer '13

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I got back home late Saturday night after three whirlwind days in Chicago where I saw none of the city, other than the fabulous view outside my hotel window, but did have a front row seat to dozens of amazing and inspiring speakers at BlogHer13. Herewith, a report of what I now know:

  • Sheryl Sandberg is a rock star. First of all, she looks amazing close up; she’s tiny, has fabulous skin and a great blow out. She came down to where we were all eating breakfast before her appearance/interview Saturday morning and was quickly engulfed by dozens of women trying to catch a little of her feminist pixie dust. I have such a girl crush on Sandberg right now that even I abandoned my normally passive demeanor and elbowed my way up front. While waiting for my chance for a photo op, I watched as she interacted with the other bloggers, shaking each one’s hand and asking where the woman lived and then patiently listening to anecdotes about how that woman had been inspired by her book to lean in. She then took two of those stories -- complete with the women’s names and where they were from -- and referenced them during her interview on stage. Like, that’s a pro, man.

Leaning in with Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer13.
Breakfast with Sheryl Sandberg at BlogHer13 in Chicago. Highlight!

  • 2. I lack common sense. No one does well on three hours of sleep. Inherently, I know that. But it took me so long to pack for Chicago -- like put all the stuff that had been lying in piles around my room into my bag -- that I found myself blowing my hair dry at 11 p.m. with a 4 a.m. airport pickup looming just hours away. And then, because I truly enjoy personal sabotage,, I sat up with a big glass of red wine and watched Colbert until midnight. I looked like someone had punched me in the face by about 5 p.m. the next day and quickly passed out after the wine that accompanied my room service dinner (salad and fries: heaven) hit my bloodstream.

  • 3. You are apt to overlook packing vital technology when overtired. When you’re operating on about 3-and-a-half hours of sleep, it’s really easy to overlook the iPad that’s been charging next to your bad all night, just about 12 inches from your head, and leave it on your nightstand as you scramble to get out the door. #imadope

  • 4. She’s just a regular girl. Like me. To unwind or “lean back,” as they say, Sandberg told us that she binges on TV and recently finished seasons of Girls and Nashville. Seriously, we were separated at birth.

  • 5. Sometimes, all you need is a pal or two. I immediately connected with Emily Grossi of Em-i-lis during our pre-conference session after admiring her fabulous Coach strappy heels and sassy shorts. We picked up Heidi Jeter (no relation to Derek), who blogs at Still a Dancing Queen, the following day after I noticed her sitting by herself on the shuttle bus. I recognized her from my session the day before as I walked past, and when I sat down a few seats behind I thought, “This is no way to make friends.” I got up and plopped down in the seat next to her and said, “Hello.”

  • 6. Forget alcohol. Nothing cures the fear of flying like striking up a conversation with the really cute, chatty guy sitting next to you on the plane. I skidded into the airport for my return flight Saturday night and made my way to my gate with about a half hour until boarding. I quickly made my way to the closest bar and guzzled some red wine so I could sleep through the flight home. (I find dozing through takeoff and landing is the best way for me to keep from obsessing about crashing throughout the flight.) As I pulled out my classy neck pillow and prepared to nap, I said something to the guy next to me and two hours later -- which included enough turbulence that the captain had us fasten our seatbelts -- we were landing in Newark. Now if the universe would just put another cute, friendly guy next to me I won’t have to pop the Valium my mom slipped me for my flight to Greece this weekend.

  • 7. Talking about writing a book is not the same as actually writing the book. I went to numerous break out sessions on book writing and getting your work published on other sites or publications and learned that none of that is going to happen unless I do the work. Dammit.

Talking about writing a book is not the same as actually writing the book.
Credit: BlogHer '13

  • 8. The world is not overrun by people from New Jersey. In fact, it wasn’t until the third day of the conference that I even met another person from the Garden State (shout out to fellow Jersey girls: Brooke at carpool candy and Lisa at Mom a la Mode). There were women at BlogHer from all over the country: Seattle, Montana, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, Florida, Washington, D.C. and lots of women from the Chicago area. It was great to be reminded the world doesn’t begin and end with the Greater New York City area. Who knew?

  • 9. You could do nothing all day but read fabulous blogs. Prior to BlogHer, I couldn’t really find any blogs I wanted to follow. But after attending Friday night’s Voices of the Year event -- hosted by Queen Latifah (who was 45 minutes late due to traffic) and featuring bloggers reading from this year’s winning posts --I couldn’t believe the depth and breadth of writing out in the blogosphere. Everything from figuring out you’re gay, to sex after 40 to the perils of crafting. Something, and someone, for everyone.

  • 10. I can choose intimidation or inspiration. After meeting and hearing all these smart women who take their craft so seriously, I have decided to choose the latter. I choose to be motivated by a community that cares about the best tense for writing a memoir or what makes a blog post funny (comparing your kids to hamsters, perhaps?) rather than surrender to my inner Debbie Downer. Because the overarching message of the whole lean in thing is asking yourself the question, "What would I do if I weren't afraid to fail?" And maybe between the inspiration and all that pixie dust, I’ll become a better blogger, too.

Leaning in at BlogHer13: What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?
Leaning in at BlogHer13: What would you do if you weren't afraid to fail?

 

Amy blogs at A My Name is Amy. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook, too. Fancy.

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