Welcome to the Just One Question project, which I talked about earlier this week: friends, it’s go time.
To recap, I’m doing a blog series mostly centered around blogging, writing, food, and beyond. Each post will be just one question (hence the series name) as answered by an esteemed group of wonderfully creative and talented bloggers I admire. At the end of each post, I’ll reveal the next question, and that’s where we get interactive.
I asked this specific group of bloggers because I’ve known them for a while and really respect their work. If you’re a blogger and I didn’t ask you, it could be that a) I thought you would think I was weird for asking, b) I assumed you were far too busy for something like this, or c) I don’t know you read the blog. There’s no stats on earth which can tell me who you all are individually, but I’d like to get to know you. If you’re a blogger or writer and would like to participate, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. I’ll also post the upcoming question on Facebook and Twitter.
When I went to the Food Media Forum back in August, one of the things which really struck me was how many people in attendance were there having zero blog at all: they just were thinking of starting one and wanted some insight as to how to go about it, or what it involved. I was floored: I would have never thought to do something like that before I started the blog, nor would I have had the nerve to. My goal, ultimately, is twofold: I want us to talk about the things that even bloggers feel weird about asking each other, and I want to also give people like the me of 2 1/2 years ago – those who are toying with blogging but have zero idea how to go about it – an opportunity to get some advice from some of my favorite bloggers and writers.
So let’s get to it, shall we? Here’s the first question:
When you first started your blog, how much about it did you determine ahead of time (i.e regularity of posts, topics/food covered, etc). if you had a specific plan of action for your blog, have you stuck with it over time? Alternatively, if you didn’t have a plan, have you found yourself gravitating towards one as time has passed?
Before we get to the answers, let’s look at some stats I compiled based on the responses: I think we all know I love a good chart and/or graph, so it was only a matter of time before I found a blog series which would allow me to funnel your thoughts into visual aids. So, did these bloggers have a plan when they began their own blogs? I think you’ll be surprised:
So a good quarter of us had no plan whatsoever; great news for those of you looking to start blogs but just don’t know how to begin. I agonized about my own blog for months: look and feel, fonts, style, post length and frequency, food focus (too specialized? not specialized enough?), all of it. Thinking about it obsessively, for me, made me more comfortable once I started doing it. Everyone’s personality is very different, and you’ll find that many of us will encourage you to jump in with both feet and not overthink it. I would encourage the same: You can “plan” until you’re comfortable, but don’t do so much that you never actually start.
Here’s why: no matter if we planned or not, every single one of our blogs – 100%! – have changed since we started, to varying degrees. Impossible to chart out, but you’ll see in the answers that some of us stayed very on course with our original thoughts, and some of us have veered into completely different territory. So even if you start one way, your blog can evolve just like a living, breathing thing.
Don’t believe me? Take a look at why we started our blogs initially:
Now, I know all of these fine individuals as food bloggers, and one could assume that a food blogger gets into it because they love food, period. Not necessarily so: some of us had food in the plan all along, but others of us came around to it using more of a “scenic route.” Not only that, but we’re not even just in it for the food: as you can see, we’re in it for other things, like general creativity, educating others, and connecting with each other. And some of us are just total stalkers, but in a nice way.
It’s answer time! Mind you, this may be a long post, but remember: this is 20 bloggers’ worth of great information, in their own words, and I can promise you it’s marvelous information. We don’t necessarily think so, because we’re not the most confident bunch all the time, which leads me to my final chart of the post. Blogger participants: did you apologize for some aspect of your answer or your perceived tardiness in sending that answer?
Friends, do not apologize for your thoughts or the length of those thoughts, and definitely don’t apologize for your “delayed response,” because in this world, there are no delayed responses. You sent responses, didn’t you? and for those of you who were busy with other things, I get it; I’m never going to hold that against you, I’ll just catch you on the next round. Speaking of: here’s the question for the next installment, and it’s a simple one. I know we all are busy with holiday things, so I’m going easy on you this time:
On average, how long (minus the actual cooking/baking/crafting/etc.) does it take for you to assemble a blog post? Include photography/photo editing, all writing and editing, and anything else you would need to do in a typical post.
Readers, stay tuned. Bloggers currently in the project, I’ll send the question out to you via email. Bloggers who want in? Shoot me an email and I’ll add you to the distribution list or send you more information. Approximate due date back for this one is Thanksgiving Eve (November 27), which gives you about two weeks. If I start getting a lot of them back sooner, I’ll send a reminder out and perhaps post it a bit earlier as well.
And now, the answers, in no particular order. I’ve highlighted some of my favorite thoughts throughout. I can say from personal experience that these answers really give you a great idea of each blogger’s personality, and I love that.
Emma, of agates and madeleines:
“I started my blog close to four years ago. I was in grad school, and I lived far away from my family and friends. I initially wanted a place to keep track of memories and events, with a plethora of writing and maybe some photos, because I love to photograph my day-to-day life. I started on the Blogger platform, but was unhappy with how lame my blog looked. So I took a few steps back, deleted my Blogger page, and started afresh on WordPress. I’ve always been interested in so many things, to the point that I couldn’t see myself limiting my blog to just food, or just lifestyle, or travel, because – duh – I was a poor grad student who wasn’t about to travel anywhere other than my office anytime soon. My blog’s tagline thus became “Navigating a Life of Interests” [sidenote: it was also quite punny, given that as a forester I navigate with a compass on a daily basis]. My blog’s name, of agates and madeleines, stems from two things: my varied interests in food and the natural world around me, and my general abhorrence of capital letters. Funny story – in 2008, I lived with a girl who one day quietly confided in me that she wanted to start a food blog. I tried to hide my disgust, but I thought that was the absolute dumbest idea in the world. Take 50 pictures of your chocolate/lavender/salt cookies as they proudly sit on your countertop with the perfect backlighting? Uhhhhhh, why? And now, five years later, here I am, happy with the content I’ve created for my mostly dessert-filled blog.
The only way that my plan for my blog has changed over the past few years is the photography. I received a DSLR as a gift years ago, but it took my blog’s feeble cries for better imagery to get me to try the camera’s manual settings. It’s been a tricky learning curve, as I was so pro-film and equally anti-digital for a few years too many. I still have a long way to go, but I think planning out recipes for my blog has taught me a lot about photography. And it’s also taught me to love digital photography neeeearly as much as I do film.”
Faygie, Life Tastes Good:
“I thought about starting a blog for a while before I actually started mine. Not so much about the details of the blog, but more about whether I really wanted to start one, and if I DID start one, would anybody actually be interested in reading it (I’m not the most confidant person out there, obviously). I started my (original) blog on January 1st, 2009. At the time, the blogs that I were mostly reading were ones that were basically reviews & recipes of what the author made/ate for dinner that night (for the most part not original recipes). People were always asking me what I made for dinner, looking for ideas of what to make, so I decided to start a blog doing the same thing—to share what I made for dinner daily (or at least a few times a week).
A few years later I started to get really into baking, and started a separate baking blog. This was after I started reading a bunch of other blogs—blogs that had recipes that were made specifically with a blog post in mind, ones with beautiful photographs, and, oftentimes, original recipes. I wanted my new blog to be more like that. But after a while I realized a couple things: 1) I was not posting on my other blog AT ALL and 2) as somebody who is constantly struggling with her weight, baking so many decadent treats so often was NOT a good thing (portion control? What’s that?). I decided that having 2 different blogs wasn’t a good idea, so I eventually combined the 2 of them into one new blog: Life Tastes Good.
Even now, though, after so many years, I’m still struggling to have a specific plan for my blog. I’d like to have a posting schedule, but sometimes life, and even lack of inspiration, just gets in the way. But that is something that I really hope to start focusing on (regular posts, more original recipes), especially since my youngest is now in school in the mornings.”
Isabelle, Crumb: A Food Blog:
“The thing is, back when I started, there wasn’t nearly as much info on how to run a blog. It was just something you jumped into with both feet – you picked a name, signed up for Blogger (or WordPress, if you were techy), and then started posting. Heck, even photos were kind of optional back then, if you can believe that!
Amy, Elephant Eats:
“I had been reading food blogs for a while and just really thought it would be something I’d like to do but it was SO daunting to start. I think I got a few recipes together so I wouldn’t have like only one post and then I posted 2 or 3 at once I believe. I decided that the best way to get and keep followers would be to post at least twice per week so I kept that up for quite a while. Unfortunately, starting around when I started planning my wedding, it’s gone down to one and maybe two times max per week.
I assumed I’d be posting mostly about food but since I know that I love crafts (and love to show them to people), there would be some crafts thrown into the mix occasionally. I wasn’t sure how much I’d share of my personal life and photos at first. As I started blogging, however, I realized that the part of other blogs that I like the most is when people give me a glimpse into their lives (probably because I’m a total stalker 😉 ) So when I have a fun weekend where my hubby and I did fun stuff, I like to include that in my blog posts. I also like to include pics of me doing the cooking every once in a while, rather than JUST the food. I think people enjoy that…or at least I like to see the face behind the blog. It makes it all more real and relatable. I notice that some people make their non-food personal posts separate, but since this is food blog, I like to include it within a post where I have a recipe. I just started doing it that way and figured I’d stick with it. Unfortunately I think some people come for recipes and don’t like scrolling past your life to get to it, but oh well, you can’t please everyone.
My point is that although my blog started one way, I’ve kind of changed it over time and since I’ve gotten a few more readers, I guess it’s working for me. I still would like to get back to posting two or preferably more times per week, but it’s just not realistic when you have a full-time job and a life outside the blog (and gosh if I had kids I probably wouldn’t even get one post up!). I definitely don’t think you need to start a blog with something very specific in mind. You never know what something is like until you try it, so you really can’t plan it. Just give it a go and see what works!”
Monica, Playing with Flour:
“I started my blog about 2 1/2 years ago almost on a whim. I say “almost” because I’d joked about it for months since I’d been baking more often and thought it would be fun to have a place to record it all and to talk food. I focused on baking because I think it’s fun and therapeutic, and because I think it’s pretty amazing how many things we could bake up using a recurring set of base ingredients. My husband has a serious sweet tooth and I wanted to make simple homemade sweets for my family. I’m also a serious chocoholic so baking and finding chocolate recipes are natural for me.
In between all the joking around, I started checking out how Blogger worked since it seemed like the easiest forum for a beginner like me. Then having vaguely figured out the basics, I just decided one day to actually do it. I made some chocolate cupcakes with ganache frosting and wrote my first blog post. I choose the name “Playing with Flour” as the title of my blog, a bit of a play on “playing with fire” since I didn’t (still don’t) have much idea of what I’m doing and it’s all a learning experience for me. I’m not sure if that makes sense but I hope it captures my amateur status of playing around in the kitchen, having fun, and baking.
The main goal of my blog was and is to have a place where I can do a little show-and-tell and have a diary of sorts. I must be the most frequent user of my own blog since I refer to it re-make recipes all the time. Having the blog has encouraged me to try many more things than I ever would have as far as baking and cooking goes – that has been so rewarding! I write about recipes I tried and loved as well as those that didn’t work that well. I love all things food so I’m constantly looking for good, simple recipes. All of that hasn’t changed in the last 2 1/2 years. I had no real plans for the blog and I’m still pretty vague on it now – I just go with whatever grabs my attention and I’m never at a lost because inspiration really is everywhere. I post a few savory recipes now and then too and I have to say that baking more and being a frequent visitor of other blogs has made me more adventurous in cooking and eating in general.
When I first started, I think I vaguely wanted to post twice a week but if anything, my schedule has relaxed with time. I just try to make things that appeal to me when it appeals to me. I first started by taking lots of procedural pictures but I stopped doing that as I got a little more experience and found that it was more enjoyable for me not to have to stop at every turn to take a picture. My favorite part of blogging is the actual cooking/baking process, discovering something new, learning to make things myself, and sharing the eats with family and friends. I also love creating the posts, watching it come to “life” as I write and put the pictures together. Picture-taking is a bit of a struggle for me and not my favorite thing so I keep it simple and don’t stress about using new backgrounds or getting a great shot. I want the blog to be a fun hobby, a place for me to write about my experiences in the kitchen, and not a chore in any way. I enjoy it immensely but don’t take it too seriously. All in all, it’s a lot of fun and I hope it stays that way for a long time to come.”
Amrita, The Sweet Art:
“In the beginning, I thought I would try to update it every few days, but since my blog is mainly sweets, I couldn’t come up with enough recipes to do it that frequently. So I started aiming for once a week. But sometimes I would hit a writer’s block and “fall off the wagon” so to speak. Some days, I just don’t feel like sharing or typing out my feelings, and other days, I can write multiple posts at once. I don’t think that has changed much.
I try to remind myself the point of my blog every time I post–to keep it about the food I’m writing about but also relate it to my life and current happenings. I want it to be a personal journey not only in my skills in photography/cooking/baking, but also a collection of memories and thoughts I was experiencing at the time. I don’t want to have posts just for the sake of posting. Also, I will make things and don’t blog about them for weeks and occasionally months until it’s relevant. Sometimes I wish I didn’t do that because I like having a record of when I made things (and I’ll forget the details if I don’t record it somewhere), but if I’m not inspired to write, I usually don’t force it.
Honestly, I created the blog in the first place because I loved food photography and I was bored, but then that led to an interest in cooking/baking (which I’d never had before) which led to creating recipes and turning it into an online journal of sorts. I had always had a livejournal to record my thoughts but it was mostly private. This being more public has forced me to keep up with my writing skills and think more about what/how I want to come across to people. My beginning posts were only about the recipes but I’ve learned to open up and therefore my posts have become fewer because I’m investing more time in them.”
Elizabeth, Eating Local in the Lou:
“I first started my blog as a way for me to chronicle all of the dinners that I would make for my family. I love experimenting with recipes, trying new ingredients, tweaking what does not turn out the first time. By “writing it down” in a blog, I can go back and refer to the winning recipes that my family really enjoyed.
I also started the blog because many friends, family and people I would meet would ask me what I make for dinner, knowing that I am a dietitian and cook healthy foods. I realized I might be able to inspire others that find it difficult to make a meal that is fast and healthy. So I knew I would focus on healthy meals, using fresh, simple ingredients, mostly sourced from local producers because that is the way I cook and how my family eats.
I really didn’t know how much time would go into the entire process of blogging, from coming up with the concept of a post, making the dish, photographing, editing the photos, writing the post and writing the recipe. For me, this whole process takes several hours. I remain completely baffled how some bloggers can crank out daily posts with gorgeous pictures and interesting stories. I remain in awe of these people! To keep my sanity and interest in blogging, it works for me to post once a week. I know that posting more often drives traffic to the site and increases my “SEO”. It would also increase my stress level to a point that it would no longer be fun. So I stay with once a week.”
Brianne, Documenting Our Dinner:
“I had no idea what I was doing when I started my blog three years ago. I knew I wanted to post regularly about what the guy and I were cooking for dinner. Originally, I was the writer and Kevin took the photos. We lived in a cave of an apartment with no windows in our kitchen or dining room, and the photos were awful. My writing was awful. Eventually I started posting about things I was baking. Then I was taking all the photos, and then we moved to an apartment with lots of natural light! I did this thing for a while where I posted one sweet and one savory recipe a week, and I liked the routine of that quite a bit. I have gone on a number of short-term hiatuses (hiaiti? Anyway.). My posting frequency has decreased dramatically as of late. Life gets crazy sometimes, you know? I’ve always been blunt about what’s going on in my life that leads to a break from blogging, intentional or not. One thing I’ve definitely gotten out of blogging is not to do it when you don’t feel like it. It shows, and faking is probably the silliest thing you can do as a blogger. Be you! I’ve made so many great friends through my blog, and they have all been still there when I get back around to posting again. I love that!”
Dana, Whisks & Words:
“When I first started my blog, I was working as the food editor of a scrappy independent online publication called AltDaily. I knew I enjoyed writing about food, but the things I wrote weren’t always suitable for publication in a magazine. So I started a blog where I could develop the two things that interested me: food and writing.
I didn’t have any hard fast plans in terms of how often to write, how long my posts should be, how many images were necessary (if any were necessary). I learned largely by reading other people’s blogs. I learned early on that if I want to write, I must, must, must read. I read blogs I knew would appeal to me – blogs about cooking and writing – but I also looked for blogs by mothers, blogs that handled humor well, blogs that made interesting use of photography. Eventually, I gained discerning taste in what I liked in other blogs, and that helped me teach myself what I wanted to do in my own work.
I am currently coming off a brief hiatus from my blog, and this time around, two and a half years into blogging, I find myself making a blog plan. Once again, I am setting no hard fast rules about frequency of posts or pictures. Plans, strict ones, regimented calendars of posts, just don’t work for me; I’ve learned that. I am, instead, reminding myself to trust. I have learned a lot in the past couple years. I have written a lot, read a lot. And it’s time to trust myself and my voice. That applies to my blog as well as to the other writing I do, for magazines and in my own novel manuscript. If I have any plan at all, it is to merely write. To experiment, to teach myself about trust, and to keep reading, keep challenging myself, and keep learning.”
Wendy, The Monday Box:
“I started The Monday Box because I wanted to be a part of the blogging community. The friendship and support which transcends age and cultural differences, intrigued me. Food bloggers share a passion for cooking/baking and a passion for blogging.
It took me about 6 months between the time I decided I wanted to try blogging and when I came up with the idea for The Monday Box, a blog focusing on care package recipes. I didn’t want to try to replicate what was already being done so well. Care package recipes are their own little niche. I was, of course, completely naïve as to the time and effort it takes to grow a blog. I was also relatively clueless as to how to go about it.
Googling my questions and reading blog posts led me to WordPress. Pinterest pins on blogging tips gave me strategies. Commenting on blogs opened the door to the blogging community where I have found the friendship and support I had only observed as a reader. Some free webinars presented by “successful” bloggers and my first blog conference have kept me moving forward on the path toward increasing my blog’s quality, presence and readership.
I never had a long-term plan. I wanted to magically become a resource for people looking for recipes for baked goods that travel well and stay fresh a long time. I am not sure that I have a long-term plan now, but I am open to possibilities. The more people I meet and the more I learn, the more possibilities present themselves. After one year, I am less naïve. Blogging is a lot of work and takes way more time than I imagined. I have so much more to learn. My immediate plan of action is to keep learning and to keep applying what I learn. I hope to continue blogging until it stops being fun. I hope it continues being fun for a good long while.”
Abbe, This Is How I Cook:
“I had no idea what a blog even was and if I had read any I certainly didn’t know they were blogs! My twins were off to college and my manservant husband who is a crazy entrepreneur, left me all at home, totally alone, for months. After several years of this I decided I needed more in my life besides my art work and volunteering. My daughter kindly suggested that I start a blog. Well, everything I ever learned about a computer I taught myself, and that has taken a long time. So I wasn’t really too sure about this.
Time passed and she kept calling, and my son did too, but they were always at the grocery and needing to know what they needed to make this or that and that is why I started a blog. I loved their phone calls but often couldn’t locate the recipe they said I had made. And since I often make them up, that was very true. Writing everything down and keeping it in one place sounded heavenly.
I also have always loved to write but when I feel down I can get really, really down and my writing can become quite depressing. I found when I write for an audience, so to speak, it causes me to be a bit more upbeat. Not always, but sometimes! And I like the idea of writing down the stories behind the recipes. The writing is fun for me, it is the photos that are so damn tough. And no one told me that good photos are essential to a good blog. In fact, no one told me anything about a blog.
One evening I just sat down and started researching. That research consisted of looking at WordPress or Blogger. That was it. I though of a name which came about like this. We entertain not as much as we used to, but more than most. People have always asked me for recipes and how I became such a cook. And I’d say, I don’t know…this is just how I cook. Not very creative, but I went with it. Now when I see all these great names out there I wonder why I didn’t spend more time on it, but I know that I never expected anyone to read it. I figured one day my kids could read to their kids and pretend these were bedtime stories. Well, in many ways this is my legacy to them. I may not be able to leave them money, but I will leave them with great recipes and stories. And I do know they both read my blog, one more than the other! But both consult it quite often! Like on their way to the grocery. And-that makes me happy.
WordPress was hard for me to figure out so I went with Blogger. Now that I know more I wish maybe I had done WordPress. My first year and a half I wrote sporadically and even though I was committed to writing I did a lot of travelling then, and since I don’t travel with a computer, I just posted whenever I want. Now I feel guilty if I don’t write! I try to post 2-3 times a week but do not have regular days. I don’t plan what I’m going to cook because this blog is really how I cook. Whatever strikes my fancy is what I do. I love to read cookbooks and magazines and the seasons inspire me. But really it is my belly. It tells me what to do.
I also let my photos dictate a bit, because sometimes they really suck. But if I love something it goes on whether the photos are good or not. After all, this IS really for my kids. If everyone else loves it that makes me happy, but knowing that it is for my kids helps keep me grounded and keeps me from becoming one of THOSE bloggers. I mean I am not going to post every taco recipe I ever made. In fact, I’m not sure we ever ate tacos. And I am not cooking for those who want tacos every night. Gee, I hope you aren’t making tacos tonight!
I just started posting. And that is it. I’ve learned a lot as I’ve gotten older. I’m just about 56 and I hate to admit it. I’ve cooked A LOT of meals, as we were always a family that ate dinner together. I have a lot of experience that way. Give me your fridge and I will find something I can make from it. I have moonlighted as a caterer. I did work in many a restaurant during college. And if I hadn’t married I was contemplating applying to the Culinary Institute. But really I am just a person that likes to eat and cook.
So, in answer to your question, yes I am wordy even when I talk…I have no plan, I still have no plan, but each day I try to do it better, because well, I like it! Are there things I would have done differently? Without a doubt. But what you see is what you get!”
Rachael, Movita Beaucoup:
“I started blogging back in 2004 – it wasn’t a food blog, it was mostly commentary. People seemed entertained by my quirky life, and it helped develop my writing style (I use that term loosely). When I started my current blog (2010), I knew first and foremost that I wanted to write, and I felt a real need to connect with people. There seemed to be a common theme in food blogs: write pretty, post frequently, don’t be weird. Who was I to doubt that proven formula? There didn’t seem to be many bloggers pairing humour and satire with their food – they were being poetic and dreamy. I admired those bloggers, so I had grand plans to do the same. It didn’t work – it was artificial, and my body rejected it. That initial abandoning of my writing voice was a huge mistake. New plan: stop trying to emulate other bloggers. Thus, I don’t even think of myself as a food blogger – that would require far more dedication on my part. I’m a writer of commentary with a snack offering on the side. That reflects my life very accurately – lots of belly laughs around the dinner table. That’s the sum total of my blog planning – keep it real, have fun.”
Stacy, Every Little Thing:
Back in the fall of 2009 (almost exactly four years ago), I remember sitting in my parents’ basement, lamenting over the changing seasons and how much I would miss summer. I had just started dating my future husband and our big hobby (and the way we met) was traveling for concerts. Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Umphrey’s McGee – we saw all three around the country that summer and summers beyond. By the time October 2009 came around, I was already experiencing cabin fever, missing my long-distance boyfriend, and needed an outlet.
My first post was an ode to my new music blog, Every Little Thing (named after the infamous Bob Marley “Every Little Thing”). I had planned to write about concerts, traveling for music, and my life among the two. I blogged monthly for an entire year, sometimes about music, sometimes about my current state of affairs. I enjoyed it but felt like I had no focus, no niche. I loved music, but didn’t know enough to review music or concerts. In addition, my music niche is only one among many, and I felt as though people would get tired of reading about DMB concerts all the time.
One year later, in the fall of 2010, I found that niche. I had moved to St. Louis to live with my boyfriend and didn’t know a soul. And though I had never had the desire to cook anything beyond macaroni and cheese, I suddenly had a kitchen, a local farmer’s market, and time to kill. My first food photo appeared on October 4, 2010 and it was all downhill from there. There was no planning, zero forethought – I started writing about food naturally and it has organically evolved over time ever since. My first recipe post? Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes.”
Deb, East of Eden Cooking:
I started blogging two and a half years ago to journal my kitchen adventures. My goals were to feature the local food producing community while increasing my cooking, writing and photography skills. Naively, I thought cooking and exceptional recipes would be the focus of producing a stellar food blog. Now I never publish a blog post unless the photos are the absolute best that I can offer my audience.
I keep my writing tight, concise as I do not wish to lose my readers’ interest and I still only feature recipes that I have tested and will yield excellent outcomes. In the beginning I did not have a regular posting schedule or plan ahead for seasons and holidays. Now I plan ahead and use a rough outline and timeline for posting. I am always open to serendipity and will change my plan if a windfall of apricots arrives at my doorstep or if I get an opportunity to photograph a local orchard or farm. My goal is to post once a week, but I would rather miss my self-imposed deadline and wait to post until I am happy with the content.
Sarah, The Cook’s Life:
“I thought about starting a blog for over a year before I actually took the plunge. My husband had the idea and encouraged me along the way, but I needed time to wrap my head around the concept, and then to get the courage to actually do it.
From the beginning I wanted to write a blog that encouraged everyone to cook. I wanted to speak to the beginner who relied on packaged foods and didn’t think it was possible to learn the skills to cook or bake from scratch. I also wanted to challenge the experienced cook to try new things.
I try to strike a balance between simple recipes like roast chicken and plain rice and more involved things like yeast breads and homemade ricotta. I really try to give enough details that I hope even novices can be successful using my recipes.
In the beginning I posted irregularly. Then I started posting once a week. Then I tried five days a week. I am now settled into posting Monday, Wednesday and Friday most weeks. I don’t always post recipes – I am working to find a balance between helpful hints, thoughtful essays (or rants, depending on my mood) and recipe posts. I periodically have started themed posts or topics, thought I haven’t settled into a regular schedule for those. I have been blogging for almost two years – I started in December 2011.”
Jennie, The Messy Baker:
“When I started my blog, I had no idea what I was doing. I’m not what you would call a planner. I’m more of a spur-of-the-moment kind of gal. During the time I started my blog—almost two years ago now—I was attending college to finish up my Bachelor’s degree in English. I was obsessed with Joy the Baker at the time. I stalked her site almost daily, until one day I decided to take the plunge and combine my two favorite things, writing and baking. And so The Messy Baker was born.
At first, my site was just a way for me to practice my writing skills and journal my time in the kitchen (which, let’s face facts here, is where I spend a majority of my time). I spent my first all-nighter since my high school days on my couch trying to figure out how to set up my very own home on the Interweb. Clearly, I’m no technology genius. After eight long hours of staring at my computer screen, I had my very own website with my name in big, bold letters at the top. I think the hardest hurdle was finding a name for my site. Every name I came up with—and there were some very clever names—was already taken. I spent night after sleepless night trying to come up with a name for my site.
My site’s title was the only aspect of the entire project that I had given any thought to before I started my blog. Everything that came after was done by pure luck and the determination to succeed. Even after almost two years of blogging, I still don’t have a specific method. There are some really organized folks out there that plan every single detail, but I’m not one of them. I strive, that’s for sure. Since I work full-time and blog part-time, I post when I can. I try to find a good work/blog/home balance, which can be very difficult at times. I often find myself holed up in my office for hours before I realize how much time has passed.While I still don’t have a specific plan in force, I have learned a lot about myself and blogging over the past two years. For me, finding balance was one of my greatest achievements. During the first year of my blog, I was so determined that I forgot about everyone and everything around me. I literally got lost in my blog. I also learned that you have to be yourself. Find what speaks to you and do it well. At the beginning, I was so focused on the success of everyone else. This blogger was mentioned here, and that blogger has better photos, and this blogger has more followers on Twitter. Thinking like that can be defeating. It’s best to focus on yourself and the success of your own blog. It’s not a competition. I also learned that asking for help is crucial. Don’t be too proud. The food blogging community is full of wonderful people who are willing to lend a hand whenever they can, so make friends. Some of my best friends are food bloggers.
If you’re thinking of starting a blog, go for it. My blog is one of the best decisions I have ever made. It’s my home away from home, a place to jot down my thoughts, and a creative outlet. Be yourself, ask questions along the way, and make friends. Happy blogging!”
“I started my blog Hops in July 2010 for a few basic reasons:
- I loved reading blogs, particularly ones revolving around food.
- I loved all things cooking: I’ve been playing in the kitchen on my own and seriously watching Food Network since the fourth grade.
- I wanted and needed a creative outlet. I was a graduate student in the sciences and my other pastimes were exercise, soccer, and making the hour-long trip home on weekends.
- My best friend had a blog to share events in her life and keep in close contact with her long-distance friends. I just loved it, and I loved the concept of communicating with friends through a blog, be they friends I already had or ones I would hopefully make along the way.
Starting a blog seemed like the perfect outlet for me, and I had vague dreams of becoming successful through my blog (lots of readers, developing my own recipes, maybe even publishing books!), though I realized those dreams were far, far off in the distance. But you can see I was starting my blog Hops purely for myself and for my own entertainment, which certainly impacted how I went about creating my blog.
With my decision made, I did some very basic Google-based research on what I thought were “The Basics”. This entailed learning that I needed to choose between various free blogging platforms (Blogger vs. WordPress), since I wasn’t ready to commit money to my newfound hobby to pay for my own domain. I also looked up a few articles on how to start or grow your blog, mainly to see if I was missing any crucial elements in my creation process. But I didn’t take those articles to heart. I wanted to go with my gut as to my blog’s design and content. In other words, I wanted to create a blog that truly represented me and reflected features I appreciated in other blogs. Of course, my lofty ambitions were instantly limited by my complete lack of web design background and to the free options available in Blogger. Sigh….such is life.
I made some decisions before creating my blog. These were very basic things, like not putting too much time or money into design and development. As a creative outlet and personal hobby, I didn’t want to pour my resources into blogging until I knew more about what I was doing and whether I enjoyed it. I have a rather shabby track record of leaving hobbies behind (like that time I tried to learn how to play guitar…or tried to learn how to knit from my friend…or wanted to be an amateur gardener and florist…or make jewelry…). Now, three years later, I am at the point of wanting to put the time and money into developing my blog…but I’m trying to prioritize those decisions so I don’t let my blog take control of me. It’s still all about the fun for me – not about being bigger and better than others.
However, I did not make clear, conscious decisions about some other key things before creating my blog. These were things like how often I’d post on my blog. As a full-time graduate student, I figured I’d post as I was able, maybe 2-3 times a week. I also didn’t decide at the outset on the specific content of my blog. I figured most of my posts would focus on food and cooking, but I’d scatter in random things like exercise, beauty finds, life happenings, whatever seemed good at the time. Similarly, I didn’t develop even a generalized process for improving my blog over time (such as layout, photography and editing, organizing content, etc.). I wanted to see if I even enjoyed blogging first. But I quickly caught myself comparing my humble startup blog to others and longing for a much nicer blog.
Looking back, I think I would have made the same set of choices regarding my blog. My reasons for blogging weren’t for professional advancement or to make money, so I didn’t need to be perfect and to know exactly what I was doing every step of the way. Plus I like to learn by doing, so even if I had decided every detail of my blog in advance, I still would have changed my mind about layout or content as time passed. I wanted my blog to change with me and hopefully reflect my passion at every stage.
Over time, I’ve moved towards having a basic structure (posting 2-3 times a week, having mostly a food based content with occasional “other” posts, wanting to improve myself and my blog’s appearance and ease of use)…but, as you well know, even the best laid plans go astray. Work/school pressures, moving, and getting married in the past year have led me to practically abandon my blog. This makes my plan for regularly posting my own recipes and improving my blogger skills seem even more imposing. But I still want to do this. I love the community (seriously. Love!), the creativity, and even (to a point) the challenges. And I still love food. And my husband wants to help. So I need to restart, take it one step at a time, and adjust my plan as needed. Regardless of how long you’ve been a blogger, it will always take time and effort to make your blog the way you want it.”
When I sat down to write my first blog post, I knew I wanted to focus on two things–storytelling and cooking. I had a puppy at the time, and I suspected she photographed well. It’s been over 2 years now, and these three things are still the core of what I do. First I tell a story, then I lead into a recipe, and my sign-off is a photo of the pup.
But I did not realize at the time that I would be focusing on comfort foods, Southern foods, and vegetables. I liked (and still do) fine dining, and I like preparing elaborate meals. But I soon discovered that the kind people who stopped by my site and stayed a while didn’t always have time for that kind of cooking. I started cooking to some extent for my audience (as miniscule as it was at the time), and that was really neat. It made the blogging experience really interactive for me. People suggested types of food they wanted recipes for, or requests for 30-minute weeknight dinners. So while I knew when I started that I wanted the blog to have a food component, the type of food I focused on changed. over time. I also didn’t fall into the exact structure I use until I was about 10 posts in.
As for my initial expectations about frequency of posting, I wanted to post ALL THE TIME. I would get frustrated when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, when my photography didn’t look the way I wanted it to, when the recipes I tested out weren’t tasty. I think the “stats” page of my blogging platform (rather, my obsession with the stats page) had something to do with that. At the beginning, it was such a rush to express myself and see that one person, two people, three people had read what I was saying. I didn’t want them (or the experience of blogging) to go away, so I beat myself up mentally when I wasn’t able to come up with new material all the time.
That was a rookie mistake.
When I got used to blogging, I stopped looking at the stats page and I started focusing on the community that was being built on my site and on facebook and on the other blogs I admired. If I hadn’t started focusing on the experience of blogging, the people I was interacting with in the comments, the learning curve of photography–if I had really held myself to a rigid standard of how often I should be posting–I would have stopped blogging. It would have been too much pressure. So I gave myself the flexibility to post only when I had something good to share, and as a result I’m happier about the quality of my posts–even if they are few and far between some months.”
Willow, Will Cook For Friends:
“To be completely honest, I had no plan whatsoever when I started my blog. All I knew was that I liked food, writing, and photography, and that there were others out there like me, who had combined their talents in their blogs. I was aware of this incredible community they had created online, and as much as I enjoyed it as a reader, I wanted to be a part of it… but I had no idea where to begin, and I had so many other things going on in my life, I never really expect I would start a blog of my own. Then everything changed — all of a sudden I got really sick, and many aspects of my life came to a screeching halt. I was in and out of the hospital for over a year and a half, and no one could figure out what was wrong with me. I was in severe pain, and unable to sleep most of the time. I stopped going to school, lost my job, and my social life was almost non-existent… all the while, my relationship with my (now) husband was being put to the test with my illness. Amazingly, while all this was going on, I never lost my appetite. So, to keep myself occupied in all my free time, I turned my attention to cooking and baking. One day I made an innocent Google search on how to start a blog — just out of curiosity — and moments later, almost by accident, I had started one. I remember thinking, “well, I guess I should give this a shot and see how it goes!”
With most things in my life, I am notorious for putting in as much research and planning as possible, to ensure things go smoothly (like creating a recipe, for instance)… and yet, I seem to have a habit of making big life changes all in one spontaneous leap. Looking back, I think I might have benefited from better preparing myself, but I feel like jumping in quickly made me take things as the came, without getting ahead of myself or becoming too overwhelmed. To anyone out there looking to start a blog of their own, I would suggest putting a little time and research into the first couple of steps — such as which blogging platform to start on, and what kind of format you want to have — before beginning. (My biggest regret is starting on Blogger instead of WordPress, but at the time I didn’t know there was even a difference). Then just go for it. Don’t over think it, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Try going to some other blogs you like, and scrolling through their archives to their very first posts (assuming they haven’t deleted them, or updated them with newer content). What you’ll find is that even the most talented bloggers all started out taking less-than-perfect photos, writing less-than-perfect posts, and struggling to find their own voice/style. I found it very comforting, when I was first starting out, to know I wasn’t alone!”
Elizabeth, The Manhattan [food] Project:
“My plan from the get-go has always been simply blogging about the food we cooked on a regular basis, so in that respect I guess I’ve kept to it over time, but what has changed is the regularity of posts. This I attribute to work demanding so much of not only my time, but my thinking capacity, so I don’t always have the energy or inspiration to wax poetic to my food. 🙂 So now what I try to stick to is keeping a photographic record of our food, and then if the mood strikes, I’ll write something. For me, it’s become a quality-over-quantity balance because I’d rather write something that’s good than just crank out content for content’s sake.
Would I like to have a plan? Absolutely–but I hate forcing things because that’s when really lousy content rules the day and everything reads like a sixth-grade paper because each post very clearly has a template. (I’m not thinking of any food blogs when I say this, but those healthy-living ones where they literally post every meal and every fart/burp? Yeah, those get OLD.) I wrote plenty of five-paragraph papers between high school and college, and frankly, writing-by-numbers gets tiresome to me.
So if anything, my plan is to write what I want, and when I want, and never try to force a square peg into a round hole. Maybe it won’t get me legions of followers, but at least I’m staying true to myself.”
Natalie, Wee Eats:
“I’d like to say that I had a “plan” when I started, but I really didn’t. I was basically peer-pressured into a blog by my friends back home who wanted me to share my foodstuffs with them from afar… My first post was just about a trip my best friend and I took to NYC (all the stuff we ate), and then I filled the rest of the blog with some recipes that I’d already made and had pictures of from either my little point & shoot camera or my phone camera (like, pre-iPhone camera; gasp!). Then I tried scheduling – I scheduled my posts to be 2 to 3 posts per week – but the more into it I got the less organized I was, until I wasn’t organized anymore.
Every few months I go through an organization phase where I make a calendar, schedule what recipes to make, when to make them, and when to post them. I inevitably fall behind schedule due to either a recipe complication or time constraint – it’s hard to stay on schedule when you work a regular 9 to 5 job and have basically two days out of the week to do all of your cooking/photographing AND your other “being a grown up” duties (stupid being a grown up) So eventually I’ll hit a point where I reorganize and re-plan; I’ll stick to that schedule for sometimes a week, sometimes a month, sometimes a few months, but sooner or later I always end up back on the “make today, post tomorrow” train.
Someday I’ll actually get a schedule and stick to it (maybe) 🙂 What I’ve come to notice though is that the more I schedule, the more stressed out I get about sticking to that schedule, and the less enjoyable blogging becomes. Trust me, you don’t want to stress over your “stress-relieving” hobby or it becomes kinda self-defeating. So I’ve had to learn, with the help and support of a lot of my fellow bloggers, that it’s OK to fall off track or take a breather, because if you’re not enjoying what you are doing then what’s the point?”