I was having lunch with a good non-blogger friend of mine before Christmas. Boyfriend Javelin was there too. And it wasn't so much lunch as it was an awakening. The awakening was very personal and I don't think Boyfriend Javelin or my friend were aware of the awakening. It happened while my friend and I chatted about blogging.
Like how blogging is a full-time job. And how recipe testing can be utterly draining. And how preparing just a single post can take a couple of days, what with all the photo editing, uploading, writing, linking, etc. And by the time it's all over, you've completing forgotten about the real reason you started the post to begin with.
And then the promotion. Good grief, the promotion. The endless promotion. The tweets, the plusses, the likes, the comments, the shares, the pins, the stumbles. Because there was so much hard work invested in that post that SOMEONE should see it! Someone. Anyone. Maybe?
Which of course led the conversation to what is always lurking in the dark recesses of blogger brains everywhere. The big who. Who is this someone I spend so much time promoting to? Am I really trying to blog to just anyone? Who am I trying to engage with?
I was very blunt. "I want to build friendships. I don't want followers. I don't want subscribers who just subscribe because I subscribe to them. I want friends who are really interested in my perspective."
My friend, who is not a blogger, was very blunt about bloggers. About distaste for bloggers. About distaste for the endless self-promotion. "It's everybody stroking everybody's egos," my non-blogging friend said. Then my friend called it all a big ____________. Well, I won't use the EXACT word here, but let's just say it was short, descriptive, and involved the word "circle". And implied reciprocal behavior.
My friend's description was blunt, to the point, and from the years spent working on multiple blogs on different subjects, I'd say my friend's description was accurate much of the time (I didn't say ALL of the time).
Which made me start thinking. Things like "eeeewwww" and "what have I been doing?" and "what should I do?". Cause I don't want to be part of that circle. I want to build friendships.
My friend doesn't trust food blogger recipes. My sister doesn't trust food blogger recipes. My mother won't even read my food blog. And these are just people with interest in food who don't have time or ingredients to waste on recipes that may or may not work out as described. And O. M. G. There are millions of food blogs. Food everywhere. Photos popping up like weeds. Tweets buzzing about like mosquitoes over a swamp.
With all this food everywhere all of the time, my sister asked me recently if I could recommend blogs with recipes that I would trust. Not blogs I like. Not blogs with pretty photos. Not blogs with cool recipes. What blogs do I trust? What blogs are guaranteed to have amazing recipes that won't waste time or ingredients? And if I give the wrong the answer, then I'm not trust-worthy. And it's not like I have time to test 20 recipes from every blogger I follow. Gosh, testing my own recipes is time-consuming and wasteful enough... You should see my freezer. Seriously. If you lived next door, I would be shoving food through your mail slot just to get rid of it.
My sister's question is still unanswered. And I don't want to my blog to be part of that trust problem.
"So how's blogging going?" my mom asks at Christmas. She's not clear on how blogging works. Or how someone can be successful at blogging. Or what the long-term goal of my blog might be. It's all very confusing. Even for me.
"It's going well," I say brightly. I explain a little about the photo mess involving Food Fetish Friday and all the work involved with the cleanup. "But once it's finished, it really will make the blog better." I don't tell her how discouraged I've become. I don't tell her how I've started to doubt the very nature of blogging. How I've begun to doubt its purpose or effectiveness.
"I want to see if I can find this one blogger's book," I tell my non-blogger friend. We're strolling through Barnes & Noble, flipping through the latest cookbooks. Cookbooks on every subject. All discounted for Christmas. Piles of books. Shelves of books. Food, food, food.
10 minutes later, with three of us scanning the sea of titles, we finally find one copy of the blogger's book. Insignificantly buried among thicker, bolder, hard-back books. The soft-covered book feels shallow and oddly disconcerting in my hands. The binding, size, and layout don't inspire trust. As I flip through the blogger's cookbook, my non-blogger friend half-smiles.
"One copy," my friend says pointedly. Boyfriend Javelin nods and points to the multiple copies of Martha Stewart's lasted book. And we all chuckle.
"One copy versus Martha's empire of books," I say. The awakening grows stronger. And less like an awakening. Akin to suffocation.
- I need to invest in my friends, not goals.
- I can't be sucked into the circle.
- I must be helpful and add value.
- I must keep faith in what I am - even acorns grow to be oaks.
"I probably shouldn't," I say. "I should probably just let everyone know about all the stuff going on right now."
Boyfriend Javelin got a new job. We're moving to Indianapolis. My laptop got damaged and still needs repairs, thus work continues on a new backup laptop. Google's Picassa gave me major troubles on photo storage, so cleanup continues. Food Fetish Friday posts are slowly being restored and updated to a clean format. My photo collection in iPhoto has grown to over 20,000 photos with little organization, so I've spent hours sorting and cleaning up that mess - still in progress. Older recipes on the blog having major formatting issues and need desperate attention. And it's all just as much fun as it sounds.
Boyfriend Javelin keeps whispering things about taking steps backward to move forward. And something about regrouping. And getting organized to be more efficient. I'm just focusing on being an acorn with faith.
So I'd like to say, "Just bear with me a little longer..."
Instead, I'll be honest. "The blog is going to be quiet for a while. There's a lot of clean-up needed, there's too much food in my freezer, and the move to Indianapolis is going to require extra downtime."
I'm here to build a helpful food blog with reliable recipes and room for my friends. I'm here to build relationships and trust. And to be effective at such lofty aspirations, I need to clean up, get organized, and rethink.
Step back, leap forward. Happy New Year to all of my friends!