This year I was lucky enough to have won a ticket to my second Blissdom Canada conference. I was not only thrilled to be going, but this year, I was coming to this conference with so many questions about what was next for me...looking to the women to whom I have been turning for the last 7 months for some ideas.
Since Zack died, I've been in a state of flux. Not sure where my life was heading after my "job" as Zack's advocate was gone. I embraced my role as Zack's caregiver and biggest cheerleader, and without the role that began to define me, where was I to turn?
I had been leading fundraising effforts for Zack's Dream Room , speaking at a few events, and writing about my journey through grief, as a way to keep Zack in my daily life. But now, I wasn't sure what path to take not only for my blog, but for me.
I thought of turning my blog into more than a series of personal stories. Of evolving it into a way to contribute money to my family. I had had incredible support from the brands with whom I worked on Zack's fundraisers, so it seemed like a real option to monetize my blog and start doing paid reviews with brands that I love and respect.
I went to Blissdom seeking the ways in which I could do this- while still maintain my integrity and authenticity...the "brand" that is me...Heather, "TJZMommy", "Zack's mom". Many bloggers work with brands on a daily basis and do it really well. In fact, it seemed that this was very much a common theme throughout the conferences I've attended in the last few months. As the art of blogging evolves, this new source of income has turned several bloggers/writers into entrepreneurs- perhaps even the new wave of "mompreneurs".
As I sat in on the sessions regarding branding and monetizing your blog, I became uncomfortable with this as a direction for me, personally. I can also totally appreciate and respect that this is what other women have done with their blogs but I quickly learned that this is not where I want to go. I started to be more and more convinced that in order to be the truest ME, I had to simply continue to write from the heart. While this certainly won't pay for daycare and skating lessons, it will be authentic and real for me.
I still have a story to tell...how can I tell it?
I started to assess the ways in which I could tell my story...other platforms above and beyond my personal site.
I sat in on the session about Community Blogs with Maureen, Minnow and Sarah, Jen and Erica and was instantly inspired to reach out to my friends on the panel, and start submitting some of my blog posts to their prestigious sites. I started to feel confident that by focusing on being a "content creator" I will be able to tell my story to different audiences who might benefit from what I've learned along this journey. I've already shared 3 posts on two of these sites and I'd feel privileged to do more.
How could I use video? I'm a total amateur when it comes to making videos...but what a fabulous way to tell my story to appeal to the emotions of other parents! Videos by my friends; Eric Alper, Laura Berg, Jeff Pulver, and Alison Kramer are true examples of how content can go viral, if they appeal to the emotions and "me too factor" in all of us. My ideas were flowing all over my handwritten notes ('cause I'm old school like that)! Where would I start this video story? What did I feel I could share with a viewing audience, while appealing to their deepest feelings as a parent? How could I spread the word about Zack's Dream Room that truly and honestly explained the question everyone always asks me...."How do you do it?".
I was even lucky enough to speak to the editor-in-chief, of Canadian Family Magazine, Jen Reynolds and discuss ways in which I might be able to share my story with her audience. How awesome would THAT be? After the publishing session, I was motivated to dedicate more time to writing, editing and working on content. I even think that this crazy life might even lead me to a book one day!
The most powerful moment in the sessions was when my talented friend Shannon, created a video to show the moments when Social Media had reached out, touched hearts and changed some part of the world...however small or large. I'm so honoured that she asked if she could share Zack's story with the Blissdom women. Through the tears in the room, it was very clear that the power of Social Media has indeed been used for enormous good.
I came home from Blissdom with the idea of both where I didn't want to take my blog and ways in which I want to evolve it.
It became extremely clear to me that I know what path I'm on;
- I want to create and run a charitable organization called "Zack's Dream".
- I want to dedicate more time in my week to working on the art of writing and editing.
- I want to submit my work to both community blogs and magazines.
- I need to create a full bio with samples of all the work that I'm really proud of!
- I am going to do a video, sharing my story, how I am doing it and the mission of Zack's Dream.
Most of all....I realized more that ever, that I have incredible women around me who are support, mentors, inspiration and a source of strength and motivation.I found my bliss....did you?