Finding my blogging niche – and why I won’t be bothering

I’ve been doing this blogging lark for a while now. When I started out, this blog was supposed to be nothing more than a place to dump my thoughts and to get stuff off my chest that simply had no where else to go. I never set out with an agenda. I didn’t start this to be ‘a blogger’ I started to give myself ‘a space’. The lack of a derivative of the word ‘mummy’ in my blog title should tell you that. My blog is me.

So imagine how alien I find the concept of finding ‘a niche’ for my blog? But this is what successful bloggers are advising now. I can understand why. The market place is crowded for one. Having a ‘thing’ will make you stand out in the, to be honest, noisy crowd. And I don’t know, maybe people want to to be able to compartmentalise their lives in these days of ultimate connectivity. A case of ‘I get this from her’ or ‘that from him’? I guess. But, do you know what, I don’t buy it.

I want to read about people. About everything in their lives. I don’t follow a blog for their niche. To be honest I don’t really follow any blogs that I don’t enjoy reading. I want that person to speak to me, to hear their voice in their writing. And it doesn’t matter how much you pigeon hole yourself, if you can’t write a coherent, interesting piece that speaks to me, regardless of subject, I just won’t come back.

The best compliment about my blog I’ve ever received was from distant family member. They told me they’d been reading for a while and had absolutely no interest in the topics I was writing about but just couldn’t stop reading. It blew me away, but confirmed to me that I don’t need to pin my colours to any one subject.

Yes I write about being a parent. My stay at home life means parenting is a huge part of what I do. And in that I also write about Autism, what it means to our family, the dizzying highs and the stomach churning lows. But hey I write about me too. I am more than my family, my child, than his diagnosis. I refuse to squash my square life into a round blog hole. It’s messy and confusing and full of heartbreak. Just as it’s bright and exciting and full of achievement.

My niche is me. And no one else can write about that.

Square peg in a round role

#BML16 and why I’m choosing to focus on the positives

I’m quite sure most of you who read my blog have no interest in the practical side of blogging. I can’t imagine how boring a post about a blogging conference would be to someone with no interest in the industry. But more for my own sake really, I’ve decided to write my reflections on my first one, #BML16, that I attended in London this past weekend.

So ok, I’ll be honest (as I always am) it wasn’t perfect. What event is? I could talk about how I spent some of the day wandering around alone, unable to find a familiar face or approach an unfamiliar one. I know now others were feeling exactly the same and I suggest next year giving some space over to a dedicated ‘making friends’ area. Not everyone who attends has a group to ‘hang out’ with. I’m pretty confident and even I felt I couldn’t always approach people in case they didn’t want to talk to me!

I could talk about how mixed in terms of usefulness the sessions were. The technical ones were fascinating, but waaaay too short. Other just felt like a massive ego stroking session (theirs not mine!), not really what I signed up for.

I could also talk about how I was so dismissed by the first brand I approached, that I barely spoke to another all day. I went in fully aware that, in terms of stats, I was a small fish in a big pond, but to be shot down like that so early, meant I didn’t get the network contacts I went to the conference hoping to get. My fault and not theirs I guess, but still….

But you know me. I try and focus on the positives when I can. And so I have decided to concerntrate on my personal highlights of #BML16.

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My dress

Come on! How could I not talk about my mushroom dress? Everyone else was! I received so many wonderful compliments on the dress, it’s material and look. Which was lovely! But the best bit was totally the amount of these faces 😱🙀😮 I saw when I told people that my husband Ben had made it for me. For one it was a great icebreaker (oh my god you’re the girl with the mushroom dress /didn’t you make this or something/ btw can I just saw I love your dress etc) but everyone was soooo nice about it that it also gave me confidence in a room where I knew practically no one.

Top conference tip: wear a dress in an eyecatching fabric that someone unexpected has made for you!

Mushroom pattern dress

The mushroom frock

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done

A good lift selfie. Gotta be done. The dress looked surprisingly good with my Next pleather jacket

Friends

Blogging is a funny old sport. You get to know people you have never met in real life, sometimes quite intimately. You can talk for years before actually meeting in person. So actually getting to meet and hang out with some of what I would class as my blogging buddies was fantastic.

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mum

Me and Natalie from Diary of an Unexpectant Mother. This is a bit blurry but I had just had a bottle of wine!

Me and Maria SuburbanMum

Me and Maria from Suburban Mum. Crazy lighting in the main room for the Brilliance in Blogging Awards (which I was not nominated for boohoo 😉 )

Kelley from BringingupGeorgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Kelly from Bringing up Georgia, when we finally got our full size Coke Zeros. Happy!

Fangirling

Getting to talk face to face to some of the bloggers I admire was an amazing, if a little disconcerting, experience. Once I got over the “oh, I know her from somewhere don’t I?” feeling, I was able to approach people to thank them for their writing or to introduce myself (although the first time I did this it came out a bit gushing “hi I’m Lisa I follow you on Instagram I love your pictures” literally without pausing. I’m not sure poor Hannah from Make, Do & Push knew what to make of me!).

The Fat Girls Guide to Running

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I have nooooo interest in running. Never have. However, the keynote speech given by Julie Creffield from The Fat Girls Guide to Running, really touched something in me. Not to start running necessarily, but the points she made about motivation, self belief and setting goals, or as she calls them Big Fat Stupid Goals. My life is about to change. Oscar starting school is really going to shake things up around here and it feels like the time to DO something is coming. I got to talk to Julie afterwards and it was super interesting. Watch this space!

Making new friends

I’ve been joining Laura’s #effitfriday link up over at Life with Baby Kicks for a while, but we only started talking recently over Twitter. We had a great chat on Saturday. I couldn’t get over how much she reminded me of my sister in law Rachel, which may explain why I later went on to pinch her bum as I walked past. It was only afterwards that I wondered if that might have been a bit forward for someone who I’d only just met. Turns out not, when I saw this on Sunday.

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And this really is what I went to this conference for. The human connection. Reaching out to real people. I love blogging and the space it affords me and the friends it creates online but nothing compares to real human interaction.

Yeah the conference had it flaws and if I’d gone with the sole goal of making money I think I might be feeling pretty maligned. Thankfully I got to make connections and touch someone (and I don’t just mean their arse). Conference made.

This was next door to my hotel and seemed so very apt!

This was next door to my hotel and summed up my feelings about the day.

 

Good

Good

Why do we praise children for being ‘good’?

Not to them but to one another?

“Your boy was so good today”, or

“we loved having him, he was so good”.

What are we saying when we don’t say they were good?

That they were bad?

And what is the definition of good anyway,

and whose definition are our children working to?

How can you measure something you do not, or cannot, define?

Good teaches us nothing.

Good teaches us to toe the party line.

Good teaches us that we must fit in with other peoples expectations of us, even if we don’t know what these expectations are.

Don’t tell me or anyone else our children have been good or are welcome because they are good. It’s too vague and the opposite connotations heartbreakingly negative.

Talk about exactly what it is they’ve done to impress you.

Did they listen?

Were they attentive?

Did they follow all your instructions?

Were they helpful today?

Good?

It’s just a lazy way of saying “I approve of you”

And not saying it

“I don’t”

 

 

 

 

True to Yourself

We first saw the paediatrician in September 2014, so although we didn’t get Oscar’s diagnosis until February this year, it’s been just over a year since the word and the possibility of Autism entered our lives.

I say Oscar’s diagnosis, and of course it is his, but in many ways it’s also ours. Ours as a family, mine as a mother.

I’ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. Being “who you are” or “who you want to be” and being “true to yourself” seem to be buzz words I see everywhere I go at the moment. And the idea is a nice one. Not pretending for the sake of others, living the life you were meant to or that you dreamt of. It’s all very noble. But what happens if the life you want and the one you’ve been thrust in to are two separate things?

Last year I was finally starting to feel happy in my own skin. I felt I was living the life I was meant to. Gradually the future had started to excite me and my confidence soared. I was the mother I wanted to be and I had visions of where we would go and what we would do, together and apart. And then the A bomb dropped into our lives and things haven’t been quite the same since.

I haven’t been that happy for a while now. First of all I thought it was shock, coming to terms and dealing with my ‘grief’ while carrying on. Then things started to happen. People and agencies came into our lives and support and paperwork and appointments and thoughts I never thought I’d need to have became everyday and it was a whirlwind. Yes, Autism was now part of our world, but we could learn and we could deal with that. Right? And then things just carried on, not quite as before but as everyday as they could be. But I didn’t start to feel any better. And eventually I realised in fact I had started to feel worse. Different, less devastated, but more all encompassing.

I spend so much energy getting through the day, some days I feel like a shell. Empty and drained. And then some days I’m feel like I’m getting it. Like I’m winning, like everything is OK again. And the next day it’s everything I have to get us out the door.

And I started to wonder why I feel so sad and I think I might have an idea. I am not the mother I thought I was going to be. And while I’m sure most of us can say the same (who really is living up to the ideal we had before and during pregnancy, really?), it’s proving harder to accept that than maybe I thought it’d would. Is this sadness down to not really knowing who I am?

I want to be true to myself, I just don’t know who that is any more. I am not the mother I thought I was. Because Oscar is not the child I thought he was.

I’m sure I’ll come to terms with it one day. I’ll accept that I am an SEN parent. That I will live my whole life with a disabled child. I’m just not sure when. And right now I don’t know how to.

Or perhaps I just don’t want to? Because that would be like admitting all this is real.

And then my heart just might break for good.

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