the just one question project

the just one question project: question four.

the just one question project: question four.

“Surround yourself with people who are doing interesting things, who are thinking interesting thoughts, who challenge you to be better, and who come from a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. That, combined with appropriate moments of ‘me’ time, provides the perfect breeding ground for great ideas. And whatever you do, don’t get hung up on what competitors are doing. Be aware of what’s going on in the industry, but don’t let it dictate your own creative process.”

– Alex Ohanian, American internet entrepreneur, activist, and co-founder of reddit

So, that kind of says it all, right? Let’s all take a moment before we delve into our resolutions to be really proud of ourselves, because I feel like we’ve all been doing just that: surrounding ourselves with each other and letting our ideas and creativity fly. And I’m pretty sure the end of the quote directly talks about NOT feeling the need to make pumpkin/ weird citrus / peppermint things just because everyone else is, so…win. It’s like Mr. Ohanian is speaking directly to us.

I’m going to get right into the charts, because I broke a few of them down into subcategories, and they do an excellent job of explaining our collective goals for the year. I wasn’t sure how this one would go: would our goals be similar? All over the place? According to your answers, we’re all on different paths, but those paths intersect at many points in terms of what we’d like to accomplish this coming year. I’m stoked about that, because overlapping goals mean that we can help each other out. Here’s what we’d like to get done this year, broken out into subcategories:

the just one question project: question four.

Look and functionality: so many of us want to make the switch this year to a different platform! I’ve talked to some of you one on one about the difficulties of switching your blog, and I don’t envy anyone who has to do it. I started with a self-hosted site through WordPress, so I’ve never had the *cough* pleasure of making that jump. I’m going to ask Stacy from Every Little Thing (when she reads this post) to maybe give you guys some tips, if she wouldn’t mind? One of the seminars I attended this summer was one regarding this topic, and she can maybe point you in the right direction or give you some tips. I’m sure she’ll love me farming her brain out for that. Some of us who are cool where we’re at just want to improve the look and features on our blog, myself included.  At a certain point, you do really get to a point where a little facelift is in order, so this should be an interesting year as we all take turns crying and throwing things when we try to spring-clean our spaces. Some of you are considering a fancy professional redesign: I’m excited for that! I go back and forth with that as well. Our own dear Movita just finished her own professional and swanky redesign, so if you need inspiration, head over there and get inspired.

Still others of us really want to focus on improving our photography; kids, don’t we all. I wish everyone the best of luck with that, and I’d recommend taking a minute to look at some of your first photos as compared to right now, and go into it knowing that so much of improving photos is about light and practice. I guarantee we’ve all gotten better since we started, and I may even do a little “before/after” photo retrospective at the end of the year documenting your improvement…because I believe in you.

balance and routine

Let’s switch gears a little to balance and routine, which is something many of you have mentioned on your own blogs as well. Balance? Routine? Organization? All difficult to manage, each of them involving a very personal formula of what works best for you, so there’s no set directions on how to accomplish this in the way that there is when someone says “clean your floor.” Certainly with our group here I’ve seen writing blocks, cooking fails, personal responsibilities, burnouts, and so on. It happens. Don’t be too hard on yourselves. And let’s here it for no more self-imposed deadlines that stress us out, right? We all have deadlines in our lives, so let’s eliminate the ones we’re arbitrarily placing on ourselves.

No matter how elegantly streamlined your routine is, you’re bound to break it, because it’s life. For instance, I had been doing very well at my “read/comment daily, leave nothing in the feed!” routine until this week, when inexplicably I felt the need to do absolutely nothing near my computer. Which is why this post is later than I wanted it to be *ahem* moving on:

the just one question project: question four.

Community and reach, friends! Looks like we all want to get out there and make an impact, which is stupendous, considering a large faction of us are introverts. I think it’s important to note that I categorized “getting out there” into categories, based on how you said it and the context in which you answered the question in. Some of you want to build your numbers and get yourself into more eyes and brains, which is great, because you all make lovely food, and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. Others seemed to want something slightly different: I think Stacy put it best when she said she  wanted to “create a blogging community, not just a blog.”  That’s what I’ve tried to do here, and I’d also like to expand that (to the degree that I can) over this next year. Simply put, talking to you all is the best, and I want to keep that going. I’ve learned in the past few years that communities are fabulous, and people don’t have to be actual neighbors to be part of close-knit group. In talking to other bloggers, I guess I’ve been lucky to have a pretty effortless time meeting people and getting to know them, so i guess for those of you looking to start more of a dialog on your blogs, I’d say this: be yourself. Always. Because it’s really hard to keep up a persona, and it keeps everyone at arm’s length, because people don’t want to talk to a persona; they want to talk to a person.

Also in here, you little entrepreneurs, are people looking to build business partnerships and see out ways to garner an income from their blog. I think that’s an awesome boat to rock, if you’re ready to go down that road. I’d love to hear from those of you who do venture out into the business world how that goes and what you run into a long the way. I have zero idea what that would entail, and it will remain this way: I consider my “income” from the blog to be writing for Feast, and they haven’t fired me yet, and I’d like them to not fire me this year. Is that a goal?

Still others of you (Jennie) have secret plans for your blog which you refuse to reveal to me, and I consider that to be slightly unfair since I love secrets.

the just one question project: question four.

Make way for those of us with writerly souls, ladies and gentlemen, because we really want to get better at our craft this year. Some of us want to diversify our content and branch out a little bit, some want to write with purpose and thought, some of us just want to shake that tendency to phone it in at times. Some mentioned slowing down, some mentioned picking up the pace: the one thing it seems as though we all want to do is focus on finding our writing groove. Some of that ties into the whole routine/organization goal above, because I think we each have our own best times and situations to write in. Elizabeth mentioned how she wants to “take advantage of any and all creative urges and write, write, write” when she’s inspired, and I second that: it’s actually the only way I can write effectively and authentically. I’ve actually realized that I do my best post-writing while I’m cooking, because I’m in the thick of it, so I keep a stack of notepads and pens near my kitchen counter to write down my thoughts as I go. If I wait, they’ve either been watered down by other thoughts or forgotten entirely, so it’s helped me. Besides, pen-to-paper writing is truly a joy. I’d like to find more tricks like that which open up my brain a little bit and allow me more creativity in daily life. Because that’s the key, isn’t it, to writing authentically? Being open, clearing your brain, letting it all in, allowing your voice to come through; all of that can really create something magical in terms of writing.

To draw from the idea of creating a community, I really liked what Dana said about writing thoughtfully this year, and how she wants to “be more generous in spirit; to invite people into my blog in the way I would invite them into my home.” Most of the time when I’m writing, I picture you all in my kitchen. Okay, so not all of you, since I have lots of followers who don’t comment and so I don’t know you enough, but some of you I’ve had enough interaction with to think of while I’m cooking and writing. I’ll throw an ingredient in something, and it will remind me of one of you. I’ll do something food-geeky, and another one of you will come to mind. In the middle of writing something, i’ll notice a turn of phrase that’s distinctly another one of you coming through in my own voice. I think that plays into what many of you said about wanting to write “without fear,” which, bravo, people. Standing O for that one, because writing without fear? Tough for most everyone on some level. Still tough for me, mostly because I would hate to unknowingly offend someone, as I would never mean to do it purposefully, but you never know what’s going to set someone off, and the next thing you know? Tomato to your virtual face. I like to steer clear of that, but I don’t write with fear so much as I write consciously knowing I want to be myself, but also maintain a modicum of professionalism.

And last but not least, lots of us want to keep pushing, keep learning, keep challenging ourselves to try new things with our blogs, with our food, with our photos, with everything. We have a group of ambitious people here, it seems, and all of us really want to go for it this year. It warms my heart.

Here’s all the categories laid out in groups (cool and warm color schemes, in order), to compare side by side:

the just one question project: question four.

Building a community is the big winner here, followed by a big emphasis on both blog improvements of all types and the writing and content of our pieces of internet. Please note that although building a community takes the cake in terms of most-mentioned goal…

the just one question project: question four.

…writing and content seem to be on lots of minds and lists, in a variety of ways. I’m quite excited to see how this all progresses over the course of this year for everyone. I think we’ll all do a wonderful job; I have high hopes for us.

Good talk, friends! So before we move on to everyone’s individual answers, I’ll give you the next question. I’m going to give you a fun one, just to break it up a bit and start fresh for the new year. Your question is this:

Name the person/chef/cookbook which you feel most reflects your culinary style and approach and tell me why you identify with them. And I don’t want to hear about how you’re not good enough to resemble anyone famous: if you’d rather, tell me which chef you aspire to be and what you admire about them. For extra (arbitrary, made-up) points, pick someone else in the project group and tell me what person/chef/cookbook they remind you of most in terms of personality and/or culinary style.

I think this goes without saying, but I can’t wait for your answers. Let’s make them due February 16th or thereabouts.

Without further ado…

Brianne, Documenting Our Dinner:

When I returned home after Christmas, I marked all 453 unread articles in my Feedly as read and started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish as a blogger over the next year. These are my three things, in order of importance:

  1. Be myself. I have been writing my blog for three years and sometimes it still feels like I’m being fake when I write. I have a unique voice in real life. I need to use it online. Always. Even if I’m worried that people will turn away from my site by reading it. My biggest issue is that in daily conversations I swear a lot and say silly things. I’ve always tried to write elegantly, but I don’t usually speak that way. Can I swear sometimes on my food blog? Can I say strange things? It’s happening.
  2. Oh, l really like your blog? I’m going to comment on it. I have found a lot of new inspiration from food blogs lately, and I want to reach out to these bloggers and tell them how much I adore them. Yes, I feel like I’m going to puke when I hit “submit,” but I want to put myself out there. Screw social media; I think the best way to connect with other bloggers is by commenting directly on their posts. And if make a new friend, then I will squee with delight.
  3. Keep it up! I have a lot of writing to do for school this semester, a crazy field season coming up this summer, and the biggest exam in my whole wide life coming up this fall. I live in two places, one of which has no internet. Life is complicated. But I love my blog, and I want to keep posting.

I love what blogging has done for me as a person. It’s given me a much-needed hobby outside of school, it’s introduced me to some amazing people, and it’s caused me to constantly challenge myself and try new things in the kitchen. It’s exciting to continue growing and developing as a blogger. I don’t want to be big time or anything, I just want to enjoy blogging and feel good about what I put on my site.

Hey, Brianne: if it helps, i swear a lot and say silly things, too, in real life. It’s easy once you get the hang of it to edit that all out and still retain the “you” in your words. Promise.

Stacy, Every Little Thing:

I’m a person that needs very concrete goals, or nothing gets done. If my goal is to “get back into yoga,” I will most certainly continue to sit on the couch and eye my yoga mat from across the room, becoming paranoid that the mat is staring back. However, if my goal is to “call XYZ Yoga and sign for up Bikram and attend 2 times per week starting January 31” then you can bet I’ll be on the phone in an instant.

That said, my blog goals are the same. Very concrete goals that require actions in order to push myself to actually complete them. In general, I want to grow readership (who doesn’t?), put out quality posts (who doesn’t?), and not sell out (who doesn’t?). In specifics, I want to:

  1. Complete a self-updating recipe archive. This involves editing all old posts for formatting, SEO, categories/tags, etc, then coding each category page (easier than it sounds). I’m currently on page 6 of 27, so I’ll be here a while, but I think I’ll be happy with the results when I’m finished!
  2. Create a weekly or biweekly newsletter. For those that sign up for email updates, I don’t want to just send a blog post. I want to send a newsletter that details what’s going on with my life, and even includes tidbits not available on my blog. And I want it to be pretty!
  3. Create a blogging community, not just a blog. OK this one is more vague and breaks the rule I JUST talked about, but it’s because I’m not sure how to go about this just yet. I think the answer is more of a peek into my daily life, more personal posts, and increased reader engagement. If anyone has any specific tips about this, I’m all ears!

I love the idea of a newsletter! I’m totally stealing ER BEING INSPIRED by that one. 

Deb, East of Eden Cooking:

Of the top three goals for 2014 two are about me and how I blog. I want to keep blogging my creative place, avoid burn-out, being bored or conversely getting stressed about posts and content. First—Have fun, find magic, live whimsy. Second—Keep learning. Cook and bake creatively, try new recipes, take classes, dig into Lightroom, write everyday. Third—Index the recipes on the blog. A fourth goal, is to organize ALL my photos. Over the holidays I made myself a checklist by day, week and month. Since I love making lists, this has great potential of working for me! To bust out of my comfort zone I have already enrolled in a cookie decorating class and an on-line Lightroom tutorial. 2014 promises to be a great year!

Emma, of agates and madeleines:

  1. Last year, I think I only posted 20 times. I was proud of my content, happy with the amount that I produced, and overjoyed by my reader interaction, but I think I can do better. I’ll aim for 21 posts this year!
  2. I’m in my fourth year of blogging, and space is starting to fill up on my free account. Before I need to make a choice regarding how I want to get more space, I’d like to seriously consider the pros and cons of becoming a .com. If I did choose that route, I would probably also treat myself with a professional site redesign, because who doesn’t like to have their hobby space looking all pretty like? Me and my bloggy boo want to get our hair did!
  3. I’d like to be a bit less choosy with the content I put on my space. 2013 was all about only posting recipes that I created myself. I found that to be a fun challenge. In 2014, I challenge myself to think more broadly in terms of blog post content. I just took the first step towards achieving this goal, by creating a new (my first!) blog series, entitled One Day in the Woods. This series will focus on capturing my day-to-day experiences as a forester. If anything, it will be a good place to store my memories from my time working in northern Maine. Next steps for achieving broader post content will mostly center around if I can take good enough photos of the random stuff that I make on the weekends. Light is so limited where I live, and when it starts getting dark in my apartment by 2pm, I’m screwed – especially since I had to throw out my homemade lightbox when we downsized last summer. Daylight savings time, I need you!
I have one additional goal! (4.)

I’d like to stay better caught up with blog reading. I fall ever so far behind, and it makes me sad! I miss my interactions with my chumses when I drop off the radar, so I will try my best to stop doing nothing most of the time and start doing something all of the time!

Emma, I know you ordered your goals 3, 2, 1, but I can’t for the life of me figure out how to reverse-order the numbers on this. My apologies: I feel like I get maybe some points for always respecting the lower-case? 

 Jennie, The Messy Baker:

So many resolutions. Hmm, where to begin. I think my first resolution would have to be creating a media kit for my site. I’m going to put on a brave face this year and start contacting brands I adore and then convince them that I’m wicked cool and list the reasons why they should consider partnering with me. This brings me to my second goal. I need to compile a list of unique qualities about myself and my blog and organize them into a cohesive paragraph. I find talking about my coolness difficult. Honestly, how do you go about telling people how cool you are without sounding conceded? Goal number two is going to require a ton of energy. I might have to sweep that one under the rug for a bit (wink). Goal number three. Hmmm? Shannon is really making us think here. This stuff is deep. This year I would like to turn my site into a business. I spoke with an accountant and we’re working on achieving an LLC. It’s about to get real.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I am so scared of Jennie and her ambition right now. 🙂 

 Allison, Spontaneous Tomato:

My top three goals for Spontaneous Tomato in 2014 are:

  1. Try to get everything done over the weekend for each upcoming Thursday recipe post–including all photography, photo editing, recipe writing, post writing, formatting, etc.–so that I can focus on my dissertation during the weekdays, and not be scrambling to work on blog posts in the evenings, or worse yet, during weekdays INSTEAD of working on my dissertation! (Since my fiancée has an actual 8-5 job, I’ve done something that many grad students would never dream of doing and started taking real weekends again to match up with hers… which I now spend mostly working on my blog. Luckily (I hope) this goal only applies to the first half of 2014, since if all goes well I will be done with my degree by the end of the summer.
  2. This goal depends on what my life is like, post-PhD… If I get a decent job and can afford it, I’d like to take the plunge and switch my blog to a self-hosting format, in order to give it a little re-design and be able to occasionally host giveaways, etc.. If I end up spending months searching for work and can’t justify the expense on a hobby, I’d at least like to go back over some of my old posts and update the photos etc., to make the layout more consistent and appealing. I’ve wanted to switch to self-hosting for a while now, but I’ve decided I won’t be too hard on myself it that ends up getting pushed into 2015.
  3. Goals about various recipes I’d like to include someday aside, I’d like to attempt to be more active on Twitter for the sake of expanding my blog’s reach and community, and maybe pursue other new-to-me (old-to-everyone-else) types of social media, like Instagram? (Yep, I make most “late adopters” seem ahead of their time by comparison.)

As for which of the three I consider to be most important, this is cheating, but definitely #1 until I’m done with my dissertation, and #3 after that.

My goal this year for Spontaneous Tomato this year is to be able to spell “Spontaneous Tomato” without spellcheck intervention. Allison, you win for making me finger-fumble every time i type your blog name. 

Elizabeth, The Manhattan [food] Project:

  1. Write more frequently, so I can post more frequently than I do now. (I’d like to get to once a week if possible.) Basically I need to take advantage of any and all creative urges and write write write when I have inspiration, so I can schedule things when I’m not feeling quite so enterprising and/or overwhelmed with other obligations. I love to write about food and I can often start writing a post in my head, and I need to be much more consistent on getting those words to (digital) paper.
  2. Improve photography. In the wintertime, this means taking the time to actually try to light things nicely, but I also need to use the tripod more, and basically approach the photography portion with a smidge more patience.
  3. Continue to push myself out of my culinary comfort zone, especially when I need to cook on my own, because that seems to spark the creativity and prompt me to write.

Wendy, The Monday Box:

My answer, I think, is short. Besides the obvious underlying goal of growing the blog, my number one goal is to become more organized. Everything on my laundry list (posting, responding to comments, social media, improving photography, expanding my reach to include more of my niche [care package recipe] audience) could use a heavy dose of organization. I need one place to write everything down (ideas, websites, things I learn) and a way to file all of those notes so that I can easily find them later. I need an editorial calendar to note everything that needs to be done and anything I expect to remember. Getting and staying organized will be an ongoing project with lots of tweaks to the system along the way. I am definitely looking for tips and suggestions!

Number 2 goal is to improve my photos. A new camera and a steep learning curve are in my future.

Number 3 goal is self-hosting…..which may turn into next year’s goal.

Natalie, Wee Eats:

I’m so happy that you asked this question because I honestly had zero resolutions for the blog, and this made me actually think about what I want to accomplish this year. Plus, writing my goals down makes them more official, but publicizing them makes me more likely to guilt myself into accomplishing them. 😉

  1. Get engaged! – Not THAT way (I already tricked FH into popping the question LAST year!) What I want this year is to be more engaged with my followers and the people whom I follow, too! Shannon, YOU have such an amazing following and meanwhile I’m lucky if I get two comments on a post. That being said, I comment on like .01% of the blog posts that I read, so I get it. I want to find out what the trick it to really engaging people while also forcing myself to engage more. Deciphering the human brain might be the hardest of my goals, but commenting on other people’s blogs and social media accounts is probably the easiest of the goals I’m setting for myself.
  2. Learn WTF I’m doing – Specifically with my camera. Most of my pictures are shot on some sort of “automatic” setting (and I don’t just mean the camera setting – usually my brain is on “auto” too). I see beautiful pictures that tell a story and the only story my picture tells is “I’m a piece of cake that is going to be devoured in a few minutes.” It’s my fault, but I tend to view a lot of my pictures are usually just a means to an end (I need a picture or else I will just have a blank page with a recipe). I want to take the time this year to actually figure out my camera, get the darn thing off of auto, and maybe even force myself to integrate a little bit of actual food-styling.
  3. Be uncomfortable – My current recipes are usually spawned by an equation of craving + motivation. I want X and have Y amount of motivation so we get Z. This year I want to make something not only because I want to eat it, but because it takes me out of my comfort zone. Whether that is by making more difficult recipes or challenging myself by making more original recipes, I really want to break out of my comfort zone.

As for which one is most important… that’s a hard one. They’re all important in their own rights but I think that #3 is probably going to be the most important in terms of developing not only the blog, but developing myself personally. The steps I’ll need to take to accomplish it are going to include more creativity, more planning, and a lot more time. I think the payoff will be worth it, though. Not only will I have a greater variety of recipes and enhance my kitchen experience, hopefully, I will end up with a lot more confidence as well. I think it will be a blast, if I don’t end up crying in a crumpled heap on the kitchen floor after my 7,000th failed attempt (we’ve all been there, or that’s what I tell myself at least).

Dana, Whisks & Words:

My top three blogging resolutions are: blog more thoughtfully, aim for generosity of spirit, and let go of fear in blogging. I’d say my number one goal is to blog more thoughtfully, which really extends into the other two goals.

I used to blog any old recipe I cooked (even if it wasn’t that great, or I hadn’t cooked it a second time, or whatever). I was looking to meet a quota, an arbitrary number of posts I set for myself each week, and because I was a food blogger, all food was fair game. And because of this, I have an archive of recipes that just don’t excite me. I started to make a Recipes page, and I found I didn’t really want to go back through my archive, partly because tedium, but also partly because I know a lot of those recipes were in an apprenticeship phase for me. They were the recipes I was learning to blog on. And that’s how I think they should stay.

One of my food goals this year is to eat more thoughtfully (responsibly, sustainably), and that’s actually the same as my blogging goal. I want to be more thoughtful about the recipes I share. I want to exercise responsibility in my blogging, testing recipes, taking my time, and I want to blog sustainably – blogging when it’s right, when I have something to share, which is a way to avoid burn-out.

I’m taking small steps to do that. I’m actually blogging a little less frequently. I’m testing recipes a few times before blogging them. I’m trying to recreate meals for weekend lunches so I can photograph them nicely. I’m being creative. And then, when I sit down to blog, I’m attempting to make the recipe matter. My favorite bloggers are the ones who share a story – something that gives you a sense of their lives and processes and experiences – along with a recipe. And that’s a good thing. Because really, why do people read blogs? If we just wanted a recipe, we could access a cookbook or a food website and be done. We read blogs for the stories – for the ways a writer looks at his or her life and derives meaning. And because we experience our worlds through food, we often have a recipe to go along with it.

This is where my other two goals come in. My favorite bloggers tell the stories of their lives with a generosity of spirit (they invite you in, they address you as a friend, they are generous with their stories) and they do so without fear. Or perhaps they do feel fear, but they don’t let it show in the writing. I have looked at some of my old writing, and I can see the fear. I can see when I held back details, how coy I can be about writing, how long it took me to admit that my “other half” was a woman, how quick I am to defend myself in my writing (before anyone can question or criticize me).

It’s no easy thing that we do – blogging. We open up our hearts and homes, and we mine our lives for meaning, and we share that meaning with people alongside recipes for salmon filets or tutorials on crocheting scarves. But I want to do it more thoughtfully; I want to be more generous in spirit, to invite people into my blog the way I would invite them into my home (with a glass of wine and an affectionate cat to sit in their laps). And I don’t want to look back at my writing a year from now and still see fear. These goals all really go together, and it’s a work in progress, seeing how they’ll manifest in my writing.

So, everything Dana said. Can I use that as my own answer? Dana, you warm my soul already with your thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit. 

Willow, Will Cook for Friends:

  1. Slow down and find balance. Blogging takes a lot of time and energy, and it’s always been my belief that quality comes before quantity of posts — but in the past year, I’ve found myself stressing about self-imposed deadlines and making less-than-awesome posts just for the sake of posting something, anything, in a certain time frame. This year, I plan to go easier on myself, and not stress so much if I don’t have a post ready by a particular time. (This especially pertains to my education series that I was posting every Friday — those take a lot of time to put together, and doing one every week meant I couldn’t tackle a lot of the bigger projects I had in mind, because there just wasn’t enough time. This year there will be fewer of those posts, but the ones I do make should be more thought-out and thorough.
  2. Switch to WordPress. When I first started my blog, I didn’t know the difference between the different platforms. I went with Blogger because it was the first thing that came up on a google search, and in the process of trying to learn more about it, I accidentally created my site right then and there. True story. Now, it’s my single biggest regret in starting my blog. I’ll be hiring someone to help me make the switch in the next month or so, and as scary as it is to learn a new interface, I’m excited to finally have more control over my site.
  3. Be myself. This has been an ongoing goal for me, and is something I struggle with a lot. I’m always “me” on my blog, but there are times when I find it hard to strike a balance with how much to share, and how much not to share. When I’m writing a post, I try to think of it as if I’m talking with a group of my friends — because that’s what you all are! — but then I remember that my boss might be reading it, and my parents, and a bunch of strangers… and I start to edit what I’ve written until it’s suitable for all of those people. The thing I love most about the blogs I read doesn’t have to do with their photos or recipes, it has to do with the personality of the blogger behind it, and how genuine they are. My favorite bloggers are unabashedly themselves, and while I’m sure they hesitate sometimes about what to say, they never let it affect who they are. That’s my goal — to be more genuine, and worry less about what one or two of my readers might think.

It’s hard to put these in order of importance, but I think the way I’ve listed them reflects how I feel right now. In terms of finding balance and putting less pressure on myself, my plan is to take a little more “me time”, and give myself permission to back off when needed. I think doing that will help a lot with resolution number 3, as well — being myself will be easier when I’m not forcing it. As for switching to WordPress, I’ve already found someone who can help me make the switch, and is willing to babysit me the whole way through (thank goodness for that, because I’d be totally lost otherwise). If I were more ambitious, I might add “learn code” to this list, but we all know that’s not going to happen any time soon.

Word to “learning code,” because that’s an eternal goal for me, and one that seems as likely to happen as unicorns showing up on my lawn for tea.

 Rachael, Movita Beaucoup:

  1. Blog better. This is “priority resolution,” and is every year. I hope to continue improving the quality (not quantity) of my posts. This goes against the published rules of blogging which state that a good blogger will post as often as possible, even if it means posting a recipe for ants on a log or a tutorial on making ice cubes.
  2. Focus on being unique, with no apologies for the stories I like to post alongside recipes. Thus, 2014 will probably involve more stories about giant hairballs and that time I dated an Albanian refugee.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff. I love my little space on the interwebs. It’s okay if other people don’t.

To summarize, I need approximately 34,928 words to get my point across. Rachael? 5 words. BOOM.

Sarah, The Cook’s Life:

My number one goal this year is to find balance. Mostly I want to find the balance between family, work, blogging and me time. Last year I was feeling too much self-generated pressure to spend time on the blog.

I am also working to figure out balance for my blog – how often to post, what to write about and how much I want to promote it all on social media.

It is all still a work in progress and I am still floundering around, trying to find my focus for the year. If anyone has the answer, please share!

Katherine, Eggton:

In the coming year, my biggest blog goal is just to keep going. If I can keep writing creatively and making time for the cooking and photographing, I’ll be pleased as punch. I try not to set high expectations about what I’ll accomplish on my site because any added pressure seems to invite writer’s block, you see. That said, my plans in an ideal world would include blogging more frequently, answering every comment posted by readers (a.k.a. the saints of the internet), not being worried about trying different writing styles, and loosening up a bit on the photography–trying to diversify what I take pictures of so I don’t just plop a photo of the final product down on there. I’d of course love to have more blog-loving fools follow my little site on Facebook, primarily because the Facebook crowd is so fun to talk to during the week. I do wonder if this year would be a good time to do a face-lift on the blog–to pay someone to come in and make the font bigger and the text area wider–but I don’t know if I have the gumption to figure out where to begin with that. Also, 2014 should probably be the year I learn to use Photoshop. Just like I said last year and the year before that. . .

 Ashley, Hops:

Well, there are about a hundred things I’ve been wanting to do to improve my blog for years now. But narrowing it down to my top three…that takes serious consideration. I’m being very ambitious, but I really want to make these goals happen. So, I’d have to say my top goals for my blog are:

  1. This is a huge one. Move my blog/create a new blog on a different web host. Maybe even changing the name of my blog. This would also entail some major changes to the design and organization of the blog. Blogger was perfect for when I first began my blog, but now I have a better sense of how I’d like it to look and function. I’m also hoping that moving to a new web host will help me, a relative novice, have an easier time making my blog look the way I want it to. More on this in a moment…
  2. In addition to improving the aesthetics and functionality of my blog, I’d really like to improve its content–namely improving my photography and developing my more of my own recipes. For my photos, I’d like to switch to a basic DSLR and very basic photo editing (cropping, light balancing). Right now, I’m using my camera’s phone, which is (sadly) better and easier than using my point-and-shoot camera. As for recipe development, I’d ideally like half of my posts to be original recipes. I suspect it will take more time to achieve this particular goal because I’ll be busy finishing my graduate program in the next 6 months and will need to break my habit of cooking from a book. In my defense, there’s just too many amazing recipes to try to not enough time to do them all!
  3. This is a much more nebulous goal, but I want to get more people to read and follow my blog. I’m not looking to be some incredible huge blog, but it’d be great to have more than my mom and a handful of friends reading my work. I believe changing the appearance and the content will help this the most, but I’d also like to get into using Pinterest (thanks to all your input from the last question!!!) and maybe Facebook for my blog. Since I joined Pinterest two weeks ago (and promptly forgot about/got too busy to play with), I’m already on my way, right? I’ll definitely be using our discussions here to help guide my actions.

The biggest obstacle I foresee is making the time to execute these changes. But that’s a problem we all face – juggling our home life, work, and a blog. It’s not easy, but it’s obviously a realistic possibility. And then there’s that wee problem of being creative and engaging and helpful in my photos and recipes.

So, more on how I plan to achieve my top goal, moving my blog (or creating an entirely new one) to a different web host….plus making design and organization changes to the new blog. Here’s what I think I need to do:

  • research my options (keeping it free or cheap for me and very easy to use) and choose a new host. Any suggestions? I’ve had to use Wix recently for a project and was pleased by it’s looks and ease of use. Maybe I should go with that?
  • decide what I want to do – keep Hops (its name and all my previous posts) or start entirely from scratch (new name, no existing posts to migrate over). I’m leaning towards starting over, mainly because it will be less of a hassle (no migrating my old posts) and I have such a small readership, it should be easy to notify them of my change (via a final post on Hops).
  • build the new website, making it look and feel the way I want. My usual design preferences are for clean lines, bright pops of color, and easy to follow organization. Thankfully, my husband is a great resource for this, as he’s got a business background and an excellent eye for design. I highly suspect he’s going to do a lot of the actual website building….but I hope it’s so easy, I can learn how to do it too. I’ll need to if I’m going to create posts!
  • continue to adjust my new website as needed. It seems like you never know what you like best until you try it.

Even though I’m supposed to only detail how I’ll tackle my top goal, it’ll be important to incorporate my second goal (improving photography and original recipes) with my new blog. For now, I’ll work on developing photography skills instead of buying a new camera. Work with what you’ve got, right? I’ll also try to develop at least 1 new recipe every week or two.

This round, Ashley gets extra credit for using the word “nebulous” in her answer. Brilliant.

Abbe, This is How I Cook:

This is a tough one because I don’t consciously set out to change anything. I don’t plan for it; I just hope it evolves. I’m not saying this is a great strategy!

In any case: I’d love to work on better photos. Photography drives me crazy. I’d love to have a professionally done blog so I could add more features and switch to WordPress. I am afraid of anything that involves coding. I’d love to promote my blog more, because, frankly, I’d like some extra income.

Three things to work on. I’m sure I could find many more, but I’m crazy enough!

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  • Reply Deb January 29, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Wow! I am always amazed by the impressive energy and commitment required of blogging! This post speaks to the heart of the matter. How to juggle improving our blogs and managing balance in our lives. Finding the time and space to be creative nurtures the soul and is a worthy goal. Reviewing the goals of 2014 early next year will be intriguing!

  • Reply Amy @ Elephant Eats January 29, 2014 at 1:42 pm

    goodness, I’m excited to see what these awesome bloggers are gonna bring to the table this year!!! I’m jealous that they have the time or are making the time…I wish I knew how to do that. One day I will organize my life enough (or perhaps move into my house instead of spending all day making house-related decisions) to focus on my blog. I’d really love for it to grow but I’m not sure I have what it takes to move beyond where I am. We’ll see. In the meantime, at least I have my favorite blogging friends to live vicariously through and learn from! 🙂 This way I’ll have great resources for how to do these things when it finally comes time for me to instead of blindly facing it alone.

  • Reply Sarah @ The Cook's Life January 29, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    It is so exciting to see everyone’s goals and dreams for the next year. I have been battling a massive case of writer’s block coupled with too much on my plate. I am hoping things will calm down and I’ll find my muse again soon!

    Shannon, I am in awe of you again. Compiling the results of everyone’s answers is a monumental job. It is so cool to see a group of bloggers’ ideas and thoughts gathered together in one place. Certainly food for thought and hopefully my inspiration to get back to blogging in earnest, and to help me find the right balance in it all!

  • Reply Jennie @themessybakerblog January 29, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Once again, I love this series. Shannon, you really have a way with words. Keep it up, girl!

  • Reply Emma January 29, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Allison’s comment makes me think that I was a bad grad student, because, uhhh weekends? Dude, my time! I never knew what all my fellow grad students were doing just endlessly/mindlessly sitting at their desks anyway. How can you sit there that long? What are you accomplishing? Imagine adding up all those hours, those are SO MANY hours! Dumb. I hope Brianne doesn’t read this. Sorry Brianne!

    And Brianne, I’d be more than happy to read your swears! No need to edit them out for me, whether in person or online.

    • Reply Emma February 5, 2014 at 6:40 am

      PS i’m trying out the pinterest at the recommendation of you and this here blog. woop woop, facing my tech fears / fear of change so that i don’t turn into my parents!

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs January 29, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Really fascinating post — love reading about everyone’s plans! I have no real specific plans for my blog — it’s a hobby, and I’m just having a good time with it. Like many, I’d love to improve my photography, and will probably start using a couple of new lighting schemes this year. For those that aren’t commenting on other people’s blogs and want to engage with other bloggers more, I’d suggest that’s a great place to start. I know a lot of people prefer Facebook and Twitter, and if that’s working, great. But commenting is more permanent, or at least it seems so to me, and over time you can really get to know people. But I’m not much of a social media person, so take note of that. Anyway, super read — thanks so much.

  • Reply Monica January 30, 2014 at 6:00 am

    This was so interesting to read. Everyone has such a way with words. I can relate to some of what’s been said – my blog and I would love to get ‘our hair did’ too (so funny, Emma!) but I’m also living with the issue of using Blogger and don’t think I want to face all the issues of figuring out how to switch! For the time being, it’s a fun hobby and I’ll just keep trying to have fun with it. I was also touched by much of what Dana said. Anyway…very fascinating…much love, success, and fun to everyone. Thanks, Shannon.

  • Reply Dana Staves January 30, 2014 at 9:37 am

    I love these posts so much! It’s so great to see what everyone else is trying to accomplish, and what ideas are brewing throughout this blogging community.
    Likewise, I have to give big kudos to Allison – blogging and finishing your PhD? Get it, girl.
    Thanks so much for putting this together, Shannon. It’s really cool to be in this dialogue.

  • Reply Ashley January 30, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Amazing work, as always, Shannon!!!
    After reading each of these Just One Question posts, I feel so inspired! I want to tackle my blog, revamp it head to toe, create a ton of new posts, all in one fell swoop. I’m just that pumped up! Plus I totally love and respect how you compile our answers, finding common threads (in graph form, hooray!) between our intentions. Like you, I can’t wait to see what comes from this!!! (I seriously hope I follow through. Eek!)

    I’m also loving that quote you put near the beginning. It’s completely on point, though it’s very difficult to follow the advice of knowing your peers’ work without comparing your own work (especially without becoming envious or slavishly copying). I’ve written it down and pinned it to the wall behind my computer. Too good to forget!

  • Reply Willow @Will Cook For Friends January 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

    I think this is my favorite “Just One Question” yet — I seriously needed to take notes while reading it. I can relate to so much of what everyone said! Also, reading everyone’s answers has made me realize I have a LOT more goals for my blog than I thought I did. There are so many things here that I want to work on, like being more creative, improving my photography, building a community and engaging readers, etc.. All those things are going to take a lot of baby steps, but I’m really inspired see how ambitious everyone is! (Speaking of ambition, I think Jennie should win a medal for that.)

    Shannon, I love your tip about keeping a notepad and pen nearby in the kitchen — that’s where many of my best writing comes from, too. Sometimes I work with my laptop in the kitchen (so I can read my recipe notes), and as I go along I type out whatever comes to mind… but I really need to do it more often, so I don’t lose all those juicy ideas that happen in the moment.

    Brianne, I am right there with you. I swear and say silly things all the time IRL, and I find it difficult to edit that down in my blog. I recently spent several days debating whether or not to use the S word in a fairly common figure of speech. Was it necessary to what I was talking about? No. Could it be said some other way? Of course. But it would have been very “me” to say it. I struggle with those things all the time, and being more true to myself is a huge goal for me this year.

    And lastly, Dana — I want to print your answer out and frame it. I need to read it every day. Being thoughtful and letting go of fear are top of the list for me. I also love what you said about your older recipes being from an “apprenticeship phase”. I feel the same way about many of my older posts, and often debate whether I should keep them around. I love the way you worded it, that you learned to blog on those recipes, and that’s the way they should stay.

    Thank you so much, Shannon, for putting all this together. I can’t wait to read the answers to the next questions!

  • Reply natalie @ wee eats January 30, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    OMG, @Brianne – There are SO MANY TIMES I erase my own language (either because it’s vulgar or just not “professional” enough). F*#K THAT! I’LL READ YOU!

    @Stacy – HOW DO YOU DO THAT? I am now researching ways to create a self-updating archive. Is it too soon to say that I love you? I love you.

    @Jennie – agreed. It’s so hard to talk about how awesome you are without sounding like a total knob (to yourself, I’m pretty sure no one else finds reading about how awesome you are as weird). DO IT! – I would love to hear about your process transitioning into an LLC. It’s something FH talks about a lot and i brush off as being silly but ya never know…

    @Allison – I took the plunge to self-hosted in 2013 – in February and November there are usually some wicked deals out there – you would probably be surprised at how cheap you cna find hosting for! That’s another thing I gave into from FH’s persistent pushing.

    @Wendy – I use google docs and have a couple different docs to organize things – but most namely an “Excel”-type document w different tabs for scheduling, recipes, links, etc… it could be worth a shot. I’ve also been playing around with Evernote (which I like because I can access it on my computer and my phone) as well as Springpad, but I keep coming back to google docs for some reason…

    @Dana – I love your idea of recreating successful meals for weekend lunches – that would make photogrpahy WAY EASIER while quality-checking your recipe. Awesome!

    @Willow – Good luck on your switch! I’m on WP now and even though I’m still not as skilled as I should be, I’m happy to help! 🙂

    @Movita – I’m feelin you on this whole “post less, post better” thing. I’m working on that one as well… I feel so stressed out as the days go by and I don’t post anything, though. My inner control freak is going bonkers!

    I can’t believe how many of us all struggle with what to write and what to leave out – I feel so much better now that I’m not the only person. I can definitely say that when I read everyones blogs they sound genuine, so you all must be doing something right! I’m excited to see waht the new year brings for everyone!

    @Ashley – don’t worry. I use the iPad/iPhone for pictures way more than anyone should (sh!) My hosting is on wordpress, I like the functionality – it’s a good balance between “I’m too stupid for blogging” and “I can write code in my sleep” – as you have the option to manage your blog visually or with code (i don’t know code). I know that WP has an “export” option which makes migrating really easy – you should check if Blogger does too, I can’t imagine that it wouldn’t have that.

    @Shannon – You win so hard. An amazing post but, moreso, an amazing and thought-provoking question! I love it! You’ve outdone yourself again, and now I have to think of my idol/future self? Sheesh. Luckily I already know which chef you are… /evil laugh

  • Reply Faygie January 30, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Sorry I skipped out on this one, but, honestly, I just didn’t have an answer this time around! I go through phases with blogging–sometimes I love it, and other times I just feel completely uninspired and wonder why I bother. Unfortunately I’ve been going through the latter phase lately (which I’m sure you’ve noticed, by how far spread out my posts have been), so figuring out goals was so not going to happen!

    I think that for now I’m just going to keep on keeping on–posting when I feel like it, not posting when I don’t, and hope that I’ll find some inspiration again soon!

  • Reply movita beaucoup January 31, 2014 at 6:05 am

    This is rather timely given that I broke all three of my resolutions just this week.


  • Reply Stacy @ Every Little Thing February 4, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    Thanks for including my answer in your conversation – it was incredibly inspirational to read the other answers too. It makes me feel less alone and feel like I can actually accomplish the goals I set!

    Also, goal 4 is to drink more wine. I forgot that one.

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