the just one question project

the just one question project: question six.

the just one question project: question six.

The doctor is in.

This next installment of the Just One Question Project is about how to handle (and defeat, hopefully) writer’s’ or cooking block, but it’s just getting published now – weeks after I had planned to post it – due to, you guessed it…writer’s block. Poetic.

Before we go on, I’d like to offer a public and heartfelt apology for anyone who tried to make my tsoureki this weekend (and there were many of you, which warms my heart.) I published that post and promptly realized the next day I had left off the butter not in the ingredients, but rather in the directions, where it was to be added along with the wet ingredients. I (thought) I had done the update, then went to make my own tsoureki on Saturday, only to discover that my update had never taken place: there my recipe instructions were, butterless, resulting in a minor freakout here at home, a press of the update button, and a prayer that everyone who was making it hadn’t made it yet.

I was not so lucky: turns out like, almost all of you had started already and had to guess on when to add the butter. The breads I saw photos of on Instagram looked fantastic, but I feel really, really horrible about either having you have to guess when to add it or adding it at the wrong time. I’m a horrid editor of my own work, and I know that, which is why I try extra hard to make sure everything is right. But I don’t usually screw people up, and this whole update/non-update thing really made me sad, because I really didn’t want to mess with your Easter. I extend my fiercest apologies and a plea that you make the bread again, with butter added in the right place, because you will love it. Also, I can’t thank you enough, because I have seen bloggers raked over the coals for things like this (because screw ups can absolutely be frustrating), and it would have been well within your rights to do that to me, but not a single, solitary one of you were anything but completely gracious, kind, and forgiving in your questions and comments to me about my mistake. Could all of you be any nicer? I think not. And I could not be any more grateful for that. Thank you. I mean that.

We can get back to writer’s block now.

I’ve actually done better at it in recent weeks, due to warmer weather, some really outstanding food inspiration from my cookbooks, the internet, and from all of you, and I don’t know: that magical, mystical something clicked into place in my brain again, and things started flowing again. I’ll save my sage advice for the end of this post (because you all hate it when I don’t write my own thoughts on the topic at hand and at least one of you narcs me out every time I do it), but I’ll share a little about how I handled this particular bout of the dreaded duo of writer’s and cooking block.

Every 2 months or so, I pick random cookbooks that I’m drawn to from my shelves and I leaf through them. Page by page, picture by picture, I find my way. If there are sections I’m gravitating towards because of the season, I focus on those. I spend time with each of the books I’ve pulled and make a list of things I’d like to make. Some of them are new things I’m interested in, others are seasonal recipes which slipped past me the year prior. But the process of sitting and just being with these cookbooks really invigorates me for the upcoming season. I make too long a list, complete with page numbers and book reference, so I don’t waste time trying to find where i saw something. Each week I look at that list, figure out what i want to make, and make it.

I hadn’t done that this spring. Why? Because…I don’t know. I don’t have a clear answer for you. Maybe it’s that it was freezing here for a good part of the early spring and I just wasn’t ready to be cheery yet. Maybe it’s because I spent the better part of winter with a sick Wee One (the first year of preschool can jump off a cliff) and I was just tired. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I wasn’t “forgetting” to make my list; I was straight up avoiding it. I knew what I needed to do, I was willfully not doing it – the epitome of self-sabotage – because it was just easier to stay stuck than to move forward. One day, I just snapped out of it: the cookbooks came out, the list was made, the ingredients were gathered.

I was no longer blocked.

But that was this time: it’s not always that easy. Let’s take a look at what you all said in your answers, first in graphs, then in direct quotes from all of you. Some of you talked about why you get blocked:

the just one question project: question six.

I threw this into an evenly spaced donut chart simply because I think it would be hard to quantify how many people feel a certain way at any point in time. I think we’ve all felt, currently feel, or will feel all of these things at different stages (I know I have/will), and I think it’s important to give them equal weight. I can relate to each and every one of these being a cause of writer’s or cooking block; I tend to get bogged down with the “too many thoughts” problem because if you saw my notes and lists, you would think I was operating on a 36-hours-in-a-day schedule, with zero other responsibilities than blogging. Blog envy, although I hate to say it, definitely factors in sometimes. I know in my head what I want my own blog to look like, and since it’s not quite there yet, sometimes my blogging takes on a “why even try” attitude. I know quite a few of you work full-time (real-life jobs: such a burden!), or chase kids around, or are currently in school, and all of that can really add up to getting really stuck and not being able to get out of it. To lift yourself out of any sort of block means you have to really take the time out to assess what’s wrong and fix it, and lots of us don’t have the time or the energy to do that in a timely fashion.

So how do we go about fixing the things which temporarily paralyze our writing or cooking? From reading through your responses, we all have a different strategy to yank ourselves back into our blog worlds, but the one underlying theme, it seems, is that it takes work. Not half-hearted work, but actual dedicated time and focus. Here are some of the ways we get out of our  writing and cooking funks:

the just one question project: question six.

Seems like the biggest way to solve the block problem is to DO. SOMETHING. ELSE. I totally agree! So many of you mentioned stepping away from things and doing something completely different, and it truly does help: it’s probably the first thing I do to fix my funks. If I’m having trouble writing, doing something fun that allows my mind to wander tends to get me unconsciously thinking of the words I struggled with sitting in front of my computer. If I’m having a bad run in the kitchen, I stop cooking and start cleaning – deep cleaning – because I think the act of having a sparkly, organized kitchen makes for better recipe creation and execution.

Along that same line, I think channeling your creativity elsewhere is a version of stepping back too, and can work wonderfully. Starting with photos can really stimulate memory and get the juices flowing, as can reading over notes for the recipe (if it’s something you made weeks back and just can’t summon the words for.) For those of you who said that you try to push through it and write anyway? BRAVO, ladies, because wow; you’re all better people than I am: I’ve never been able to really force myself to write, so that’s truly a talent. I loved the suggestion about reminding yourself why you started the blog and why you love what you do: I would bet that we don’t do that enough, choosing to focus on the struggle more than the underlying gratification we get from this thing that we do, and switching up your perspective can work wonders. After all, I think most of us do this on our own time, by choice, and without much – if any – income, so we must love it, right? I think so. It’s like the cat who you have to constantly remove from behind drawers or really high window ledges: annoying? Absolutely. But there’s a reason you don’t quit the cat.

Listen, all of you did a fantastic, truly thoughtful job of answering this question and I really appreciate it, given that most of us have been struggling recently with our own bouts of writer’s block. Take your time and read through some of your colleagues’ answers here (after all, we do sort of all work together in the same virtual office, right?); there’s some excellent strategies to employ when you get your next round of The Dreaded Block. As usual, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite parts of each of your answers.

Here’s the next question, which I will email out to all of you in The Project: I’m going to switch gears a little bit so your brain doesn’t go into full revolt.

When looking for new blogs (food blogs and otherwise) to subscribe to/follow, what do you look for/what catches your eye? Do you have any “pet peeves” when looking for new blogs which would make you NOT follow them (i.e. too many ads, hard to read, bad photos, writing, etc)? Conversely, what would make you unsubscribe/unfollow a blog you’ve previously committed to? 

And now, your lovely and exceedingly helpful answers. Thank you.

Brianne, Documenting Our Dinner:

I’ve stopped blogging for a few reasons before: going home for the holidays, temporarily living in a place with no internet, writing my Master’s thesis, but my posting frequency has generally taken a hit since I started my PhD program. It’s like there’s not enough space in my brain for work and fun, and we all know work’s gotta be #1! I wrote about how my brain’s been expanding and how that’s impacted my blogging recently. There’s angsty creative energy in there that’s been hard to put into words for a blog post, so I’ve been trying to express my creativity in new ways. I dug out my sketchbook that I’ve had since 2010 and drew a picture of a flower. I don’t draw. The drawing didn’t turn out terribly. It was CRAZY. I’ve been learning HTML and CSS so I can do more with web design. I’m going to beekeeping school. Blogging used to be my only hobby. Now I’m trying a few more hobbies, and it’s been really rewarding! I’ve also found new sources of inspiration. Lately I’m really into Jessica from How Sweet It Is and Tracy from Shutterbean. They have all these life tips and tricks that I can get into, and their passion for what they do is contagious. I used to think that expanding my horizons would make my problems worse, but so far it has really worked out for me!

Emma, of agates and madeleines:

I hope you don’t call me a liar when I say I’ve never had writer’s block! My mind is always thinking about a thousand things, all of which are incredibly exciting and thrilling (to me). If we were to talk in person, I could easily ramble on in a stream-of-consciousness fashion about at least two dozen of these things, weaving them together into a questionably fascinating nonstop narrative. So when it comes time to write, there’s always something dancing around on the edges of my fingertips, waiting to be pounced upon and devoured.

I should add in here that of the similar stories I’ve told IRL, many of them have been received with a sort of slow clap, or the disappointing addendum (from someone else) of ‘and then I found 20 bucks.’ Sooooooooo, perhaps this means my storytelling is best left to the internet, where such sarcastic feedback isn’t quite so welcome.

I often have lack-of-time block, poor-lighting/poor-photographer’s block, or real-life-keeping-me-from-the-internet block, but if I make the time to write, I always have something to say. And granted, I only post a few times per month tops, so there’s that.

Deb, East of Eden Cooking:

Blog burnout is real and can be overwhelming. I have endless cooking/recipe ideas. So many, that I keep a journal with ideas and drawings. I love my colored pencils as much as my spatulas! I get tangled in the writing, the words to go with the recipes and photos often get frozen, stale and brittle. My heart cramps at my lack of imagination. There are so many words to choose from, why can’t I find the right ones? Here’s what works for me. If I am frozen to the spot, can’t move, paralyzed with dread I move away from the computer and do something that gets my hands moving. Chores, cooking, gardening, crafts, something that draws me into the present moment yet allows my mind to drift and wander. The activity of my hands unfreezes my mind to search for the words I seek. If my words seem stale, dull, boring I stop what I’m doing and go for a walk, a bike ride, take a drive. Outdoor motion and action with fresh air revitalizes the stale boring rut that was my companion. Often fresh words arrive without much effort. Brittle is a close cousin to vulnerable and a fragile place to reside. This is the demon of comparison and envy and must be banished before all manner of dread and the loss of self-confidence replaces the motivation to blog. When brittle threatens to invade it is time to find gratitude and remind ourselves why we started blogging and why we wish to keep on going. Whatever the reason, when I start writing again, I just write and write. Let it rest overnight and then sharpen the knife to cut and refine. Finally, at the risk of sounding crazy, I advocate taking a vacation from blogging. Why not? It’s amazing how a break in the routine recharges creativity!

Mellissa, I Breathe…I’m Hungry…:

I struggled a bit with how to answer this one (why are you always making me THINK and stuff all the time?!?!) Partly because since managing the blog has become my full-time job, I don’t really have the luxury of just taking a break from it. That means I have to suck it up and keep going. Some things that help me not go completely postal are:

  1. Not putting too much pressure on myself to write a riveting, witty, novel with every recipe. I admire all of the other participants (yourself, Rachael, Katherine, etc) that bust out entertaining prose every time, but for myself I just can’t. If I ain’t feelin’ it I try not to beat myself up about it – I just move on, say less, and let the recipe and photos speak for themselves.

  2. I try to keep it fresh by giving myself permission to do whatever I want to sometimes – I started Foodless Fridays so that I could post something that wasn’t food related if I felt like it. That way people aren’t like “why is she posting this DIY laundry detergent, I thought this was a recipe blog?” because I put it right in the title. IT’S “FOODLESS” FRIDAY, MORON – THAT’S WHY! (Sorry, I’m still cranky from Daylight Savings Time. I’m so tired. *sob*) Having that slot available (even though I don’t always use it) leaves me an out when I need to be inspired by something other than a recipe.
  3. Keeping up with Social Media helps change it up a bit too – I interact with people, pin fun stuff, share interesting finds on FB and Google+, and when I feel like writing I do it – even if inspiration strikes while I’m in the middle of something else. For some reason, having all of those different venues and people to hang out with keeps me from getting too sick of staring at my own space – so when I go there to create a post it’s like coming home when you’ve been gone after a long day – it feels comfortable and I’m happy to be there again. Is that weird? Probably…
  4. Finally, I sometimes (but rarely) schedule a few posts out for a week or two and then I feel like I have time off – even though I usually spend an hour on social media in the morning regardless. Occasionally I unplug for an entire weekend and then I feel horribly disconnected. Also if I spend too much time away, it makes getting back in the swing of things so much harder. I’d much rather maintain a low level of momentum than constantly stopping and starting up again, which makes me resentful. My lazy nature enjoys laxity too much. Also ice cream. And cupcakes. I’m starving, can you tell?

Looking forward to hearing how all of you honest to goodness writers do it! Please teach me your ways Obi-wan(s)!

Mellissa, I don’t always say it, but you’re one of the few of us who really does do blogging as a job, and you really excel at it. I know you mentioned me, Katherine, and Rachael in terms of being able to just pop in with stories, but we aren’t posting every day like you are. That’s WORK, lady. And you do it well.

 Amrita, The Sweet Art:

I have much more of a writer’s block than a ‘cooking block’. I find it far easier to put together a recipe than to eloquently put words to paper (screen). I feel like with the expanse of the internet and having so much information that is constantly updated it’s getting harder for me to sit down and give proper attention to a blog post. I somehow eventually find the time, but my mind is often swirling with thoughts on various current events and I continually get distracted by all sorts of things–more so now that I’m more active on social media.

The best thing for me to do is find some quiet time, i.e. walk my dog. I usually go for about forty minutes or so, and I use that time to reflect on ideas. Usually, I already have the recipe in mind and I’m mostly trying to think of the content to write around it. I like to tie something about myself into each post that is also relevant to the recipe at hand (although sometimes I’m not sure I succeed).

If you’re really struggling with writer’s block, I would suggest reading more books and essays about anything and everything (in addition to finding some quiet time). Reading always puts me in the mood to write. In terms of food topics, I especially love ‘The Best Food Writing of 2013’ essays (there’s one for each year going back several years), the Lucky Peach magazines, or posts from my articulate and clever fellow bloggers. Although I must admit that sometimes I can feel a bit intimidated by all the great writing out there, it’s still the most inspiring catalyst that leads me back to my own blog.

I love your reading suggestions, Amrita! 

 Sarah, The Cook’s Life:

I don’t have any easy answers, but I have been going through the same thing. I took a few weeks off at Christmas and then had a hard time getting started again. I realized I didn’t want to start again. But I felt like I was letting people down if I didn’t. And I wasn’t ready to give up blogging, when it came right down to it.

I think the first step in burnout/writer’s block has to be admitting you have a problem. It sounds cliché, or over-dramatic, but it is real. For me, I had to realize it wasn’t just a lack of time. Or a lack of inspiration. Well, it was those things, but it was also a case of too much self-imposed pressure to post. I needed to pause and step back. Truly stop and reflect, without guilt that I wasn’t posting. I also had to look at why I was really blogging. What was my motivation? What were my goals?

After my reflections, and a lot of procrastinating, I started writing posts when they felt right and posting them when they were ready. I have settled into posting about once a week, if I can make it happen. If it doesn’t happen one week, then so be it. I have been on my break for a couple of months now, and I think I am seeing the light. Blogging is starting to be fun again, though I am still taking it slowly. I’m not sure if I’ll eventually post more than once a week, or if I am happy with the new schedule. I am good right now with taking a wait and see attitude.

Jennie, The Messy Baker:

Writer’s block–such dirty words. Yes, writer’s block is for reals. I wish it didn’t exist, but, the fact is, it does. Sometimes I get in to a funk; we all do. I find myself jabbing at the keys of my computer only to find the phrase “I like big biscuits and I can not lie” typed on my screen. Funny? Meh. But, it’s definitely not my best. And, yes, this phrase really happened the other day.

When I find myself in one of these funks, I usually try to power through it. By power through it, I mean search the Interwebs for cute shoes and quirky t-shirts that say “Every day I’m trufflin'” with the picture of a cute little pig plastered on the front. Yes, I own such a shirt. After several hours pass and major bucks are spent on random crap, I get peel myself from my desk chair (aka my kitchen chair) and go vacuum.

I realize that sounds ridiculous, and maybe it is. Here’s my theory: If I choose a mundane task that requires little to no thought, I’m freeing my mind and allowing creative thoughts to churn around in the empty space. You know what? It works. I’ll go do dishes, laundry, scrub floors, or scoop the litter box. All of which require no actual thought, just action. During those periods of manual labor, I begin to think about random crap. Once that random crap is formed in to a cohesive thought, I quickly run to the nearest note pad (I own a hundred) and write my thoughts down. My writer’s block slowly slips away.

STILL laughing at “Every Day I’m Trufflin’.” Like the dumb laugh where you’re snorting.

Rachael, Movita Beaucoup:

This was a tough question, as I have been so discouraged with blogging lately that I’ve been thinking about walking away. As in: I’ve considered it every day for two months now. I’m in a nose dive and can’t seem to pull up. I’ve been pushing through, but to be honest, I regret it. I should have stopped, even if just for a few weeks, as I’m very unhappy with my blog’s content at the moment. Helpful, right?

I have fallen victim to blog envy. I was so confident that it would never happen to me, that I was completely blindsided. It has been an incredibly difficult path to traverse, and I haven’t fared well. I have blogging depression.

I will say that I have lots of writing on the go. I keep lists in Evernote. Lists of recipe ideas, of course, but more importantly: story ideas, recollections, commentary I hope to develop. Hundreds of little nuggets just waiting to emerge. Sure, none of it has made it to the blog yet, but it’s there, and it gives me hope. I try to write something every day.

I’ve also set up structured schedule for my days, and that schedule is posted on the refrigerator. It has helped a lot. I do a lot of my work from home these days, which comes with perks (writing in pyjamas) and pitfalls (getting distracted by chores and friends who want to grab coffee). Having a set schedule gives my work value, which is important when you’re running in place, sweatin’ profusely.

I hoping these coping mechanisms will help me navigate this rough patch. If not, I will take a break, as it would give me time to learn how to play the ukulele. (I hear it’s making a comeback.)

Rachael, you touched upon some upcoming questions i have listed for the Just One Question Project: blog envy and blogging depression. Not even kidding, I have it too right now, and I want to get into the topic more.

Willow, Will Cook For Friends:

I’ve fallen into a series of ruts lately, so you would think I’d be an expert on pulling myself back out… but I’m not. It’s a challenge every time.

For me, there are a lot of different factors that can contribute to writer’s block. Sometime’s it’s burnout (feeling like whatever I write isn’t good enough, or thinking my life is too lame to have anything worth saying), sometimes it’s stress, or being overwhelmed with other parts of my life that are demanding my attention. Sometimes it’s just an overall lack of inspiration.

Generally speaking, I try to power through whatever’s getting in my way. I sit down, and give it my full attention for as long as I can stand to. I’ve been known to stare stubbornly at a blank page for hours.

That doesn’t always work out for me, though. Sometimes when I sit down and force myself to write, I have a little breakthrough, and things start to come a bit more easily. More often, though, I end up trudging through every single paragraph, and end up with a piece of writing that is, “eh, okay,” but not great. Sometimes sleeping on it, or having someone else look at it and offer suggestions, helps, but sometimes not. I’m ashamed to say, I’ve hit publish on those pieces more than once, in the name of getting things done on a certain schedule.

If sheer force of will doesn’t work, I try to back off, and give myself some space. I find that my creative juices only flow in one direction at a time — I’m either really inspired with photography, or really rocking it with my writing, but not very often both at the same time — if I know my attention is being pulled in another direction, I try to go with that for a while until I can come back with a clear head.

I think giving myself space actually works best for me, but it’s easier said than done. I find it really hard to step away from something. I tell myself “that’s okay, I’ll write it tomorrow” but then tomorrow comes and I’m still just as stuck, and I start to get frustrated with myself, and begin panicking that I’m not getting it done fast enough… but if I can actually let go, take a deep breath, and walk away from it for however long I need (maybe a day, maybe a week) without beating myself up over it… then, whatever block I’m having tends to go away on its own. Not all at once, usually, but the fog slowly starts to lift and after a while, I can see where I’m going again.

One thing I’ve found incredibly helpful, recently, has been asking myself why I do what I do. Why do I even like blogging? Why do I bother with this thing that requires so much time and energy? Why did I start doing it in the first place? What do I have to offer? Thinking about those things reminds me why I’m passionate about food and writing, and helps me see the path I’m on and where I want to go. I think when you do something over and over again (like tell people how totally incredible this sandwich is, and how they so have to go make it!) you can start to lose sight of why you do it, or what the point is. I’d say that’s my best piece of advice (if you can even call it that). Ask yourself why you care about what you’re writing. Why do you want to write it? What is the point of it? If that doesn’t help, step away from it, and focus on other things for a while. Then come back and try, try again.

Ashley, Hops:

First, I’m not exactly the most credible source for overcoming burnout or writer’s/cook’s block since I haven’t been blogging much the last several months. But I thought I’d offer my plan for pulling myself together and for how I deal with writer’s block when trying to write for school.

For burnout from doing too much and for writer’s block, my plan is to first try to push through once or twice (if it’s more of a short-term, just-that-day burnout). But if it’s still not happening, take a little bit of a break and do other things you love. It’ll relax you and help rekindle your creativity. Write down ideas when they strike, whether they’re recipe ideas, things that interest you (food related or not), or things you have been longing to do (like make a Momofuku cake or grill all by myself). Post every week or two, even if it’s just a brief hello and something interesting (a link, a photo, a story about something you did recently). I haven’t done this (oops), but I would like to in the future to help keep me connected to my blog without any pressure to post like normal.

Another tactic of mine is to just start writing something. Anything. It doesn’t even have to be a whole post. Just start writing (in sentences or in bullet points) to get your mind and creativity working. You can either revise what you’ve written or discard it entirely – I do both a lot.

In general, just be nice to yourself! You do this cooking and blogging thing because you love it and can’t resist being in the kitchen. You need breaks for your sanity (no one can go balls to the wall or on a strict schedule 100% of the time. Life happens. Roll with it.) and to keep yourself passionate.

Elizabeth, Eating Local in the Lou:

I don’t often have trouble getting the words to flow but I sometimes struggle when there is no real story behind the dish. Sometimes it’s simply just a good recipe and there really isn’t a spectacular back story. In that case, I try to describe the flavors and give detail on the nutritious components of the dish.

Elizabeth noted in her response to me that another blogger (Lindsay at Pinch of Yum) had recently written about her own struggle with writer’s block and her perspective on it, which I thought would be helpful to include. You’ll find Lindsay’s very insightful post here.

Elizabeth, The Manhattan [food] Project:

I get cooking block sometimes, but honestly a good way to get over it for me is to pop in an episode of a favorite food show and usually my funk drifts away. If that doesn’t work, I start pulling out cookbooks and eventually I’ll find something that strikes my fancy.

Writer’s block is an entirely different beast. For me, I have to march through it and write some crap in order to emerge on the other side, but the problem is that I get way to overly conscious about how bad that writing actually is, and then I stop, and then things back up. So maybe I’ll take a bit of time to not think about food or writing at all and then sit down and start writing something, anything, on a Sunday morning (for whatever reason that time has been really creatively fruitful for me lately).

Getting out of my normal routine often helps too–I think if I get too entrenched into any routine and don’t have any way to shake things up my creativity goes down the tubes.

Abbe, This is How I Cook:

I don’t usually have writer’s block. I usually have a photo block! Since I always try to tie my food in with my life, I don’t often have a problem. And since I’m a stream of consciousness person, I can go for a while. The bad thing is that I tend to repeat myself and don’t always edit very well. Rarely do I sit on anything unless it is something very personal.

My hardest part is the first sentence. Once that comes, I’m usually good to go. If I can’t come up with something I resort to research on the food. I try to find something interesting that way. Or something funny about an ingredient-or a song that reminds me of the food. I love quotes so maybe that will give me a spark. Many food bloggers that I read just post a recipe and not much else. Yes, it takes time this way, but I don’t let it get me down. I figure after writing over 200 of these things that by now I’m entitled to say that all of them may not be that good.The writing that is. I don’t usually post a recipe unless I think it is pretty good. But I love having a great photo, so, ahem, there may be a few that slipped through the cracks!

Getting on track. I really find that the more I post, the easier it is to write. Sort of keeps my head in the right spot. I know not everyone is like that.

Natalie, Wee Eats:

As I am currently in the middle of writing a post while battling my writer’s block, seems like a good time to analyze how exactly I cope with this crippling affliction with a simple 7-step solution…

  1. Start with the pictures. If I can’t think of anything at all to say, I will start with the pictures. Selecting which pictures to use sometimes helps to inspire me to make words…

  2. But, sometimes it doesn’t… So then I look over my notes – Sometimes writing can be especially hard if you’re doing it after the fact, a couple of days, a week, a month…. however long it has been since you actually created and enjoyed your recipe, no doubt you have forgotten some of what got you there. I like to look over my notes – why did I make the recipe? what did I think about it? can I mentally go through the recipe-making (and enjoying) process again? If not, I might have to re-make the recipe to remember why I loved it enough to want to write about it in the first place.
  3. FOCUS – Once I get into any sort of groove, I don’t let myself take a break. Not for a glass of water or even to pee, just … keep… going……
  4. No luck? Forget about #3. Go take a walk, do something else, get some fresh air and clean your mind. My ideas usually come to me as I’m falling asleep and I have to resist all of my urges to get up and write and instead tell myself I will remember it long enough to write it tomorrow (I usually don’t).
  5. Still nothing? Try another recipe. Maybe today just isn’t the day for chocolate chip cookies, but blueberry muffins really get ya gabbin’. Just because it’s not what you “planned” doesn’t mean you can’t write about it.
  6. Give up. It happens. Type up some not great words to accompany my recipe/photos. Let the food do the talking and I can yammer on about my cat or a trip to the grocery store or even about how I have nothing to write about.
  7. But don’t really give up. Try again. Keep going. It’s like running through a herd of zombies (do zombies travel in herds? packs? gangs?) – it will slow you down but once you fight your way through it and get to the other side – relief. Can you tell I watched a lot of Walking Dead over the weekend?

Shannon, A Periodic Table (just me, heeeey!)

So, writer’s block and cooking block: both things I deal with on a semi-regular basis, which means I have quite a bit of experience fixing both problems. Cooking block is easier for me to accept, which makes it easier to fix. If I’m failing miserably or just simply can’t think of what to make next, I superclean my kitchen. I mean the whole nine yards: I clean and organize cabinets, I scrub countertops, I move things around. Anything to make my kitchen feel like a fresh start usually does the trick. If i can’t think of what to make, I pretend my cookbook bookshelf is a library and I browse. I pull a few books I’m gravitating towards, and I sit down with them, along with my notebook and a pen (typically a Pentel R.S.V.P, medium point, but who’s obsessive? not me). I read through the books I’ve pulled and write down anything that strikes me, along with the book I found it in and the page number. If my mind wanders and I think of something random on my own? I write that down too, along with a brief description of what popped into my mind and any recipes that i could reference to build it. Cooking block or no, I do this routinely every 2 months (3-month “seasons” tend to be too big a time span for me in terms of seasonality/cravings) to re-invigorate me; sometimes even just to remind me of what i haven’t had the chance to make yet.

Writer’s block is more difficult to tackle; it’s my trained profession, and basically what I went to school for, so I believe it’s harder for me to admit I have a problem with something which should come easily and is my chosen vocation. Besides, i’m prone to dramatics, and I tend to get really writerly about the whole thing: have I lost my talent? Am I no longer interesting? IS THIS THE END?!?! *swoon* It’s all very troubling, and that’s part of the problem: I tend to force it, fail, overthink, then become self-conscious because it just seems so easy for others, then feel bad about myself…and so it goes. Here’s what helps me fix things:

  • Step back for a minute – or a day, or a week, or whatever. Just make yourself a little vacation from writing and do something else. As I mentioned above, I find that activities where I can not write but allow my brain to wander and “write” unconsciously are the best way to jumpstart things. Keeping a notebook hanging around helps too, because if something pops into your brain you want to remember as it relates to writing or your blog, you can jot it down and go back to what you were doing.

  • Work on another aspect of blogging – Natalie mentioned starting with the photos and using it to segue into writing: that works wonderfully, especially if it’s been a little bit since you made the recipe. Editing photos is easy, you’ve already done the hard part and taken them, and if you found you took a killer photo somewhere in there, it can really facilitate writing. Or work on another “little” thing: maybe throw the photos into the post in the order you want them, or type the recipe up from your notes, or set your tags and categories, whatever. You’re making the post easier to write once you DO get to the point where you want to write, and I think that helps make things seem less overwhelming. Most of the time, my work on each post consists of three separate sessions (not counting recipe development and execution): typing the recipe, typing the post, and laying everything in with photos and finishing up. For me, breaking up the work makes me fear it less because there’s just less of a time commitment.
  • Notes, notes, notes – seriously, all the notes. I’m a big listmaker, and lots of you are as well. I think I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but I’ve upped my note game (and made my own writing easier) by keeping a notebook on the counter as I make a recipe, because I tend to do my best writing about something as I am doing it. Since I’m not going to type with flour fingers, that’s the best way to jot down ideas, or tips, or random things you thought about while making the recipe, and let me just tell you: as much as you think you’re going to remember something after you finish cooking, you won’t. And if you’re like me, it’ll haunt your dreams. It does double-duty too, because sometimes those notes remind me of how much I enjoyed the process of making the thing, and writing about the experience comes much more naturally.
  • And a schedule helps too – basically my schedule exists so I can’t lie to myself and say I’ll work on something later, because I won’t. Setting aside to write is crucial; notes can be done on the fly, but the actual assembling of a post really should be done at a designated time, if at all possible. I’d suggest picking a time of day where you feel at your most alert and creative (mine is early morning to lunchtime) and also a time when you have the least amount of distractions (the Wee One helps out because she’s in preschool in the morning). Typically, my schedule for writing (recipe development happens anytime, anywhere) is Monday thru Thursday from whenever I can form a coherant thought (about 6 am) through 12 pm, when I retrieve the Wee. Fridays she’s off, so i make that a “fun day” for us and i try to not focus on writing. Weekends are deadline-dependent, and I sometimes get things done, but most of the time that’s only if something strikes me. Sounds like a pretty sweet schedule, right? Right: but like college, “15 hours” of classes on your schedule per sememster doesn’t mean that’s all the time you’re spending during the week. My schedule is for writing, editing, and work-related emails only: all the photos, development, testing, research, grocery shopping, and anything else gets done at some magical other time outside the schedule.
  • Find a blog BFF – You know, it’s hard out there for a blogger. The one thing that office work has over what we do (and the one thing I miss about working in a larger office) is that you form friendships through your work. Those friendships span cubicles and extend into non-work hours, and there’s lots of work talk, but there’s lots of non-work talk as well. At my own former office job, those extracurricular bonds actually improved my productivity. It’s harder to form those bonds in this particular “office” sometimes: we’re not physically in front of each other, we live across the country and across the world from each other, and we all have “real lives” to attend to. What I value most (yeah, I’ve said it 3,482 times now) is the friendships I’ve developed away from the blog with some of you. Some of us talk sporadically, some of us more often than that, one of you I talk to basically every single day. All of you help me get my work done, because you get it: blog friends get that blogging isn’t just “some little dumb thing” or “super easy” or any of that. They understand why you do it better than anyone else does, because after all, they do it too. And you can bet your pumpkin cheddar muffins that if you’re having writer’s block, they will help you out of it. So find a blog bff: someone you can bounce ideas off of, discuss True Detective and Game of Thrones with (and Fargo, amiright?), and who just generally helps you take the pressure off yourself. Everyone needs one, and it’s one of the best thing you’ll do for yourself.
  • …And what they said – look above mine: I don’t want to duplicate answers, so read through everyone’s comments: I’ve employed almost all of those strategies when dealing with my own blocks, and any of those suggestions are great fixes to the problem. Thanks again to all of the bloggers in the Just One Question Project, because this time you actually took the words right out of my mouth.

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  • Reply natalie @ wee eats April 24, 2014 at 11:12 am

    This was a seriously amazing post – I love Movita’s idea of jotting down STORY ideas. While I have Evernote filled to the top with more recipes than I could ever possibly make in a lifetime, the stories are just kinda whatever hits me on a whim while I’m writing. Keeping a log of story ideas is the best idea I’ve heard in a long time…

    I am also finding a lot of comfort in not being the only one who regularly contemplates whether or not I should keep blogging. When it’s not a “full time gig” you really start to wonder why you do it and if you should continue to do it when there is really zero obligation… especially when you’re in a rut. At least once a month I tell Aaron that I think I’m going to quit and then he laughs at me and tells me I’m dumb.

    • Reply Ashley April 24, 2014 at 12:51 pm

      Natalie, I’ve considered whether or not to quit grad school so many times (especially at the beginning…and again in the middle) it’s hilarious. I think (well, hope) it’s normal to question yourself if you want to improve or to stick with it. And I’ve also considered giving up blogging several times (less than I have grad school!), so you’re definitely not alone!

    • Reply shannon April 24, 2014 at 1:31 pm

      I love how you and Rachael are so organized that you use Evernote like, consistently. I try, to varying degrees of success (bc i love the functionality and design of it), but my “Evernote” more often than not ends up being my “Papernote[book and pen].” I like to feel the writing. 🙂

      I was happy/relieved to see that as well: it’s nice to know we’ve all had the same feelings and – at least right now – are all still plugging away at blogging. I tell Mr. Table the same thing, and i get very drama about it, and he’s like “seriously, i know you won’t quit, because you love it.” and he’s right. But there are moments, like the moments i have when it’s sunny, and 75 degrees out, and i’m typing away about pesto indoors, that i wonder what is wrong with me. I’m a stay at home mom, for heaven’s sake! I HAVE FOUR HOURS A DAY TO DO NOTHING! But most days I don’t question it. I think i always go back to really learning so much from it, getting great practice in writing and cooking, and then all the opportunities it’s brought me; that’s what usually brings me around to why i do what i do.

      • Reply movita beaucoup April 25, 2014 at 5:39 am

        If it’s not in my Evernote, IT DOES NOT EXIST.

        • Reply Emma April 25, 2014 at 6:36 am

          I’ve never even heard of Evernote.

          • shannon May 8, 2014 at 7:54 am

            Emma: you keep being you until the end of time. No one really needs Evernote, because it’s never going to beat my “evernotes” (i.e. notebooks with pen scrawls in them).

  • Reply Allison (Spontaneous Tomato) April 24, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Ah this was so great to read! Thank you Shannon (and everyone!). Of course now I feel lame (AGAIN) that I didn’t make time to participate (AGAIN), but I am now just about 6 weeks away from my dissertation defense, so I hope to be “back” after that. (And until then I’ll probably continue to procrastinate so much that the only way I get to participate in these posts is by procrasti-commenting after the fact.)

    I loved reading all of your responses and feeling that others are in the same boat! I also get blocked and contemplate whether or not to stop blogging at times (i.e, every week when it’s time to create a new post).

    I especially loved reading Amrita’s and Ashley’s advice about writing and burnout. (And I can REALLY identify with Brianne about feeling torn between the blog & the PhD program — of course my blog is probably one of the things that has helped get me through grad school… but at what cost?! I mean… but not without creating its share of stress and guilt about not putting work before blogging. For example, I wish I could step away from blogger’s block by deep-cleaning my apartment, but I even feel guilty about putting cleaning before my work! I can’t wait to have a clean apartment again after that dissertation defense…)

    Shannon, I also love your advice to keep notes while cooking, even about the writing of the blog post itself, not just the logistical notes for the recipe part — why have I never thought of that?! I keep meticulous recipe notes while cooking anything that will appear on my blog, but if I’ve ever written down ideas for the writing while cooking, it was only a few times, by chance, and I didn’t pay much attention to that as a strategy. I can really see doing that consciously as being very helpful in the future!

    • Reply shannon April 24, 2014 at 1:40 pm

      Allison, this is a “no lame feelings” zone, so you keep up the work on your dissertation! Besides, you’ve posted quite a few things recently, so it’s not like you’ve put things on hold. And i had to really coax people into answering this one, and you weren’t the only one who struggled with a response. I totally get it. It’s fine!

      You and Brianne i sort of keep in my same “brain category” of girls who are doing school and doing blogging; i can imagine how time-consuming and mind-consuming that would be! I’m sure the balance is hard. School takes so much focus that I don’t know that i’d be able to write *while* doing school: I was an english lit major which translates into SO MUCH WRITING AND READING anyway that I spent 3 years basically not writing or reading one word extra than what i had to do for my degree. My hat is officially off to both of you. 🙂

      Oh good, i’m happy you liked that suggestion! I’ve had to really make it a routine or else i’ll be lazy and just forgo it, but now before i even crack open the cookbook, I bring over my notepad and pen: it really is great for jogging my memory the next day (or a few days down the road) when i’m not as “in the moment” as i was when making it. Makes the writing really flow a lot more naturally, i promise.

    • Reply Brianne April 25, 2014 at 8:10 am

      Allison! Hi! I’ve been reading for blog for a few months, and as often as we’ve both been posting lately…gah! School is crazy! I’m so excited that you are so close to being done! Enough exclamation points.

      This is such a great collection of advice and experiences! I loved Amrita’s suggestion to read food writing. I was reading some online collections of “the best food writing” a few weeks ago. Nothing really resonated, but it was still good to try something different for inspiration. I also really like the support for stepping back and giving your creative side some space. Easing pressure on yourself to make something great can help a lot, I think. But it is certainly easier said than done. I’m so excited to be a part of such a thoughtful, open, and INSPIRING group of people!

      Lastly: I watch a lot of movies and don’t remember most of them at all, but THAT ONE SCENE from Fargo is FOREVER engraved in my skull.

      • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 7:57 am

        I am always thrilled when you all answer my questions, because none of you really think your answers are that great (but they are), and when you see them all together? magic happens. I’m taking several tips from all of you and incorporating that into my own funk-lifting strategy.

        YYEEEESSS: that one scene! and everyone who has seen that movie knows what you’re talking about. The TV version had a scene like that last week, or close to it, at least for me.

  • Reply Deb April 24, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Irresistible reading! All the heart and soul of how a blog post finally makes it to the world of “publish”. Perhaps we are just trying to find the perfect post, tying too hard, comparing too much. Being too hard on ourselves and forgetting the fun we envisioned when we began blogging. I also daydream about quitting. Wondering how different my life would be without all the obsession with recipes, props and photos. Peaking around the corner to freedom is very enticing!

    • Reply shannon April 24, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      I agree, Deb: I think it’s great that we all really try so hard at what we do, but we do tend to be harder on ourselves than we should be at times. It’s a strange feeling when you think about quitting blogging: sometimes it feels like it would be a relief, but so many times I feel like there’s too much good involved and it outweighs whatever thoughts I have about stopping. I have too much fun with it, even when recipes are failing and words aren’t happening. But some days…SO enticing. 🙂

  • Reply Ashley April 24, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Wow! Everyone has such awesome thoughts and advice on dealing with block/burnout, and I’m just in awe of how we’re all dealing with and overcoming (!) the same problems. It gives me hope and a lovely jolt of creative energy. (Just as a side, I’m thisclose to revealing a whole new blog and trying to post more than once every four months. All thanks to you guys and the inspiration and help you give me. So…thanks in advance!)

    I’d agree with Amrtia – reading well-written pieces always drives me to write and to write more eloquently (at least, I think it’s more eloquently…). And when Shannon says she revisits her list of Things to Make every two months, I do something similar and try to pick at least 1 thing off the list to make every week. Whether I make it with the intention to blog it or not, I’m happy I’m trying a new recipe and that I’m actually using my cookbooks.

    Also, Shannon, the tsoureki was fantastic even when the butter was added later. Seriously. That’s multiple people’s opinion, not just mine.

    • Reply shannon April 24, 2014 at 1:50 pm

      I know, right? Everyone did an awesome job at their answers, and it was like PULLING TEETH for the most part to get them, and reading them makes me wonder why. Such good thoughts in there! And enough different perspectives to make it really interesting and helpful, but with enough of a common thread to really make you feel like you’re definitely not the only one who experiences blocks. I felt so good after reading everyone’s answers because I knew they’d be helpful to me and to others. A great job by everyone, to be sure.

      Thanks for saying that about my cursed tsoureki recipe (ha), Ashley: really, it means a lot to hear that it worked out. I really was just stunned by the generosity of spirit everyone showed in their comments to me about that. You see people get completely blasted on blogs sometimes, and ripped apart, and it IS frustrating when recipes are missing something, i totally get it. None of you – not one of you – was anything but super nice about it, and i’m thrilled it turned out delicious. It makes my heart warm because i would hate to screw something like that up for people, and when i realized that had happened I sorta wanted to make everyone a “forgiveness tsoureki” and mail it. So thank you.

  • Reply Sarah @ The Cook's Life April 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Love, love, love this post. I have done most of the suggestions at one time or another, but I couldn’t think of them when I was writing my answer. Can I say, “What she said.”? 🙂 It all works and it is all good.

    I am a firm believer in the notebook thing. And can I say that I love “flour fingers,” Shannon? That is it exactly! I have a notebook with recipe notes and another one with blog ideas. And many of those are short hints, or ideas about making things work better in the kitchen.

    Here’s to clawing our ways out of of our blocks, and staying inspired!

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:00 am

      It is such a “what she said” question, because i think all of us have been cooking and writing for long enough to have tried a few different things by now: sometimes i think it’s a matter of remembering different strategies from the past, and hearing others talk about different ways they get out of a funk was a good reminder that there are so many ways to go about it. Why do we even HAVE funks when we know the answers? And yet we do, but i’m totally re-reading this when i have my next one. I’ve actually just recently determined the cause of most of my block, and that’s probably a good thing to have realized, because maybe i can be proactive and ward them off ahead of time.

      NOTEBOOKS FOREVER! unless you have too many, in which case, too many notebooks. 🙂

      *glass clink* 🙂

  • Reply John@Kitchen Riffs April 24, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    I suffer from laziness sometimes, but rarely from writer’s block or creative block. Sometimes I just don’t feel like writing; but if I sit down and apply seat of pants to seat of chair, eventually something comes. Or at least enough comes so if I put it aside and finish the next morning, it always goes extremely quickly.But my posts are rarely more than 1500 words, and story telling isn’t a major part of my blog (in fact I always put much of the fun stuff at the end of the post so those who are just there for the recipe — and a lot of people land at my blog through a search — don’t get caught up in stuff they might not care about. As far as deciding what to make, I have hundreds of ideas! Generating ideas is never the problem; but often I don’t feel like cooking what I’ve scheduled for the blog, so then I may scramble a bit. But usually my problem is narrowing down a dozen ideas to one, rather than coming up with something (but I blog about what I like to eat, and I like to eat everything, almost, so I’m always hungry for something). Good topic, and really interesting post. Thanks.

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:08 am

      Well, you bring up an excellent point, John, and probably one none of us love admitting to: there’s always the laziness factor, which i suffer from as well. I like to pretend that it’s writer’s block, but sometimes it’s just good, old-fashioned “i don’t wanna.” 🙂 And i agree (and love the way you put that): just sitting down with your big-kid pants on and making yourself do something can fix the issue, or at least get some sort of ball rolling, even if it’s that you get some work done elsewhere to alleviate feeling overwhelmed in other areas.
      You write your blog posts in a very engaging (and unique) way, and you definitely have a formula that works for you and your readers, which is fabulous. The narrowing-down part of what to make is HARD…that actually can be the cause for some of my blog paralysis, having too many things in my head. For me, that requires more frequent posting, and with my…oh, let’s call them “robust” posts? makes it hard. I’m getting better. Certainly it helps hearing from all of you about how you balance things.

  • Reply mellissa @ ibreatheimhungry April 24, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    Thanks for your kind comments Shannon! I really wish you would do a question about monetization and the issues surrounding it at some point – so many of you have AMAZING blogs with unique voices and so much to offer – but I think there is a resistance by some to monetize because they feel like they would be selling out. On the contrary – seeing even a small amount of financial return on the HUGE amounts of time spent makes it much easier to justify the hours and frustration that come with blogging. It made me sad to read that so many of you that I really admire are considering quitting your blogs – that would be downright tragic. To hear that you are suffering from blog envy when many of us ENVY YOU for your humor, talent, humanity, etc. was just horrible. In fact it made me feel guilty that I make a decent living off of my blog (and related projects) while I feel like SO MANY of you ladies are doing a better job at blogging! It just goes to show that we really are our own worst critics. Loved reading this post and the responses! Also, I have no idea what evernote is (so embarrassed to admit that) and while I write notes on thoughts about the recipe when cooking it, I recently started using Voice Memo on my phone to record my random thoughts and things I want to remember to say. Listening to myself later when writing the post helps me capture the excitement I felt, humorous thoughts I had that I want to remember, etc. in an even better way than writing notes down because it brings me right back to the moment. Anyway, just a thought – and it works best when you’re home alone obviously!

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:14 am

      First off, Mellissa, thank YOU for your kind words! That means a lot coming from you, for sure. Secondly, never feel guilty for doing what you do best and making money at the same time, girl! Good for you! I can’t speak for everyone, but that i don’t make money from the blog is a choice (or series) of choices i have made just based on what i want to do with my own blog and how i want to run it; i imagine there’s many of us who make money or don’t based on those same decisions. And i should clarify that the days I want to quit are “weak days” – days where i’m generally frustrated with something else, or am at my wit’s end trying to balance ten things and think “wow: think of all the time i could have to myself if i didn’t do this!” and it’s a total rabbit hole…for that day. I quickly remember all of the connections i’ve made with all of you, and all the writing skills i’ve developed, and how much i’ve gotten to know myself, and how many opportunities i’ve been given because of this, and i snap out of it. Because, WORTH IT. And i wouldn’t trade it, but there are days i want to trade it. 🙂
      I’m adding your idea for a monetization question to my list, because it IS a good one, and it’s one we don’t really talk about here. Consider it done, and thank you very much for your input, as it is always appreciated. 🙂

  • Reply Willow @Will Cook For Friends April 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Best Just One Question EVER. I could read through everyone’s answers over and over and over again. I especially like what Rachael said about keeping notes of story ideas, not just recipe ideas — I always fall victim to telling myself “I don’t have to write it down, I’ll remember it” and then I never do. *facepalm* I should also say, Rachael, I was surprised for a moment to read your words about having such a serious block and bloggers depression. I know we all struggle with those same feelings, but you should know that your blog (and your writing in particular) are one of my biggest motivators, and also one of my biggest sources of blog envy. In fact, many of you mentioned wanting to quit blogging, and while I can absolutely relate to it, hearing it from all of you (my peers, but also my idols in so many ways) saddened me. To quote Melissa’s comment above, it would be tragic if any of you gave up.

    I also loved Amrita’s suggestion of reading reading reading to get inspired — that’s something I don’t do enough of. And Shannon, your cookbook-browsing-and-list-making technique is something I seriously need to employ. Right now I keep a document on my computer with a running list of recipe ideas and things I’d like to make, roughly organized by season, but I think a physical list, with notes of page numbers etc., would be even more helpful. Also, your advice about keeping a notepad in the kitchen is pure genius. Believe it or not, I frequently take my laptop into the kitchen with me, and it’s more than a little food-spattered. I’m not proud.

    Also also… Shannon, will you be my blog BFF? I think you are absolutely right, that the one thing we lack as bloggers is the ability to connect to one another more easily, as we would in an office or other work environment. It can get pretty tough if you feel like you’re going it alone, which I think is one of the reasons this Just One Question Project is so powerful — it brings us all together in a way that reveals how much we all have in common, and how not alone we are. Just knowing that has been a huge help to me when I’ve been in a funk or blog-depressed, so THANK YOU, Shannon, for coming up with this project, and helping to bring us all together a little more. Thank you.

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:21 am

      I liked this one too, Willow, because certainly this is a prime example of how helpful it is to simply not feel alone in the problem, you know? And all your answers and suggestions were wonderful; all of you worked so hard and really thought your answers out, and i can’t say it enough how much i appreciate the time that takes. I honestly loved all the suggestions, and i hope that we all can use them at some point to either help get us unstuck or ward off writers/ cooking block completely. I think we can. GO US! We all hit rough patches, i think…very much like Rachael, i’ve gone through phases of “why can’t my blog be as beautiful as theirs” or “why do i not do anything creative anymore” or any number of other things. it’s hard! and it can get you down. Certainly to quit is a fantasy i only entertain to a point (b/c the pros always outweigh the cons for me, ALWAYS), but it does get entertained.
      Everyone really liked Amrita’s suggestion about reading, as i did: it’s a good one, and you can’t help but get inspired, i think, when you do that. It’s impossible, and it’s a great way to get over whatever block you’re going through. As for my little recipe / book / page number technique, it’s truly a winner: i may not be super organized in all areas, but it definitely helps. I write down so many things (way more than i can cook every 2 months, but that’s the point is to have choices in case you’re not feeling something or if something fails), and i have so many cookbooks i’m pulling from that i’ll completely forget where something is unless the cookbook and page number is there. it sort of eliminates a deterrent to cooking, i guess, if that makes sense.

      and yes: i will totally be your blog bff: you email me when you need to chat, or vent, or whatever. Now you made me tear up a little bit so stop it. 🙂 aw.

  • Reply movita beaucoup April 25, 2014 at 6:00 am

    I’ve gotta say, this post made me feel waaaaaay better about things. (Dear, sweet Willow’s comment up there actually made me choke up.) Reading about everyone’s struggles and insecurities is refreshing – and the coping mechanisms are brilliant. (It’s probably wrong to feel so good about people feeling so bad, right?) I think that’s what I like most about TJOQP – it’s like a friendly kick in the pants and a comforting squeeze all at the same time. Let’s call this place our office, and meet by the water cooler, k?

    I think Willow’s question, ‘why do I even like blogging,’ gets straight to the heart of the matter. I love writing, and I love my wee blog. Sometimes I just need to be reminded…

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:27 am

      I know: i got a little choked up with what Willow said too, what a JERK. 🙂 she’s so sweet, right? and always says really the perfect thing, and she feels all the emotions, and it’s good to hear, i think, for those of us who get a little too inside our own heads. As we do.

      I do like the friendly kick in the pants the JOQ project offers: for me too, and i feel lucky i get to host the whole thing, because it’s all your answers that make it so, so terribly awesome to read. If only we really did have an office together, all of us: how productive that would be. So much fun would happen.

      Same: it’s like the that keeps the “why am i doing this” monsters away; if i can just remember why i did this to begin with (because no one was holding a gun to my head), and why i continue to do this, and what benefit this has been to me, then yes: all the sudden it’s easier to see the whole picture. When you’re really in it though, and feeling frustrated and uncreative and blocked? SO hard. soooooooooo hard.

  • Reply Emma April 25, 2014 at 6:40 am

    Gahhh, Brianne, nooooooooooooooo, work should never be number one. YOU should be number one! Don’t let work swallow you whole, chew you up, and spit you back out somewhere in the blueberry barrens Downeast. We need you and your big brain to stay in one piece:)

    • Reply Brianne April 25, 2014 at 8:02 am

      But the blueberry barrens are so beautiful! Academic culture is so great, right?

  • Reply elizabeth April 29, 2014 at 9:04 am

    It’s definitely reassuring that we’ve all been in this place (and yes, we’ll all be back there again sooner rather than later). Blog-timidation is a topic I didn’t get into in my response but I do think it bears mentioning, because sometimes I’ll see these awesome blog posts and think holy crap, why am I even bothering with this? But then you have to put on some blinders and work on your own stuff, and not worry too much about everyone else (easier said than done, I know).

    There are at least a few videos on YouTube of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson working out and spotting someone watching him rather than do their own thing, and all he does is yell “FOCUS!” and then gets back to work: My husband likes to play these whenever he’s feeling a bit adrift either in writing or at the gym, so I thought we would all like it too. 🙂

    • Reply shannon May 8, 2014 at 8:46 am

      Completely reassuring, yes! To know others have had their own struggles and that it’s not a case of “it’s just me” does a lot of good by itself in yanking me out of feeling overwhelmed by things; it’s always so beneficial in life, probably, to know you’re not alone.

      So true about “Focus!” (and btw, that video is addicting, because it’s so right on), because it’s easy – so easy! – to get distracted by what everyone else is doing, and to be weighed down by comparing ourselves or our work to others, when truly there’s nothing which needs comparing. Everyone has their own unique voice, and approach to cooking, and no one is better than the other, although it seems that way sometimes, for sure. An excellent reminder.

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