You know those experiences that change you deeply and immensely and yet not so much? (That’s not at all confusing, is it?)
They reinforce what you know to be true about yourself while reenergizing you, making you feel like a new person.
In my life, those moments include:
- Leaving for college
- Living with a guy who wasn’t the right guy
- Getting into an almost fatal car accident
- Meeting my husband
- Moving to NYC by myself, without knowing anyone in the city
- Quitting my day job and doing my creative work full-time
- Adopting the sweetest lab mix who we didn’t know was pregnant with seven puppies
- Getting married
- Switching to a vegan lifestyle
- Winning a scholarship to RHH Live
- Meeting Mayi in person and deciding that we had to form a business together
And, recently I experienced another one of those life-altering moments: speaking at creativeLIVE.
If you haven’t been paying close attention, you might’ve missed the eighty-six reminders I posted on my blog and social media about the three-day workshop I led, Build a Successful Creative Blog. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the blog tour.
If you did miss all the hoopla (or couldn’t stay superglued to your computer for three days), you can get anytime access to the course right here. Just sayin’.
(If you’re new to Blacksburg Belle cause you found me via the workshop, WELCOME! I’m overjoyed that you’re here. Seriously, I’m dancing to ‘Best Day of My Life’ by American Authors cause I’m so happy. Join me.)
Since teaching the course, I’ve received a lot of “what was it like” questions, so I thought I’d pull back the curtains and give you a behind-the-scenes backstage pass to the experience and share the lessons I learned.
First, I have to say that every single person at creativeLIVE is on it. Professional, talented and inspiring. And, they absolutely love their jobs.
That in and of itself made my time working with them a delight.
With that said, here’s the story:
I left my house in tears, because I hate leaving my dogs for more than a day. They’re my sweet babies. (You dog lovers out there know what I mean. When they give you that “hey, where are you going and why can’t I come look,” it breaks your heart.)
I stopped the dramatics by the time we got to the airport.
My husband and I paid fifteen dollars each to board the plane first, so my husband could wipe down the seats, trays and seatbelts with sanitizing wipes. And, on the flight, I wore one of those surgical-type masks. I have an autoimmune disease, so I easily pick up other peoples’ colds and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible.
I’m glad I took that extra precaution cause the guy next to us kept coughing, without covering his mouth. Yuck!
(Could you imagine if I’d been coughing throughout the entire course? That would’ve been so annoying for you and me. I wanted to say, “Excuse me, sir but can you please cover your mouth when you cough? You don’t know this but I’m kind of a big deal on my blog and I’m teaching a course this week…so quit being gross.”)
When my husband and I arrived in San Francisco, we rode down the escalator to get our luggage and there was a man dressed in a suit holding a sign with ‘April Bowles’ written on it, celebrity style.
One of our suitcases didn’t make it. I had to work overtime to calm down, reminding myself that I packed all of my speaking outfits in my carryon luggage so at least I had that.
But the shoes I planned to wear were in the missing suitcase.
The woman at the U.S. Airways counter assured us that our luggage was on the next flight and would be delivered to us at our hotel the next morning. That helped. A little.
I took in the California atmosphere (first-timer!) as we drove to the hotel which was pretty swanky.
However, I had another moment of panic when the woman checking us in told us that usually when the airlines say you’ll get your luggage the next day, they really mean in two or three days.
I think she felt sorry for me and wanted to avoid a meltdown in the lobby because she upgraded us to a suite at no additional cost and I’m so grateful for it. Our room was gigantic.
Thankfully, the missing suitcase got delivered at 2am that night. Probably because the U.S. Airways people wanted us to stop bothering them. (I had my husband call every hour to check on our bag. The squeaky wheel gets the grease people!)
That first night we ate at Herbivore, and I ordered the vegan, gluten-free mac and cheese. Oh the creamy goodness! I won’t detail everywhere we ate cause that’d be pretty boring, but the food was my favorite part of being in San Francisco.
I felt incredibly spoiled. We just don’t have that kind of selection here in Blacksburg, Virginia. I’m already missing the chef’s fried rice from The Loving Hut we ordered in on our last night.
On my second day, I went to creativeLIVE to meet my content producer, Bryan, who I had been having weekly check-in calls with and who looked nothing like I thought he would. Isn’t that weird when that happens?
Anyways, Bryan was funny and kind and pretty much always smiling.
He introduced me to the team of people who’d be working with me on my workshop, including the pocket-sized line producer (I think that’s her title), Kate who would be in the studio with me at all times, giving me time signals (like 30 minutes left) as we got close to the end of each segment.
The entire time I was there, I felt like a superstar.
They arranged for a car to pick me up and take me back to the hotel each day. They had vegan, gluten-free breakfasts and lunches for me every day. They provided professional hair and makeup (which I didn’t know about until the day before. Come on, Bryan! That’s important info for a girl!). The control freak in me did my own hair on days one and two.
And, at the end of day three, they threw a wrap party that included all of us (the producers, team and studio audience) doing tequila shots. Ummmm, I can’t think of a better way to end such an amazing three days.
While speaking, it felt like being on a TV set, especially with the “flying” cameras that distracted me until I got used to them.
And, in no particular order, my absolute favorite parts (if I have to choose) would be:
2. Every gal in the studio audience made a huge difference to the workshop. (Thank you for being so brave and sharing your personal experiences with blogging. You lit up the hot seat.)
4. The chat room questions and helpful tips everyone shared. (Super huge thank you to every single person who engaged during those three days. Shout out to “Kris with a K” and Amanda Sue and everyone else who continually added to the chat.)
5. Seeing the impact the course was having on people via social media. Even though I couldn’t respond in the moment, it kept me inspired throughout the three days.
6. Kate’s outbursts during her countdowns. “10, 9, 8, 7, 6, what what 5, 4, 3, 2…”
7. My dress on day three which was a HUGE hit. Every girl likes to hear that she looks beautiful, and at least twenty people told me that I looked exceptionally great in that dress.
And, like with most BIG experiences, I learned or was reminded of some important lessons:
1. Even though I have health issues, I’m able do anything I decide to do.
Well, maybe not anything. I don’t think I could run a marathon, but I have been allowing my autoimmune disease to control me on some days—sometimes for weeks at a time—and I realized that I’m stronger than I thought, physically, emotionally and mentally.
For the month leading up to the workshop, I worked from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed most days, with breaks for food, showers, dog walks, and sanity.
My husband said, “I haven’t seen you work this hard and persevere like you did since you worked with Mayi in Panama.” And, it’s true. I didn’t allow my health to dictate my attitude or behavior. I showed it who’s boss. (Take that autoimmune disease!)
2. I have a gift for teaching. (She says humbly.)
I can’t remember a time growing up when I didn’t think I was going to be a teacher. While most kids were begging their parents to take them to the toy store for Cabbage Patch Kids, I was pleading with my mom to take me to the teacher supply store so I could buy worksheets and planners and gold star stickers.
In college, when student teaching, I figured out that I didn’t want to be a teacher—not in the traditional sense at least. But, while speaking at creativeLIVE, it felt as if I was put on this earth to teach.
I’ve known this all along, but I needed a reminder that I do my best work when I’m “playing” teacher.
So, I’ll be making some changes to my business model to incorporate more speaking, live classes and possibly webinars. If you’re in the Blacksburg/Christiansburg area, look out for some announcements coming soon for some local workshops.
3. I have THE BEST support system.
I already knew this, but I was reminded of how critical it is to surround yourself with people who support and love you.
My husband supported me as I worked day and night on this course and he came with me to San Francisco to see the sights, but also to be there for me, encouraging me when I needed it most.
Mayi dropped everything to chat with me on Skype when I needed a boost and pick-me-up. Her husband, David, even sent me a message on Facebook telling me what a great job I was doing.
My parents, who would never blog, tuned in a lot throughout the three days. They also made their friends who don’t have blogs and won’t ever blog watch in the evenings which I find hilarious and incredibly sweet.
My mother-in-law watched the course when she could and even sent the link to someone she knew who would benefit from it and that person ended up buying it. And, most importantly, she took very good care of our dogs, so I didn’t have to worry about them while gone.
My sister-in-law sent us a care package, including books for me to read on the flight and treats for our dogs.
I’m lucky. Following your dreams is always easier when you have people cheering you on. I wish that for YOU!
4. Pushing myself out of my comfort zone can result in incredible things.
When creativeLIVE asked me to teach for three full days, I wondered how I’d pull it off. I’ve spoken before, including at the Etsy Success Symposium, but that was two one-hour segments. For creativeLIVE, we were talking twelve ninety-minute segments.
The first thoughts that entered my mind were: 1) How am I going to remember that much information? 2) Will I lose my voice? 3) Can I create that much dynamic, engaging content in a month and a half?
This was unlike anything I’d done before, but I also knew it was a COMPLETE YES. The thought of possibly teaching in front of thousands of students watching from the comfort of their homes, giving them a free opportunity to get some of my best material made me more excited than anything in a very long time.
And, so far, the results have been more than I could’ve imagined. I reached more people than I ever could have on my own and I was able to work with lots of creatives to improve their blogs and reignite their love for blogging.
So, that’s the summary—the short one.
I could’ve written a twenty-page post about my experience, but I hope you enjoyed the sound bites and I hope this inspires you to push past your comfort zone, whatever that might be and say yes to something that makes you a little nervous.
And, I’d love to hear how things are going if you watched the course and are making changes to your blog. What have you modified? Have you seen any results yet?
Please keep me updated! I want to know what works for you and what doesn’t. I want to know what you found easy and hard. I want to know what you’d like to know more about or if there were topics that you’re still not quite sure about. I want to know it all!