Friday, January 11, 2013

Where is Javelin Warrior?

I know I've been quiet. No new Food Fetish Fridays. No new recipe posts. No new Kindred Spirit posts (what are those?). No new random rants. Just silence. Broken with intermittent Made with Love Monday posts.

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.

Deep breath.
  • 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 let Boyfriend Javelin read about my awakening. He half-frowns. "You're not really going to post all this, are you?" Boyfriend Javelin asks. Because he knows my tendency for rants. And he's a firm believer in the separation of personal musings from public declarations.

"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!



29 comments:

  1. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)January 11, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    We'll be here waiting. <3

    I disagree about trusting food bloggers recipes though. I always prefer a recipe from a food blog to one from a cookbook or magazine or nondescript website. Because they talk to you. They tell you how they did it. It's like I know a real person made it and it worked for them, you know?

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  2. I think it's a bummer that all food blogger's recipes can be lumped into one. Just as there are cookbooks (by non-blogger's) out there where a recipe will occasionally not work, so are there recipes from food bloggers. Recipes are so very individual (having to do with oven temps/weather/skill-level, etc), that there is always a margin of error. Most of the food bloggers I know work their butts off testing recipes until they are sure that they work. I can relate to the whole job without being paid thing. Because being a dedicated, passionate blogger IS work. But enjoyable work. As far as seeing one unimpressive book written by a blogger sitting on a shelf next to many books by a millionaire (billionaire?) who has loads of people working for her to compile, test, and write said book, well...kudos to that food blogger.


    All that said, I really do understand being frustrated. It's because you DO work hard and that you ARE passionate about what you do. It's hard to feel unappreciated or undervalued (especially when people disvalue your work to your face). I say take a breather and come back revitalized!


    Oh, and p.s...we will soon be living in the same state! A few hours away, but hey...maybe one day we'll meet in person. :)

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  3. I'm actually much the same way, Kayle. I distrust most cookbooks and really want the connection with a real person when I'm following someone else's recipe. In fact, at Christmas, I made a lemon meringue pie for the first time based on a blogger's recipe (a blogger I had never read before). I think the frustrating part, for a food blogger, is managing to establish trust with non-blogger readers who have a bias against food bloggers...

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  4. Of course you're right, Heather - it's completely unfair to lump all food bloggers together. There are many, many food bloggers I admire and I've been inspired to buy some of their books because of that admiration. And definitely kudos to the blogger who publishes any book. It's a huge accomplishment.


    For me, specifically in this moment in time, things feel overwhelming. Especially when I think about where I could envision myself being vs. where reality is. I'm also taking some of the observations from my friend to heart because I know sometimes my passion gets misdirected. Sometimes it's hard to stay focused on adding value and not adding to a following.


    And I love that we'll be in the same state! I've only been to Indianapolis once and I'm excited about the move. And hopefully one day we will get to meet. Maybe once I've dropped some of this introversion :/

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  5. Kayle (The Cooking Actress)January 11, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    Yeah, I hear ya. I actually have never encountered the bias against food bloggers, it makes me sad that there is such a big one/

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  6. Sometimes we move through moments in our life and we become more acquainted with who we are. I see the stats that several thousand people read my blog, but i hardly ever hear from any. On occasion, I heard something that what you wrote really made a difference. Through my blog, I've been able to access some media appearances that have changed lives of some people that I know first hand now. Not all blogs are that way.

    My only intent with my blog is that I begin to learn how to articulate what it is that I know and that I help make the world a better place. Outside of that, not much else matters with it for me. I probably don't do all the promotion stuff that I should or correctly, but I just let the searches speak for themselves of how people find my blog.

    I fully believe with your boyfriend that when things get too much, we do need to step back and sift through the ingredients of our life. It is about finding out who we are a little more each day. I love how you share your passion. You've inspired me far more than you probably realize and far more than I've probably shared. I've tried things that I never understood how to do, but your pictures and directions helped immensely. There are many out there sharing recipes, but for many people who have no clue what all of those ingredients are or how you do these various things, it helps to see more step by step that we can follow.

    While you and I have never met, I consider you a good friend starting back in the X-days. Who knows, maybe one day our paths will cross in real time, but I enjoy reading what you write and I'm glad you're real and honest!

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  7. What an interesting subject. You certainly make some valid points. I also sometimes wonder what the point is to blogging... I know I have lots of friends and family who read my blog and enjoy it and even sometimes try the odd recipe but they rarely leave me a comment... They might mention it to me when they see me but on the whole, I don't really know if anyone really cares about what I post. Certainly I don't know if anyone outside of that circle of people I know personally gives a damn.
    I do know that I am very emotionally engaged with what I write - I am proud of it even if no-one even reads it! I sometimes imagine that I am leaving a legacy for my kids and one day when I'm gone, they can look back and get an insight into my life. Perhaps thats reason enough....
    If you don't feel the love anymore, or your passion has ebbed, taking a break sounds like a good idea. But please know that I read what you write. I appreciate it. I enjoy it. And I will be looking forward to your happy return. x

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  8. Don, you're awesome :) Your words picked me up, dusted me off, and pointed me in the right direction. When I started my blog here, a few years back, the whole point was to help. To share what I had learned, to share what I was working on, and to help where I could. I need to get back on track with helping and remind myself of that purpose... I'm so happy I've been able to make a difference - I think deep down that's what I seek more than anything. To make a difference...

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  9. Thanks so much for sharing your perspective and experiences on blogging, Anneli - sometimes it really helps to know I'm not the only person who questions themselves... I definitely have not lost the passion or the love - it's just buried this mountain of cleanup work in front of me. Your kind words have helped remind me to keep the passion alive and resist discouragement...

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  10. Been there. Just do it because you love it :)

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  11. I get a little side tracked as well at times, wondering if all my words are worth it and then that one little comment I receive brings me back to reality. I always wish I could do more, connect more, help more.... and yet I'm probably already doing that. I still need to get back to making the homemade bread and learning how to bake it in an oven - got to get more ingredients and a free day to try this (but I so badly need special help on this because either I have a mental block or I just don't understand). I hear you though.... I've walked through those same thoughts and some days I still walk through them. Your post actually helped me a little because I was beginning to feel like I was in a funk.

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  12. Anytime you're up for making bread and baking in the oven, just let me know. I'll be happy to walk you through it. I do it all the time and feel quite comfortable with the techniques and pitfalls ;)

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  13. JW, what a post! But it's so true, I'm sure it's not just you and I agonising over these issues. I often wonder, what's the point of it all and have I really got time in my life for this. I don't know what the answers are, but I do know it's reassuring to read your thoughts about it and realise it's not just me. So thanks for posting. And good luck with your move and various clean-ups. Happy New Year.

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  14. Excellent advice, Sandi... And I do enjoy the creative aspects immensely - it's the clean-up part that's tough ;) But I suspect that's true for most people...

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  15. Happy New Year to you too, Choclette! And thanks for your kind words and I think in some ways I just needed to get it all out... Sometimes things just build and build and build and sometimes I have to hit the pressure valve...

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  16. Good post. Blogging can be a lot of work, if you let it be. If you're blogging, I think the important thing is to figure out why you're doing it, then do as much as you can to feed that, and as little of the "work" that it takes to keep the blog going. I do very little social media stuff - I do have a Facebook page and Twitter account, but really spend little time with them (under 2 minutes a week!). I'll always comment on someone's blog if they'll comment on mine, and have discovered some amazing blogs that way. Otherwise the only blogs I comment on are ones I like reading, and I try to get to all of those once or twice a week. But I'm really not doing any of that for promotion purposes, but because I enjoy it.



    Trusting blogger's recipes is an interesting question. I do look at all recipes with a jaundiced eye; but then I do that with cookbooks, too. I've been burned with recipes by big name cookbook authors before (names everyone recognizes), so I always read through a recipe a couple of times and look for problems. Of course it helps that I rarely make a recipe as written - I'm always looking for ways to make them to my personal taste - so I'm pretty used to evaluating a recipe for how well it actually works. Good post - thanks.

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  17. Happy New Year, JW! You are very honest, and I don't think that there's anything wrong with that! Best of luck with the move, and I hope you keep on cooking even if we don't get to read about it! :)

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  18. I've asked myself the very same questions time and again. Why do I do what I do? If I'm doing it for numbers (followers) or just to satisfy my ego, then I am going down the wrong road. I'll do this because I'm just sharing what I love to do. If a random reader out there appreciates, its a bonus. Else I'll just write for me and my love for the cooking, baking, photography, writing etc. If I strive, it just becomes tiresome and painful. So I've decided I'm doing it for myself :) Thanks for sharing, so we all go through the same soul searching.

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  19. So well said, Mich - and your commitment to doing it for yourself is what I strive to achieve. It's an excellent motto to live by and somehow I let myself forget it... Thanks for the kind words and the excellent reminder...

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  20. Thanks you so much for the kind words and the move will definitely be an adventure :) And I am still cooking (and photographing), but some of the blog issues/fixes need to be cleaned up before I get back to regular recipe sharing...

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  21. John, I really appreciate the advice on minimizing the "work" aspect of the blog. Certainly, work will always be involved and that's ok. And I think that challenging myself to continuously improve is also good. But I am seriously rethinking my approach to social spaces, mostly because I don't feel I'm "connecting" or building relationships effectively there. And so I've started to question the value to pouring effort into something that's not allowing me to connect with others...


    I confess I am a lot like you in that I have a tough time sticking to a recipe as it's printed to posted ;) In my head, I'm instantly rearranging steps and ingredients and suddenly I'm miles from where I started... I certainly believe there are amazing bloggers with fantastic recipes out there (I've tasted some of them) just as I believe there are AWFUL cookbooks from well-known celebs. I just know I don't want to be part of a trust issue but finding a way to break thru that is...challenging...

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  22. What a very poignant post and strikes a chord on so many levels! So glad you have been able to articulate so well the sentiments that so many bloggers feel. There are times when I feel so overwhelmed about all the different platforms out there and are there enough hours in a day to investigate and test the new trends. It's all consuming! I completely agree about the promoting aspect of the blog but also there seems to be a plethora of experts out there on how to be the best of the best. It can be very draining and tiring. I started my blog as a way to capture my creative outlet and build a rapport with like minded foodies, the minute it starts becoming a chore, then I will reassess the situation. I do sympathise with all the technology problems you have encountered. Hopefully, you will get the time you need to resolve them. Good luck with the move. Perhaps a little downtime is what you need to come back feeling reinvigorated! Thanks again for a great post :-)

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  23. Thank you so much for the kind words, Jacqueline, and it helps to know I'm not the only blogger who has faced a dark place. And keeping up with the latest tools and trends really is a full-time effort, let alone implementing :/ Fortunately, I am committed to fixing the issues I've encountered and getting back to a regular blogging schedule. But with a renewed focus on my passions that started this blog in the first place... Like you said, once it becomes a chore, it's time to reassess...

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  24. What a great read Mark! My husband is always asking me why I blog and HE was the one that talked me into doing it in the first place. After reading this post, I realized that bloggers have different reasons for blogging, but the one thing in common is that it's very time consuming, so no matter what the reason, you need to love what you do and find all of what you get from it more than worth what you put in to it. I hope your move goes well and your get set up in your new home. Enjoy your time off, and when you start back, do it slowly and at a comfortable pace. Hugs, MJ

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  25. You said it perfectly, MJ - no matter what the reason for blogging, I need to love what I "get" from it, more than what I put into it. And when that balance is off, it's time for me to take a step back... For me, I want to make a difference and recently, I've just haven't been feeling like that's been happening :/ This move is very exciting and it is giving me some time and excuse to get things in shape/organized with the blog, so I plan to come back re-charged and ready to "ease" back in (as you said). Thanks so much for the hugs :)

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  26. Jody_thehobbyroomdiariesFebruary 7, 2013 at 1:57 PM

    Super post, very thought-provoking. I've been looking at what I'm doing with the whole blogging thing lately and trying to look at what my goal is and what I'm actually getting out it. I've been saving posts I want to read in my inbox and I'm glad I saved this one because your comments were really helpful to me on deciding what's important (enjoying blogging) and what I can live without (self-promotion). I'm sorry for your setbacks (and the stress of a cross-country move, ugh), but keep up the fantastic blogging! Your blog is one of my faves to read and it's evident that you really care about your recipes and connecting with your readers.

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  27. Thank you so much for your kindness, Jody - as always, your comments move me and I'm always left feeling empowered to do better :) Thank you so much for that. And I'm always humbled to hear others enjoy reading what I post - it's always what I hope for... (with crossed fingers!).

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  28. Steph @ Steph Loves CakeFebruary 11, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    What a great post, even if I am reading it a month late. I found it when I was thinking where did fetish friday's go and wondered what you were up to. Ew, does that sound stalker-ish? Totally un-intentional. I am relatively new to blogging, having had one just under a year, and find that it is a steep steep learning curve.


    I have to constantly think of SEO, have I worked on something and gotten ready to post something just to have a post up? Am I writing as myself or putting on a persona I think people want to read? Now I need to find the time to learn how to stage food and take pictures properly and grow as a baker. I love to cook and I love to try new things but do find sometimes that I just don't have the time to photograph it all, and write a post to boot. So hats off to you that you have taken a step back to clean house so to speak, and good luck with the move to Indy!


    x Steph

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  29. Steph @ Steph Loves CakeFebruary 11, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Oh yes, and totally agree on the cookbook front. I have a million and use 3 regularly. I get many many more from the blogs I follow and I prefer the personal touch that blogs give.

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