I witnessed a breakdown happen in mid-December, just before the holidays really kicked into gear; it was abrupt, tense, and filled with emotion…and it was on Instagram. I don’t know this food blogger/Instagrammer personally, but it seems she was overwhelmed by the pressure to live a perfect, beautifully-lit, gorgeously photographed “life” on social media. It seems as though she had a big plan to push her brand into the spotlight, but it had somehow fallen apart, dramatically and publicly, and now there’s zero trace of her anywhere – account, deleted – shortly after she posted all of this.
I can’t stop thinking about it. For me, it’s a cautionary tale, and it’s also more than that: If I’m 100% honest with myself and all of you, variations of these thoughts have crossed my mind, and I would bet (and I know) they’ve crossed some of yours – bloggers, Instagrammers, Guardians of the Social Media Galaxy – because pressure in this business? It’s everywhere, on all levels, and from all sides. Mostly, though, the pressure we place on ourselves is what takes us out. I should say here that I’m actually not winding up to have my own breakdown in this post: quite the opposite, in fact. So let’s chat about life. *pats chair*
This year was turbulent, and not just for me, either. Filled with bumps and detours and distractions. Some of you got married. Some of you had babies. Some of you got married and are also now having babies (file under: overachiever), had family emergencies that took priority, moved, moved and also had big deal school things, or just simply hit a wall. There seemed to be an almost universal struggle to stay on a regular posting schedule, to streamline thoughts and ideas, and to keep up with social media. And when you think about it – considering most of us have jobs and families and things having nothing to do with food which take up a decent portion of our time – it’s amazing any of us write or cook food at all.
I am lucky enough to actually have a job relating to food (aside from my job as Mother of the Year *ha!* to the Wee One, that is), and I still struggled. Writing my column became loads easier: it was the unexpected perspective on food that threw me for a loop. Everything food-related became a project, a contest, a mystery to be solved. I couldn’t just make recipes, oh no: I had to alter and adjust and improve or there was no point in even starting…and if my post frequency is any indication, most of the time there was yes, no point in even starting, because I had analyzed my way into a corner with every. recipe. I looked at. I think there’s a lot of benefit to having a very analytical brain, but when allowed to roam free…problems. You know the scene in A Beautiful Mind where Russell Crowe is furiously scribbling equations on library windowpanes? That’s what it felt like every time I started to think about food.
And that sucks. And I’ve always done it with virtually everything in life, because that’s me and it’s how I operate when left unchecked. But now, I’ve checked myself before, as they say, I wrecked myself.
Which feels awesome. Because this year taught me that even with all that crap going on, I can write. And I can write pretty well; I just have to carve out the time to focus. When I do that? I feel AWESOME, because I love this space, and I love making food, and I love talking to all of you. No breakdowns this year, people! I have officially hit my stride, and I feel more psyched than ever about 2015 and moving this space forward. That being said, here’s the plan – and this is the part I had to rewrite like 4 times because the very writing of it went against one of the goals, which is:
Write Tight(er) – Because I couldn’t be worse at that. Words are a forest I love to meander through, and very rarely do I take the beaten path. It can be a good thing, but so can paths, so I plan to make my words count more. Say things with less letters but not less feeling. Be more thoughtful about the words I write. *this paragraph would have normally been 3: I did it!*
Quality Over Quantity (but let’s not go overboard) – This is a perennial goal, and it’s a good one…except for when either of those things take over. Too much quality, I end up working hard on things which never see the light of day. Too much quantity, and I’m backlogged on posts which, you guessed it; never see the light of day. I’m going to (once again) work on balancing these things with a few internal rules and regulations behind the scenes, but i’ll say this: i think i’ve really got it figured out this year. We’ll see though, right? Because it’s mid-January and I’ve done precisely nothing. Although that’s a lie: i’ve been cooking, just not writing. Yet.
Every Recipe is not a Project – I know what happened this year…exposure happened. More specifically, local exposure. Ever hear the thing about how introverts would so much rather stand up in front of total strangers and give a speech rather than stand in front of people they know? This year felt like I was living out that scenario a little bit, and I learned from it, but it was scary. To make myself feel like less of a total hack, I overcompensated: everything had to be like the column, everything had to be ultra-interesting and composed and well-thought out. A cake just couldn’t be a cake, it had to be a 10-layer combination of flavors never seen before by humans. And because of that being a recipe for mega-failure, things didn’t make it to the blog as much as they should have. But then I realized…
I Am Cool Enough – I’ve spent a few years being nationally known in a little bit of a way, and aside from an initial mini-freak out of knowing people were reading the blog, I was cool with it. I felt good, even. I love all of you and I wasn’t nervous because you were all, on a multitude of levels, my very encouraging friends who lived varying distances away from me.
And then it hit too close to home. People knew who I was, not in far-off lands like Canada and Scotland, but like, in the grocery store. For an introvert (even one with an outgoing personality) with a generous dash of social anxiety (yep) it was semi-terrifying. I was excited but also weirded out. I value a certain amount of anonymity, and I don’t have that anymore, and it’s taken some getting used to, I have to say. It was hard.
It’s still hard, although so much easier now that I’ve totally settled in to my role at Feast, my role here, and what I bring to both places. I’m the person at the party who won’t talk to you unless you begin a conversation with me; when you do, it’s like I’m the most verbal person you know. Tight knit groups are intimidating to me, like being around a constantly evolving inside joke that you haven’t a clue about. The St. Louis food community? Everyone seems to know everyone, but I’ve been lucky to have a handful of people start the conversation, as it were, with me, and for that, I’m grateful. I hope to be less of a nerd and start a few (awkward) conversations of my own this year. So,
Let’s Do This More Often – Not gonna lie: I love you guys. For your support and encouragement in both tangible and intangible ways. thank you for being my readers, my commenters, my friends. One of my big reasons for doing this is the feedback I get from all of you. I’ve let random things get in the way in recent months, and it’s kept me away from a good portion of my blog reading: I’ve missed it. So i’m getting back to it, and i’m excited to see what everyone has been doing. And I’ll be talking to you, through comments and catch-up emails and the like, because I’ve missed being around regularly. I’m finally going to get around to finding new blogs to love and interact with, so if you have any suggestions, let me know: I already have some in mind. My hardest thing: the dreaded First Comment.
Am I right? Ugh the first comment on someone’s blog is excruciating: do you say how you found them? is that weird? For me, it’s the virtual equivalent of starting a conversation, and it’s always fraught with worry. So here’s what: I’m going to gather my nerve and just do it. And I invite you to as well: I know some of you out there have read this blog for awhile and you don’t comment, and I’m cool with that! Lord knows I know how weird that feels sometimes. But I’m a nerd too, and if you feel like commenting – maybe even for the first time – don’t get overthinky about it: I’d love to hear from you. I’m not really big into numbers – number of comments, number of Facebook likes, number of Instagram followers – but I am big into hearing from you, because I think you can learn from it and find common ground with people. You know me: I am a partially-to-fully open book here. I’d like to know you back. For those of you I do hear from, my unending thanks to you, and I’d love to hear from you more often and get your thoughts on things, which is why I’m working to…
Reboot The Just One Question Project – because how much fun was that? I hate that I have to speak of it as a “was,” but with everything going on with all of you and in my own life, it needed a hiatus. But we started something here, and that something was really informative and nurturing, and I’d love to continue it. If you’re on board, I’m on board: Just One Question Project participants, expect to hear from me shortly.
In the meantime, I have all your answers to the last question, and i’ll be posting them along with a new question in the coming weeks. I’m excited to start the new year off fresh with some really good conversations about this whole writing and cooking and talking about it thing we have going on here, and I hope those of you in the project are looking forward to it as well.
Ultimately, It’s This – And I’m stealing this one a little from Ashley at Local Haven (incidentally, a blog i’ve read for awhile but never commented on, but plan to), from a post I saw on her Instagram account: I’m going to slow down, do good work, and love what I do. That’s like the best group of goals ever, and I think in some way it applies to all of us, no matter how we approach our respective corners of the internet. I want to do good work; the best work I can, for me and for you. I want to be delighted by it.
Now if you’ll allow me, I’m doing something right now I’ve wanted to do for awhile: I’m going through some of the recipes I’ve bookmarked, and I’m making them. The me of last year would have said some of this was boring: the refreshed me thinks it’s high time I got some of this posted, because maybe some of you will like these recipes to. Expect those in the coming weeks as I retrain myself to just. make. food. (and then write about it).
Back to blogging, folks: see you in a few days with some tight writing.