Just Fine in the Middle

Jul 302013
 

A freelance writer I’m working with is hesitating about starting a food blog. She thinks maybe it’s too late. There are so many food blogs now, she said. Maybe she could never catch up or get noticed.

She compared herself to successful food bloggers who started long ago, and wondered if she should bother.

I told her that it was normal to think that way, but no good can come of comparing. When I start thinking like that, I say a little mantra that helps me:

“Some people are not doing as well as I am. Some people are doing better. I’m somewhere in the middle and I am okay with that.”

I thought it applied in this case, because if you only compare yourself to bloggers at the top, you’ll never start your own blog, and you’ll never be satisfied if you do start one. At the other end, nobody compares themselves to bloggers just starting out and wants to be like them. We all want to be superstars. But in the middle, there’s lots of room to do a good job, however you define that.

My mantra evolved from a story an old boyfriend told me. When he became head of sales for a start-up, his boss advised him not to get too down when he couldn’t make a sale, and not to get too high when he closed a big deal. It’s better to be in the middle, he said, staying even, no matter what happens.

Being in the middle might seem mediocre. It doesn’t mean I don’t aspire. It just means I try not to react to the outside world, where it’s so easy to look at what other people accomplish (especially on social media) and feel like a slacker.

You might think the middle seems boring. There’s no drama. But as I’ve aged, I’ve found that I don’t really need much drama as I did before. It’s exhausting! And it’s much more interesting to watch drama from afar in someone else’s life than to have it in my own.

So that’s my mantra, and I’m sticking to it. Do you have a strategy you use to keep yourself sane? I’d love to know.

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.)

 

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  110 Responses to “Just Fine in the Middle”

  1. Hi Dianne–
    I was JUST FINE blogging my little heart out till I attended a conference. I learned a lot, but I also fell victim to feeling inferior. My pictures weren’t as good, I didn’t pore for hours over posts, I didn’t have as many followers, likers or commenters. After a while, I started to think, ‘what’s the point’. It became a chore and I stopped writing for a while. My ad network dropped me.

    But now I’m free again! To just write what I want, how I want, when I want. I don’t worry about it. I’m getting back to loving the old blog a little and enjoying the time spent. I guess for me, when I was worried about how I compared to the biggies I didn’t enjoy it anymore. Now I’m back to not giving a crap (haha) and having fun.
    Sarah

    • Oh gosh. You’re supposed to feel inspired after being at a conference. But I have been there and sometimes I still think that. Good for you for getting over it and just having fun. And especially not giving a crap. I like that part.

    • Sarah I couldn’t agree with you more!! I loved my blog until my first bloggers conference. It was all about numbers and $$, two things I had never actually thought about! I just wanted an outlet to share my food loves. I’m back to me now too, and I feel so chuffed when someone I just met loves my blog! It’s fun again :)

      • I am right there with you. I remember when I put myself in a place for a deadline. It was the same feeling when I used to show horses. Having to band a mane in 10′b0 weather just for the show ring was no longer fun. Sure I won ribbons but I didn’t enjoy it. I used to get all worked up not knowing what to blog about when I realized I don’t want to be tied to anything that brings stress. This is not a career for me. I had forgotten the whole of the reason for starting a blog. Now I blog when I’m inspired over a dish and I enjoy writing and my photography improves. I barely have a 100 visitors a day but it is no longer burdensome.

        • That is a good point. If blogging is not a career, why drive yourself crazy about it?

          Your story about showing horses is a good cautionary tale, Pam. I bet that was a hobby too. It must have taken a lot to slow down and just enjoy your blog.

      • Aww, that makes me sad. While numbers and money are a part of blogging, the majority of people do it for fun. So Mel, you are in the majority!

    • Sarah, I felt the same after a conference or two and now stopped going to the conferences. Felt to me that everyone was so busy with a sales pitch of their blog, noone was actually trying to get to know each other. I might be wrong, or it might just be that conference and how big it felt. I learned some new things when I was there but I felt lost and made me feel “what is the point?”
      My blog is in the middle , I assume. Have been doing it for three years, and dont have thousands of followers or many comments. I had to change my outlook recently and also tinkering with making the blog a bit more exciting , just for me.Adding my new ideas, new things I would like to do and somehow incorporate them. Then maybe I can get rid of the “chore” feeling I feel every week. I have started not caring about the numbers or not giving any crap about “you have to write X many posts per week to get your numbers up” kinda advice. Feels freeing :)

      • So sorry you two had bad experiences attending conferences. Was there no upside to it at all? I always enjoy seeing old friends and meeting new people, at a minimum.

        I go back and forth about caring about the numbers. Mostly I don’t, but every once in a while I go look. I do promote my blog on Twitter and Facebook, but what matters more is when others promote it for me!

    • I felt the same way attending my first conference!

  2. What a great dose of common sense, thanks Dianne. I was just having a very similar discussion with a friend on this topic earlier this week. It is difficult not to compare oneself with others, but I’m pretty sure sure doing so is the way to madness – or at least bitterness and frustration. As I tell my kids – there is always someone better off and someone worse off – just do the best you can, try to improve and be happy with what you are doing, otherwise there is simply no point to it. Remember, it’s not a quest for world peace, it’s just food blogging. It’s supposed to be fun!

    • Hah! We should get stickers made from that sentence and paste them everywhere to remind ourselves, Amanda. Or we could just feel bad that we’re not working on world peace instead. Errr. Never mind.

  3. This is a wonderful mantra Dianne, and I’ve recently employed something similar for myself to keep myself sane. It’s hard not to compare yourself to others, it’s human nature. It’s also difficult to not let it get you down at times, and make you hesitate and question what you are writing or posting on your blog. That had definitely been the case for me for the last few months, where I was even considering giving up blogging altogether, until I realised I need to stop comparing myself to superstars and just focus on what I love and be content in that.

    The strategy I now follow, and which I’m sure sounds horrible, is that I try to stay away from the blogs that made me feel inferior, and spend more time on the blogs who ignite my passion.

    • It doesn’t sound horrible at all, Jennifer. You are free to read whichever blogs you like — so why not go with the ones that “ignite your passion.” That sounds fantastic, actually.

      Since there’s not much money or fame in it for most of us, you may as well focus on the enjoyment.

  4. I find the balance between “Making it happen” and “I am enough”

    • Hey Dana, those sound great. I like “I am enough.” I will have to explore using that mantra myself.

  5. As a new blogger I’m relieved to have read your post. I’ve enjoyed working on my new blog, but when I’ve read other blogs that I have enjoyed, or made me laugh, or admired the photos, I started to compare myself to them and suddenly started to wonder if I should carry on. Ultimately blogging should be about doing something you enjoy, and if one other person reads it then yay.

    • You have to do it for your own pleasure and satisfaction first. There’s a difference between striving to improve because you want to, and trying to improve because you feel inadequate, if you get what I mean.

  6. Amen, Dianne! It reminds me of something my Dad always says–expect the worst and you’ll never be disappointed. That sounds pessimistic, and my dad IS pretty pessimistic, but if you look at it optimistically, you could say it’s not expecting the world and being satisfied with what you get.

    • Hah! Let’s see if we can turn that around: Expect the best and you’ll always be pleased? Somehow that doesn’t have the same ring. I guess the point is to be an optimist. I’m still working on that. I’m better at it than I used to be, though. I bet you are too, Jill.

  7. Oh, amen!

    I’ll be the first to admit that food photography isn’t my strength (camera of choice – iPhone 5!), nor am I ever going to the type of blogger who can post recipes and photos of their amazing elaborate, intricate baked creations. That’s not me, and I don’t have the interest in doing that either!

    I’m quite happy to keep going as I’m going – sharing my experiences eating around Sydney (and Melbourne), and talking about the amazing food I’ve had the chance to experience. :) I don’t feel like I’m settling either, because I’m doing what I enjoy!

    • No reason to feel like you’re settling. Let’s replace that with “learning.” We’re all still learning how to navigate this new medium. (And I use my iphone for photos and I’m not apologizing for it. I’m not trying to compete with the professionals.)

  8. Thanks for this post, Dianne! I’ve had a lot of these feelings recently – my blog is two years old, and it feels like it’s in an awkward growing phase, perhaps puberty, not quite a child, not quite a grown-up. But the truth is, I have a set of dedicated readers (that I’m not related to). I have a community of blogs that inform and converse with one another. And that middle ground feels good. It feels like home.

    • Lovely, Dana. My blog goes through phases too. Sometimes I have a lot to say, sometimes I’m searching for something — anything! Sometimes I think it’s crap…oh oh. I try not to go there too often.

  9. When thoughts of comparison come to my mind, blogging or otherwise, I remind myself that it’s okay for someone else to be more talented than I am. It doesn’t have to define my value. I can be genuinely happy for them and rejoice in their rejoicing. This has made blogging so much more fun for me, and it’s also taught me about what it means to love–putting others before myself is a moment-by-moment choice, right down to the way I think when someone else succeeds. Why not delight in it with them? You can never have too much delighting.

    • Well, that’s generous, to be genuinely happy for that super-successful people, rather than turning green with envy. My hat’s off to you. Definitely you can never have too much “delighting,” especially when you are sincere about it.

  10. A similar concept is the mantra of “progress not perfection”. We all start out as beginners and so long as we keep putting effort in, we will progress. I have only recently started blogging and I know that there are many things that I could be doing better, but I try to improve one aspect each week or so as I learn more. Originally I wanted everything all figured out before I started so that my work would instantly stand out, but then I realised that attitude was stopping me from ever getting started so I just had to jump in and get it going. There are lots of different blogs out there, but you just need to find a way to make your approach seem just a bit different to the others. Then after that you need to find the right places to promote it and while it can be a bit hit and miss, gradually you will connect with the people who love what you do.

    • Yes we are impatient creatures, so “progress not perfection” is a challenging concept. I admire that you set out to improve one aspect of blogging each week.

  11. Hello Dianne:

    Like your friend I’m closer to the beginning than I am to the middle in a career shift from working chef to writer. I’ve had this dream for a long time and can’t believe my good fortune to be finally getting around to realizing it. I’m exercising complete and total acceptance and, because I turned 50 this year, that isn’t even that hard right now.

    The learning is good and I’m curious to discover what works and what doesn’t. Most importantly I’m grateful. I was given a modest measure of talent and have had a wonderful professional life to this point. I’m not expecting it to stop.

    Thanks for another great post.

    Deborah

    • “Complete and total acceptance.” Wow, if you can exercise that most of the time, Deborah, I’m impressed.

      You sound confident about your abilities, which i admire. Especially the part about how you don’t think they’ll go away anytime soon. I also think that about my own abilities, but not in such a clear way.

  12. This description is certainly true in my life. I’ve been blogging for three years, but I’m nowhere close to becoming a “blogging superstar.” I’m no longer a blogging novice, but somewhere in the middle. I don’t post as often as I used to because my priorities are family, work and blogging in that order. Someone on facebook recently criticized one of my food photos. I didn’t bother responding, but if I would have I would have said, “If I waited until my photography skills were perfect, I’d never get around to blogging.” Since I’m not trying to make a career out of blogging, I just keep on doing what I’m doing and don’t beat myself up about the frequency of my posts or how much time I spend — or don’t spend — promoting them on social media.

    • Very good approach, Margaret. There are only a handful of blogging superstars. I suppose we are taught that we have to get there, but so few do. I admire those who did it tremendously, not only because of their talent, because I have a sense of how hard they work to stay there.

  13. I’m far below the middle, stats (or conventional blogging “success” measures) – wise, but though my blog is useful as part of a platform-building exercise I still derive pleasure from writing it, as much as I did when I started. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. Any new blogger should do it for themselves first. “Success” will come …. or it won’t … but there are so many things we writers “have” to do in this industry why would you do another thing as an obligation?

    • Yes, blogging is way too much work to do as an obligation. And I don’t believe you are far below the middle, Robyn!

  14. I ditto Shanna’s sentiments. Comparison can be incredibly paralyzing and there is room for many voices. Plus, blogging is fun.

    • Exactly! I’m entering my fifth year and still having a great time.

      When I wrote that first post about comparing, I couldn’t believe how much it resonated with people. We are all trying to find a balance — striving to succeed, trying not to care so much about success, and measuring ourselves against others.

  15. I totally agree with those above about comparison being paralyzing. It’s so easy to feel like you’re not doing enough, or doing it well enough, in this very crowded food blogging world. Thanks for your grounding insight Dianne, I really needed this today…

    • Yes, we can beat ourselves up but then we feel bad and we can’t produce, so what’s the point of that? We know all this and yet we do it.

  16. Dianne

    I know exactly what you are talking about. I have several friends who are bloggers and a few that are in sales. It seems that they enjoy the ups and downs so much. Its very stressful to me. At my age, I also am okay in the middle working at my own pace.

    Thanks!

    Jodi

    • Maybe your friends are really into drama. I used to be into it much more, but eventually I discovered I needed to save my energy.

  17. I am in the exact same position as your client! I want to start a food blog or I should say, I wanted to until I went to the Food Blog Alliance site and clicked on 10 Things You Should Do When You Start Your Food Blog. It was overwhelming, and one of the 10 was that you must blog every day or forget it. I folded and couldn’t work anymore for the rest of the day. I’m now trying to gear up to get myself excited about it again. And I now know I will never attend a food bloggers’ conference! I don’t need it.

    • Oh no, Linda, you don’t need to blog every day. I blogged twice a week for the first year and then cut it to once a week. Sometimes I feel like a slacker but it is the right pace for me, so that I can get my other work done. I am not a full-time blogger. I suspect you do not want to be either.

      Re blogging conferences, they can be a lot of fun and a good learning experience, so don’t write them all off, okay?

  18. Hi Dianne,

    this is a great piece of advice and thank you for reminding me of it. It’s very timely.

    One additional piece that I use to keep me sane is that everyone has a unique approach to the same idea. Or as Dr. Seuss put it “”Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
    So even if 1000 others do exactly what you do, say a baking blog about gluten-free cookies, if you are true to yourself yours will be unique and that is valuable in a world of mass production and cut & paste. (perhaps it’s time for the concept of Artisan Blogging to emerge.) Keep it true, keep it real, keep it you.

    Thanks for getting my brain rolling this morning Dianne.

    • Hey Alexa, this is a very fun Dr. Seuss quote. It’s true that there are a lot of cookie-cutter blogs. That is one of the great dilemmas, of how to make yours different from everyone else’s. It comes down to your voice and story, I believe. Even a chocolate chip blog post can be different if you have a good story to tell.

  19. I recently had a revelation: If I stop blogging, life will be okay! I’ve been blogging for 2 1/2 years and I still love blogging now as much as I did when I first started. My passion is still there; I love cooking and taking picture for my blog and I looooove the community of friends that I’ve build in the blogging world. I can’t imagine my life without some of the friends that I’ve made and I might never have met them without having a blog. But I recently felt a lot of pressure to have more viewers, more social media time, better pictures, etc. The idea popped in to my mind that if I stopped blogging, life would still go on and I would be okay. Thank goodness for that thought because it calmed me down right away. I realized that the pressure isn’t real. It’s all in my head. If I take a break from blogging for a week, my pictures aren’t at their best, I get less viewers than usual, etc., life will still be okay! Phew!

    • What a freeing thought! Life will definitely still go on. There are lots of other ways to communicate with people on social media.

      I have also had trouble with the idea that I should take a break for a week, even while on vacation. I try to line up posts in advance so there will be no interruption. But every once in a while, I just leave it for a week. Nothing devastating happened.

  20. I like your perspective!
    My goal is to do my best, my personal best, at whatever I do, and to keep growing.
    As to the rest, I figure God’s in charge, and I’m not.

    • Yes, personal best is a good goal. I am not implying in any way that being in the middle means slacking off or doing a mediocre job. I just reject the constant pressure to be at the top, and all the drive that’s required to get there and stay there. Life is too short.

  21. After reading all of these comments I kept coming back to a feeling of gratitude about the human connections I have made through my own blogging. Just as I scrolled down to comment, I saw that Melinda, of Kitchen Tested, was the first to mention that bonus aspect. Interestingly, she and I met through our blogs and have guest posted on each other’s sites. THESE types of relationships are what makes it all worth while for me. The quest for more hits, better stats and wider recognition is insatiable. The human connection is real and satisfying as we meet each other one at a time.

  22. Here’s my mantra: do the best you can and enjoy it.
    I don’t even know how to compare myself to others, there are just so many food bloggers out there. I just love what I do. I have a vision for me. I work to make a difference in my little corner of the world. I am proud of my work and am constantly learning and improving… that is easy to see, too.
    I do look at stats – but the only person I am trying to beat is me. Am I growing? Do I have a greater audience this year than last? What have I learned and how can I apply it to make a difference?
    Absolutely start a food blog if that is what you want to do. Did you ever hear an artist say there are so many paintings painted that I just won’t bother? It is about the motivation, and being immersed in the process. It is about personal evolution and expression…
    Then just put it out there and let the world respond. Like anything new, it will take time for both you and readers to find who you are.
    Thoughtful article. :)
    V

    • Nice, Valerie. Loving what you do is probably the best way to go about it — not worrying about everyone else or even paying attention. There’s so much noise on social media now about what everyone else’s accomplishments. It sounds like you don’t get caught up in that and focus on your own.

      I like the comparison to painters. Once you make the focus on self expression and creativity, it really doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.

  23. Do you want to know what keeps me sane and how I hang on to what has become a crowded, competitive blogosphere? Your weekly articles. Yes, that’s right. I look forward to every Wed. morning when your post gets delivered to my in box. It’s one of the first emails I open, knowing that there’s always a nugget of wisdom in there that will propel me through the week. I love blogging, but it is part of the new media. I still go back to the traditional media and do get work out of contributions I write for print. But it is the blogging and social media world though exciting, is fast becoming downright competitive and on some days not too pleasant for me. Your articles are there for me when I need to “come up for air.” Thanks for generously sharing all that you know with us, Dianne!

    • Thank you Betty Ann. You are such a loyal reader and commenter! I appreciate it.

      Yes, it can get competitive out there. Best to keep your head down and focus on your own process and creativity. I find that if I pay too much attention I can’t produce, and as a writer, that makes me crazy. We writers have to get our words out.

  24. Like some of you, I too felt really down recently. Domestic problems (workmen in and out non-stop, no electricity etc) kept me away from my computer longer than I like and not being able to post and receiving plenty of likes and comments started to worry me. And yes I also felt that some popular food bloggers like to compete with each other to see who can ‘shoot’ better beautifully plated food etc. – so this nagging voice in my head kept asking me ‘why all this hussle, why not throw the towel and give up?’ And I nearly did, but then I thought ‘ what the heck, I am not writing for money – I am writing for my own fun first and about things I believe in and I like – so I continue. And NO conference for me either.

    • Conferences can be a blast. They’re a way to meet people who are excited about the same things you are, to learn, to have fun. I hope you will try one sometime, Carina.

      As for popular food bloggers competing with each other — I suppose the ones at the top are very competitive, whether they let on or not. When my husband read this post he reminded me that the top layer is very small, and people have to work hard to stay in it; whereas the middle is wide, with lots of room to move around. Ahh. Just writing that makes me feel good.

  25. I am so thankful I stumbled across this post. The post and comments were just what I needed to hear. I just started my baby blog, mostly because I want to write, but, also, to make some extra money EVENTUALLY. I’m a little discouraged, but I’m not quitting. I enjoy the writing and the projects I’m doing. I appreciate the support and encouragement of all the bloggers I’ve met online so far. It’s a great community and that, in itself, is worth a lot.

    • Keep going Clare. Your blog is a great jumping off point. I just got an email today from someone who used hers to get full-time jobs as a writer, editor and cookbook author.

  26. I try so hard to set goals for myself and then focus on just those goals. If I’m not having fun, it’s not worth having a blog. I also think it important to allow oneself to take a break now and then. August is the perfect time to do so, recharging for fall weather and recipes.

    • Liz, I don’t know that you can always expect to have fun. Sometimes the posts don’t come as easily as others. This one, for example, was quite a struggle, and went through many rounds of edits. But it’s satisfying now, to be on the other side, and see it’s hit a chord in people.

      I love my blog and wouldn’t give it up for anything. I guess you’re saying that when that feeling is over, it’s time to close it down. In the meantime, enjoy your break. It sounds like you’re planning posts ahead, which is another way to keep it going and to stay on top of it.

  27. Dianne, thank you for this post! It applies to many things in my life right now, blogging and my “real” job, and it came just at the right time! :)

    • It’s funny how many people have said that the post came at the right time. Someone even called me today to hire me, as she said she was going through the same thing, wondering if she should start a blog.

      I went through it too, when I started my blog four years ago. I had procrastinated for two years. I started it because I was facing a looming deadline, to write about blogging for my book. I had no idea what a pleasure it would become.

  28. I learned my mantra from my childhood piano teacher. When I was 7 or 8 and had my first recital with a difficult piece, I was afraid I’d miss a few notes or mess them up. She told me to practice, of course, but she also said this: “Just keep going. They’ll never know you made a mistake.” Sometimes I use the “just keep going” part of her advice (this is especially helpful when traveling with small kids!) and sometimes I work under the assumption that people don’t see what we see; the perfection we want isn’t as necessary as the final product. Her advice reminds me that perfection isn’t as important as seeing a task through.

    • I love this idea of “just keep going.” I am also a piano player and it’s true that people can’t hear the occasional mistake — as long as it’s a subtle one! It’s better than swearing and making more mistakes because I am stressed out.

      This story reminds me of a similar saying I tell myself sometimes: Act as if. And yes, we are all way too focused on perfection.

  29. I think there’s a thing I like to call blogger’s block….you go for it at the beginning, going to conferences, honing your photos, sharpening your prose, then there’s a lull when it seems a lot of work for little return and you wonder why you’re doing it…..I guess this is a hurdle like any other that you have to get over to get to the other side…..but sometimes it is hard to keep being inspired when things don’t seem to be moving forward enough. I guess if you enjoy doing it enough you’ll carry on, if not you may just fall by the wayside.

    • Being a food blogger can be overwhelming, I agree. The second most popular blog post on my blog is on that exact subject.

      If things don’t seem to be moving forward, you have to look at why. Sometimes I find that I have built something up — usually doing something new — to be worse than it actually is. That helps me break it down and move forward.

  30. Thanks for this Post engaging such great conversation Diane. Similar to Betty Ann Mango Queen I do agree that your weekly Posts provide a bit of calm in the hectic blogging world and offer a commonality of perspective that folks share together. I am saddened that so many seem disheartened on the Conferences, perhaps there should be a separate cocktail or booth area for Bloggers attending to learn some new things but also looking to build some meaningful relationships or friendships with others, community is always important.

    • Thanks Peggy. I do go off on rants sometimes too (especially when I edit recipes), so I am not always calm!

      I agree that this is disheartening to read about attending conferences. And like you, I have built some meaningful friendships and professional relationships as a result of attending them. For example, I go to IACP every year mostly to have a good time. I admit I’m not very strategic about it.

  31. Dianne,
    Thanks for this post. Like others who’ve commented, I’m blogging because I want to and there are things I want to write about. I don’t expect massive success, but my bar isn’t set that high. My career’s in writing and editing, and I love to cook, hence the blog. But I’m only a few months in and am learning and reading other blogs and am constantly inspired. So if I make it to the middle of the pack, I know I’ll be in great company with my fellow commenters.

    • Let’s just say that you’re already in the middle, Nancy. You can declare it and I will support you.

      You have a leg up as a professional writer and editor, as most bloggers don’t have a background in those areas. Now you have to learn the other stuff — as much as you want without feeling overwhelmed and anxious. I’m glad you’re focusing on inspiration. That will take you a long way.

  32. Dianne,

    I think that is a very good point! Many people are hesitant to start a blog because there are so many popular blogs out there that cover pretty much every topic on the internet. But the truth is it is never too late to start a blog. Every writer has their own unique style. If you want to get your voice heard and connected closer with your audience then starting a blog is the right way to go!

    • Yes. And the more blogs you read, the more you might feel that you have to create something just like what’s already out there to be successful, which could lead to not allowing your own voice and style to emerge. Now that wouldn’t be any fun, would it? Someone called me today, worried that if she started a blog it wouldn’t be like anyone else’s. That sounds delightful to me.

  33. Hi Dianne hope everything over there is going well.
    I am terrible for comparing and I don’t know why because I don’t do anything even remotely similar to other bloggers. I am getting ever increasing jobs, hits, followers etc but when somebody else does something big or important it STILL winds me up and I have no idea why! I am getting better and I do this by trying not to pay to much attention to other blogs but I do enjoy reading some of them.

    • I suppose it is normal to get wound up a litle, Kevin. We’re all insecure when it comes to being creative and putting our work out there. There’s lots of good advice in the comments about how to handle it. And you can start saying my little mantra and see if it helps you. No reason to stop reading other blogs!

  34. Hi Dianne! There is a quote that I have repeat to myself for many years and it helped me. Here it goes ” where there is a will, there is a way” I love it, it gives me power to continue doing what I like and fighting to achieve my dreams. I started my blog just a few weeks ago and I know I can’t be a superstar at this stage, people don’t even know me yet.

    • Oh yes, that’s an oldie and goodie, Liria. Good luck to you with your new blog. I bet if you keep saying that you will keep going.

  35. As someone with two blogs and an eponymous URL, I feel this SO acutely. I don’t blog regularly–so of course I don’t have much of an audience. I have often felt so late to the game, so after the fact, but I also feel that blogging is something I *should* be doing, because people say it’s the way to show you have a platform and the way you can get a cookbook published. I’m hoping it’s not the ONLY way to get a cookbook published and my experiences in the food world so far confirm this (still no cookbook but I see other career paths toward it). Still, if you are a food writer and the rest of your journalistic writing has been mostly online for years anyway, like mine, blogging feels as inevitable and compulsory as the sun rising and brushing your teeth (yes, respectively, in that order). I’ve often dreamed of amping up my writing via a blog, as an effort toward branding myself (eeessh), but it often comes down to time and money: I often have an assignment that is paying me, and it makes it much harder to sacrifice an hour or two of my day for a blog post with a looming deadline. Sheesh. I feel like I need to go post now. :) Thanks for this!

    • Yes, you are having very similar thoughts as the freelancer I’m working with. She has paid work that is always more important, and she also feels she is late to the game.

      Since she hasn’t started blogging yet it is harder for me to convince her about the satisfaction of writing whatever you like, and how your interests on the blog might lead to a book or new expertise.

      it is not the only path to a cookbook but it is the easiest path right now. Most people who want to write cookbooks have no writing credentials until they start a blog. That is not the case with you, but it is still a very good way to build a platform.

      Yes, please get back to your blog and establish a regular writing schedule!

  36. Thanks for the great reminder, Dianne! I struggle with the same. Whenever I start feeling like I’m lost in the blogosphere, or that I’m not writing cookbooks or magazine articles fast enough or well enough, I just take a social media blackout day. It’s surprising how much better I feel when I’m not staring at my phone screen reading about how well everyone else is doing! Thanks for the reminder.

    • A social media blackout day! I love it. I’d like to just get through a dinner. I was at a restaurant the other night with 3 other people and I was the only one at the table who did not have my phone out the entire time so I could look things up or post things on social media. And that was just 1.5 hours.

      But back to your point, hey, whatever helps you get back on track, I say go for it. And this is certainly a sensible choice. There’s a ton of self promotion on social media.

  37. I started blogging long before there was a food blogging culture; at that time my intent was simple. I wanted to keep a repository of recipes for myself, my family and my friends. I’ve always loved to cook and share what I do with others; blogging took that beyond my own table to a greater audience and that was good. Then things changed and more and more people entered the arena that are desperate for stardom and there seems to be a pathway to that stardom; one I can’t follow. I want to stay true to myself and remain authentic in what I do and what I do is share with others the food and cocktails that I make and love.

    I’ve seen those whose star has risen a bit faster but the truth is I don’t want to play the games that seem to be a part of that rise. My blog has become a part time job but I strive with every decision I make to stay on that same course; keeping what I do authentic to who I am and sharing what I love. I’ve enjoyed reading the mantras of others who work through some of these issues so I’ll share mine. ‘Be the Tortoise.’ My path has been slower but it’s been my path and at the end of the day that matters to me. I love to cook, I’m learning to love photography and I’m sort of OK with having to write more than I used to…and that is all good! I’ve made some great friends, had some great experiences and I see nothing but good coming my way. Be the Tortoise!

    • I love Be the Tortoise. No reason to change course, Barbara. You are still enjoying the process, and that’s what matters. I’m not saying that ambitious people don’t love the process. I’m sure they do, but yours works for you and theirs works for them! There’s room for everyone.

      • Not to imply I’m not ambitious or that the tortoise wasn’t either; we simply believe slow and steady wins the race!

        To that end; I’m just maintaining a course that insures I not change my blog’s main purpose which is to share what I love to do. My holy grail is not traffic or winning a popularity contest; I’m happy making readers happy. That may sound quaint but it’s the truth and in the long run that methodology is also serving me well. I’m thinking that is the perfect example of win-win!!

  38. I love your advice to your friend – as usual wise, practical and inspiring. While everyone wants to find out the right way to do it with blogging (how to get more followers, comments, stats etc) this can mean that everyone follows the same mantra and it all gets rather similar. Forgetting the rules could mean you break the mould and your blog does really well. Who had heard of Thug Kitchen until recently? – I personally don’t read it, but lots of people relate to this blog in spades and they made best new blog in Saveur awards and now a cookbook is imminent. I would encourage anyone to start a food blog, not with stars in their eyes but for many unlikely benefits of blogging (not linked to ad networks).

    • Amen to that, Sally. Now, I am a big fan of commenters because I like having a blog that gets a conversation going, so having lots is important to me. But to your point, it’s not important to everyone. Some bloggers can go along for years without many comments because they don’t care and they’re still having a good time being creative.

      I confess to not reading Thug Kitchen until recently either. I suspect we are not the target demographic. But hey, more power to him or her for screaming onto the scene and getting a cookbook deal to boot.

  39. I went to my first food bloggers conference and while I really enjoyed meeting lots of food bloggers, I did realise exactly what you say about being in the middle. I think to stay sane I have to sit on any competitiveness Iurking inside me and rather try to learn from those who are more talented/dedicated/obsessional than I am. I also realised that I enjoy my day job and blogging is but a hobby. Therefore no point comparing my output/ standard of excellence with those who blog for a living. I find that many of these people are journalists, photographers, food stylists or people already immersed in the food world. They are inspiring but I do not need to emulate them.
    I blog for the creative fun it affords me. If it ever stopped being fun I would stop. Turning it into a competitive pursuit would end the fun pretty quickly.

    One thing did strike me though, Most of the food bloggers I met are young in years. I wondered what I might have done with a blog had such a thing existed when I was in my 20s or 30s !! Interestingly, many of the professionals are older.

    • Probably most of the people who attend blogging conferences blog as a hobby, like you do. You have to admire the ones who have figured out how to make a living at it. But like you, I am not obsessed and competitive enough to go for it. Plus, I already have a full-time job that I enjoy, and the blog is part of that.

      What I find with the hobbyists is that some of them do get very good at it, and they quit their day jobs and go for it full-time, because they have the right skill set and drive. Many of them are very good at tech stuff and marketing, in addition to the list you made. And many are young, as you point out.

      It’s a good idea to be inspired by them but not try to emulate them. Very sane of you, Madeleine.

  40. I would be deep in the merlot if I tried to post eveyday. I’Ve read that you should post the same day(s) of the week so your readers will now when a new post is coming out. That sounds good, however, that doesn’t always work. Sometimes life and other priorities come first. Right now I am content in the middle and I know I’m in good company.

    • Hey, no reason to post every day, Sandra. Your schedule is up to you. I do post on the same day of the week but I doubt that my readers even notice. It’s so I can keep to a schedule.

      You are definitely in good company in the middle. There are tons of us!

  41. What your husband said about those at the top is what I keep thinking, Dianne. It’s like what I tell my kids about the Queen Bee. There is always someone nipping at your heels, hoping to displace you. It’s a lot of work to stay in the 1%.

    These struggles are so universal. And jealousy, borne of comparison, is something I don’t expect myself to shake entirely. I just hope to keep it in its place. Let it come, and let it go. Wasn’t it Gore Vidal who famously said, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” That might well be a bit extreme, but who had more success than Gore Vidal, and still ….

    Thought-provoking topic, Dianne.

    Nicole

    • That’s exactly what he said, Nicole! It’s too much work to stay at the top.

      I don’t expect to shake it either, but I certainly don’t plan to get derailed by jealousy. I was a little shocked when I first heard that Gore Vidal quote. I thought he was a petty man. But he does make the point, eh?

  42. I too have sometimes compared myself to other successful bloggers and it has been to my detriment. The advice you gave your friend is right. I have also found that if I surround myself with people who are so concerned with other people’s success that it can also bring me down. I agree there is to much life to deal with drama. :-)

    • Well, actually she is my client, so I’m glad you approve of what I told her, Susan! The green-eyed monster will always be with us, but who needs people who want to make it worse by griping about other’s success? Here’s another thing I tell myself: there’s lots to go around.

  43. Great article and wonderful question to think about. I started my blog less than a year ago. Rather than focusing on being behind, I focused on how lucky I was to have so many mentors to learn from. I imagined trying to start a food blog before there were any others – I would have floundered for years. Instead, I was able to take inspiration from my favorite bloggers and build my site. I like focusing on creating great content with the hope that my blog will one day get some attention and grow. It’s nice to quietly build up a great blog – out of the limelight – until you feel like you really have something of value. Then, once you’re established, get out there and let the world know about it. I believe there is endless opportunity out there in the world of foodies. I know I’m never bored of looking at a new blog, a new recipe, a new cookbook, some new cooking inspiration.

    • What a positive outlook you have, Lisa. This thing about not actively promoting your blog and worrying about building a big platform — it is kind of refreshing.

  44. Beautiful and helpful post, Dianne. I firmly believe you can only succeed as a food writer or blogger if you are doing it for one reason: to write what is true to you. If you find there is an audience for it, all the better (no matter how small or large). If you set out to become famous or wealthy, you will most likely be disappointed. And really, seeing what’s happened to the rich and famous in food lately, who’d want that anyway???

    • Hah! You must have clicked on the “drama” link. No one has mentioned it so far.

      Thanks Tori. Yes, we love to tear down those who have built themselves up. I do feel a little sorry for Paula Deen. All this canceling seems like overreaction.

      And yes, sometimes people call to say they want to hire me to help them figure out how to make money from their blog. I really can’t do that. I don’t know how, nor does it interest me. For most people, blogs are a launching pad, not the end result.

  45. Hi Dianne,
    Greetings from Adelaide.

    I am pleased to see this post as I am going through a reassesment phase with blogging. I don’t write solely about food but it does seem to dominate. Actually, I think my problem is a lack of focus! I have so many interests…and I have a day job as a technical writer so less time to focus on blogging. Your words have encouraged me to try to find some focus and continue to reassess my online strategy.

    I think it’s important to note that for those bloggers who are not blogging to make money or as part of an enterprise or business that provides you income, the reasons for blogging and what one wants to achieve with it are entirely difference things. Just one to chew on. Mary Lou

    • OOPS, what I meant there (hit Submit too quickly)

      …for those bloggers not blogging to make money or as part of an enterprise or business that provides you income, the reasons for blogging and what one wants to achieve with it are entirely …different to the reasons and wants of those who blog for income. Cheers.

    • Wonderful, Mary Louise. Yes, too many interests can be overwhelming for a blog. I’m a big fan of narrowing things down.

      Definitely hobby bloggers have different goals from those trying to make a living from blogging. There aren’t too many of the latter type.

  46. Finding happiness “being in the middle” is how I got myself kicked off the sports team in high school (I believe I was told, “we need to make room for people who will become stars”). Being in the middle of the pack means you don’t get noticed (and I question your own self-assessment, as your average engagement per post is much higher than most food bloggers and what you say does get noticed, as evidenced by the number of comments here), and for food bloggers, that equates to loss of income or some other unrealized opportunity. Blogging is a world of competition, some of the toughest competition out there. If one doesn’t acknowledge that fact and try to rise above the rest (which requires researching the industry standards and actively pushing oneself ahead of the pack), then one stays lost in the noise. That’s just the harsh reality of it. I’ve often wondered if such mantras as that above, of which several similar messages abound by experts in the food blogging world, unintentionally actually end up promoting complacency and thus demotivating future writing and blogging stars from realizing their full potential.

    • Jenn, how nice to have someone here who disagrees with me. I really appreciate your taking the time to write this comment.

      I know myself pretty well. I’m not competitive enough to be a big blogger, and not willing to put in the time. I do try to do a good job at it, and I’m somewhat successful.

      Here’s what I work very hard at: I try to be a good person, do the right thing, make the world a better place in small ways, and treat people well. These things are more important to me than being a star.

  47. When I started a few months ago, I was a bit anxious and sometimes overwhelmed by all that I had to learn just to get my blog running. I often had doubts and worries. My first posts were not as good maybe or the photos as great as I would have liked. I do believe I have come a long way. I write about what interests me, always with a personal touch. I hope one day my daughter who is three now will enjoy reading some of the posts as they will tell her a bit of our story as well. I have been cooking so much more, using techniques and ingredients I never thought I would be able to. Basically, I am having a lot of fun and I don’t even think I’m in the middle of the pack but that is ok. As long as I am proud of what I put out there, continue following my passions and still have time for my family, that is what is important.

    • I suppose it’s a good thing that you are not trying to evaluate where you fit in, after having your food blog for just a few months. Not much point in that, is there, at such an early stage? Good that you’re concentrating on just having fun.

      And I hate to break it to you, Maria, but there is always more to learn about blogging. I’m entering my fifth year and have barely scratched the surface.

  48. I write and draw about food from the bottom, not the top or the middle. We all start at the bottom and work our way up through the middle to the top–or thats the typical ambition. I shared that ambition when I was young. But Im actually happier now at the bottom than Ive ever been in the middle or even, briefly, at the top. Yes, like you say, less drama. But actually at the bottom you ARE the drama all by yourself–that’s actually easy, or as easy at it gets in life. Others may come along and appreciate (or challenge) your drama (terrific when it happens), but you are too busy at the bottom to take much notice. At the bottom you are free, totally free, to be exactly the drama you choose or create or channel. My articles and “cartoons” for Zester Daily come out of a total, or attempted total, immersion in my own world of food–food history, food humor, food art, food addiction, food savvy, etc. I don’t compare myself to other food writers because it’s useless. There is no one doing what I do. How could they? Can a rose be a violet? (Actually, Im more like a weed than a flower, but what a weed!) I’m lucky and honored that my past work has earned me a place on the impressive list of Zester’s contributors–at the bottom! L. John Harris

    • Hah! This is an amazing comment, John. I suppose there is a lot of freedom at the bottom and not working your way up. On the other hand, your work has been accepted at a respected website, so there is some accomplishment in that.

      I don’t think there is anyone else who blogs the same content that I do, so we have that in common. Being unique is also an accomplishment. Maybe you are doing better than you think.

  49. It’s rather insidious how blogging has exposed this comparative nature. Before social media, what did we have? I can’t think of anything as visible, constant and available as blogging, twitter and Facebook, can you?
    Thanks for your wise and honest discussion of this topic. Hopefully those who choose this medium find their own glimmers or large sparks of personal satisfaction from their endeavors.

    • Before social media we were still competitive and envious! We just couldn’t find out about everyone’s accomplishments as easily, perhaps. I don’t know about you, Rosemary, but I still get tremendous satisfaction from my blog.

  50. Well said, and thanks for the gentle reminder that its ok to be in the middle :-). I was complaining to my husband the other day, about how I felt I was putting so much effort in to my blog, with little (financial) return and he wisely reminded me that I started my nutrition business to help people-not to make tons of money. So true, and I’m trying to focus more on that & less on the other stuff that really doesn’t matter :-)

  51. […] I know I’m exaggerating. Also, ever since I adapted this strategy of being just fine in the middle, I’m quicker to catch myself when I have this […]

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