The other day I tweeted with food blogger Melissa Joulwan about a Terrible Minds blog post she had RT’d. Called Writer Resolution, 2017: Write Despite, it was about risky writing.
As I read through it, what struck me was the writer’s admonition to “write your rebellion.” To “burn it all down to make great art.” I tweeted back to Melissa: “So little rage in food writing. Wouldn’t that be fun to read?”
Then I couldn’t stop thinking about rage and risk and other emotions. They seemed so foreign to food blogs. Isn’t anybody pissed off? Taking a risk?
It doesn’t happen often, but the post reminded me of two recent posts written by members of the food blog community.
Two food bloggers who “burned it all down” with risky writing:
1. Molly Wizenberg did so in this recent post about divorcing her husband and coming out, on her blog Orangette. She starts with this: “I’ve always been drawn to the things we’re not supposed to talk about.” That’s an engaging way to create suspense and get us to read all the way through. And then she lays out what happened in a terrifyingly brave and open way.
Writing like this takes a guts, of course. And you probably wonder if it’s even appropriate to write on this topic on a food blog. But that’s where Molly’s audience is, where people wait to find out what she’s thinking. (It’s not all about food, by the way.) And that’s where she does her writing.
Might it have been better to continue on with her usual kind of posts and publish that piece as a personal essay in a magazine or website? No. If I was a loyal reader and found that story elsewhere, I would feel betrayed.
2. Lindsay Ostrom (and her husband Bjork, presumably) made a risky writing choice recently when they posted an announcement of the death of their premature son on Lindsay’s food blog, Pinch of Yum. The photos are heartbreaking. Up until now Pinch of Yum has been pretty photos and lots of listsicles. (Not judging here, as I write listsicles all the time.)
Now, most of us are not having dramatic events like those in our lives. And maybe we need material every week that fits more into the “10 Genius Ways to Use a Blender” category (an actual Pinch of Yum title). I get that.
But the next time that you’re in the middle of going crazy, will you wonder if you should write about it on your blog? Or are you going to think, ” I can’t, because I write a food blog.” Will you wonder if you’re over-sharing?
What would be the benefits? I can think of three:
- You get to come clean about something that tears at you.
- It makes good reading.
- It makes readers care about you, even admire or love you for being so intimate with them.
As Chuck Wendig, the author of the Terrible Minds post, writes:
“I want you to be bad-ass. I want to be bad-ass, too. I don’t want resolutions. I want revolutions. I want fire and steel and anger, I want politics and rage and poison, I want Hunter S. Thompson and Spider Jerusalem and Nine Inch Nails. I want brimstone and batshit. I want heartsblood spattered on the walls that dries in the form of your stories.”
Could you relate to a toned down version of his message? I have trouble with this kind of writing online. I struggle with how to be more open. By venturing into a few personal essays I got out of my comfort zone last year. Doing so was satisfying, but nothing compared to what these two writers risked.
Now I have a whole bunch of questions for you:
What would make you want to veer off your usual blog topic and “burn it all down?” You can’t plan these kinds of life event in advance, of course, nor would you want to. But can you see how a risky writing like this would be worthwhile? Do you think these two writers went too far? Are you more comfortable mentioning risky things like depression in passing, versus devoting a whole post to it?
And finally, have you read other examples of this kind of gripping writing on a food blog? If so, do tell.
I’ve written a couple of very personal posts on my food blog and almost all the responses were supportive and positive. It’s when I talk about politics (on social media) that I get more pushback (ie “cooking not politics”) but I still do it.
Yes, that’s what I see as well. You can see an outpouring of support on those two blog posts too. Re social media, people are quick to judge. I am ignored when I tweet political stuff, mostly because they are retweets. I feel safer speaking out that way.
I follow both POY and Orangette and I am awed by their honesty and openness and inspired by it, too. Lindsay, in particular, struck a chord. Part of her openness is to honor her baby – she wrote either on her blog or Instagram, that the photos and words are to show evidence that he was here and loved so I understand her decision to share all of it so broadly. Molly’s blog has always been a favorite and I was blown away by that post, although I’ve come to expect great writing from her – not sure how she could have continued without addressing these huge changes in her life. As a follower, I appreciate the honesty.
I want to take more risks this year – tell the stories I want to tell and not worry so much about ‘the rules’. Maybe not ‘burn down the house’ topics, but sharing posts that are less guarded and more personal.
That’s a good point, April — that Lindsay wanted to documented that the baby existed before he was gone. Of course, she could have taken photos and left it at that. And Molly has been writing about much more than food forever. It’s not quite right to call her a food writer. She’s a writer, period.
Re being less guarded and personal, while I encourage it, we also have to consider that whatever we write will be on the web forever, potentially, so we’d better be okay with it.
Chef Deb says
I do not agree with penning deeply personal posts on a food blog at the expense of friends’ and family wellbeing for the sake of a few likes and shares from strangers.
I suspect it was hard enough on Molly’s hubby to hear her words let alone have them rubbed in so publicly.
If it’s a personal account to further along the actual blog post go for it. But what does a blogger coming out to profess his/her sexual orientation have to do with baking a better loaf of bread?
I’m not sure that the writers of those two posts did it to get more likes and shares. In both cases, they did it because they wanted to communicate to their audience something that mattered desperately to them. But I do take your point, Deb. And re coming out, Molly’s much more than someone who writes recipes. She writes about her life, which includes food, and in that way, it’s a more appropriate topic for her blog than many others.
I think in both instances, the bloggers had shared information about their lives (Molly’s marriage and opening businesses with her husband, and Lindsay’s pregnancy) so that in a way, they felt a need to share readers because of their engagement with them. If Molly suddenly stopped writing about her husband & family, and Lindsay just posted a story about a salad or cake following up what happened, people would want to know what was up. I thought what they wrote was beautiful and touching.
When you make your family or friends part of the story, you could mask their identity, as people used to do on blogs. But nowadays, people are more comfortable talking about their spouses, partners and kids. I started including my partner more when an editor of a book I was working on said she wanted to know more about him. Before that, I was reluctant but I found he was an interesting character because he was part of my stories, including the food-related ones, and often he had an interesting perspective and provided a French point-of-view, one that I couldn’t always provide.
Molly’s blog was never just about a recipe, and she wrote extensively about other topics, usually food-related, or memories and experiences associated with food, and that’s what the best writing (food or otherwise), often does. Some of our best food writers, like Laurie Colwin, Ruth Reichl, Nigel Slater, Ed Behr, Coleman Andrews, Gabrielle Hamilton, David Leite, and Calvin Trillin (among others) write about their personal experiences, not always just about the food, per se.
Indeed. So much of food blogging is recipe focused, and we lose sight of the storytelling. There aren’t many Molly W.’s in food blogging, compared to all the print writers you mention.
P.S. I did notice that you are writing more about having Romain in your life, and I love it!
Melissa Joulwan says
I’ve written about my health issues over the years, and some of it was very personal. In a way, it’s tangentially related to cooking—what we eat directly impacts our health—but those posts are definitely a departure from the “story+recipe” posts that make up most of my archive. I actually shared a lot more personal stuff when I started blogging in 2008, but as my audience has grown (cookbook buyers vs longtime blog readers), I’ve started putting the personal stuff in my newsletters and making the blog mostly food related. But I miss the personal stuff and have been thinking about ways to bring that back to my blog. Like Hilah, I’ve only gotten pushback on social media around politics, but that doesn’t make me want to stop talking about it—kind of the opposite, actually. I see it as a litmus test for whether or not I’m a good fit for someone 🙂
Yes that sounds logical, that as your blog has become more professional and your following has grown, your content has become less personal. I too have been putting more personal content in my newsletters, just becuase I wanted to make them different from my blog posts. But I can’t just write listsicles here on the blog. I need to get to these deeper issues as well. This kind of post and its responses is very satisfying to me, even if it’s not that personal.
Michele Spring says
I’m just gonna say that as a looooong time reader of yours Mel (like 4+ years), that if you had NOT been personal in the beginning I may never have switched to Paleo and probably would be pretty sick now. But because I read of your struggle and knew it wasn’t just me and my family, it really helped me get through the initial stages and realize this was the best path for our health. I’d never have started my own blog either, which is now my passion. So while you all might not get more likes/comments or whatever from these personal stories, you are still forging really strong bonds with your readers. People can always skip over them if looking for the recipes, but there are always those of us starving for more background.
Maria Ribas says
I think this is such a great topic for discussion! Personally, I most connect with recipes and bloggers that share a story and let me into that person’s life, even when that life may be messy or painful. I don’t think food is just food. Food is the way we talk about the rhythm and the meaning of our days, and I think all home cooks are drawn to this on some level or another. If all we really wanted from blogs was the absolute best chocolate chip cookie recipe, we could just Google for it (or buy it from a fancy bakery). But I think there’s something else that pulls us back to blogs. It’s almost like, in the absence of having as many family recipes handed down, we’re looking for new recipes with new stories that can be part of our own story.
Also, Lindsay’s post made me tear up. And reach for a cookie. 🙂
Sometimes all I want is a recipe. And then I will just Google “chocolate chip cookie,” to use your example. But when I want a story, that doesnt’ work. I go to the writers whom I know are amazing storytellers. Or I find a wonderful surprise online. I do not subscribe to Pinch of Yum, for example, but I found out about Lindsay’s post from a mutual colleague on Facebook. You can’t Google stuff like this!
Cynthia Nims says
Well, I have so far opted not to write about this on my blog. But I had a health scare last week that prompted me to break out of character (and leave my comfort zone) on Facebook by posting a brief recap and urging–rather adamantly–that folks learn from my experience and get necessary tests. The positive support was welcome of course, but I was most moved by the folks who confessed to being overdue and vowing to see their doctor. In my case, the blog is not nearly as dynamic a platform for me to have that kind of outreach. As I learn more about my condition, what (especially dietary things) may have contributed, what changes I make in my food life to be healthier (and I WILL be making changes!!)–I can see sharing that experience on the blog more so than the call-to-action I did on FB.
Yes that makes sense to me. What I think is so great is that you are creating a fuller version of yourself. You are not a one-dimensional character who writes cookbooks and blogs and recipes. By putting other parts of yourself out on social media, you get to engage on other subjects that matter to you, and see how people respond.
This is such a fascinating question! Personally (I haven’t read the POY post yet but I will) I find I am drawn more to blogs that are about food and more, which is why I love Molly’s blog so much. It’s about food but it’s about all the things around food that connect us – family, friends, death, weddings, births etc. Recipe-based blogs are good and useful but I love reading about other people’s lives too, and I love it when the stories about food connect to their lives. Rachel Roddy is another – so much of what she writes (on her blog and in her Guardian column) is about her life and family in Rome. And it makes for great reading. So I do think it works on blogs that are as much about writing as they are about food. Perhaps their are distinct genres developing here? Whilst I was finishing my PhD, my own food blog became much more about life and living, with stories about food too but less about new recipes. And I think I prefer it that way.
I remember talking with Gluten Free Girl Shauna Ahern about the long storytelling on her blog. She had readers who loved the stories and readers who wrote to her asking if she could just get to the recipe sooner. She thought it was funny, but in her heart she’s a storyteller. So it’s complicated.
Thanks for mentioning Rachel Roddy for those of us who love stories. It’s a tall order for food bloggers to be incredible storytellers in addition to gorgeous photographers, superior recipe writers, terrific marketers, social media mavens, etc. Not too many in that category.
Gary Allen says
I’ll write about anything that interests me on my blog, but only announce the food-related articles on my newsletter (since it is really intended for other food writers).
Yes, we cook and eat, but that is not the sum of who we are. WHAT we cook and eat might suggest a hint of our larger selves, but some readers might want to know more. The occasional personal essay can provide that context.
If they don’t, no one says they have to read everything we write!
Hah! And of course they don’t, Gary. I have to catch myself sometimes when I’m talking to someone about a post I wrote, and I’m assuming they read it.
It is definitely not the sum of who we are just because we cook and eat. Well said.
Nicola Miller says
Hmmm, not sure that Molly’s post can be classed as a burning volte-face because in the last few years her blog has become less food-orientated and more about her lifestyle and her parenting and professional life in all its guises. As she has developed her working remit, there’s been less recipes. It was honest and touching but I didn’t see it as a wild detour from her usual stuff.
Good point. But to the larger world, I think she is still known primarily as a food memoirist. Maybe this is why Ruth Reichl resisted being called a food writer when there was so much more to her work.
Mary-Denise Smith says
Thank you Dianne! I had missed both Molly’s and Lindsay’s posts, being caught up in my own existential weirdness. It never ceases to amaze me that just as I am negotiating the cliff’s edge, along you come with a post or a class and the fog lifts and I can see the path that was there all along. Best to you and Molly and Lindsay and all the other women who (through no fault of their own) leave their mark on my life.
Lovely. Thank you Mary-Denise. I bet you wouldn’t say that if we just churned out recipes.
I’m so glad you’ve raised this issue. I am a Pinch of Yum follower–more so for updates on the couple’s Food Blogger Pro business than Lindsay’s blog. I was really, really disturbed by the post about the loss of their baby.
I understand that the loss had to be shared but I’m not happy about how it was done. There were just too many photos of the family mourning and of the baby. I’m a really sensitive person so maybe it was okay for others to see but not me.
Lindsay and Bjork are young and I wonder if in five years or ten years, they’re going to want wish they hadn’t broadcast their heartbreak in this way.
I read the Orangette piece too. I don’t follow her but I think you posted a link on Facebook so I read it. I found myself thinking about her husband and child.
I guess I’m just really conflicted.
My first response was similar to yours, Jennifer. I found the photos upsetting, and I wondered why they had done it. Maybe it’s because so much of our lives is online now — in our blogs, on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, whatever. So it seems like the people you would tell about it in person is so small because you reach all these others. I don’t know either. I thought it was brave. Whether it was “right” is a subjective question to ponder.
Re Molly, I suspect that she cleared the subject with her husband first. That would have been the professional thing to do. And one day maybe her kid will be old enough to read it and feel compassion. The good thing about blogs is that your earlier posts get buried, which doesn’t happen with a book.
Great post Dianne!!! I’ve been thinking about this a lot this past year for a lot of reasons. Partly because as you’ve written about in the past (I think) one tends to get burnt out writing the same thing over and over. Getting real and personal is a way to move forward and change things up.
Also, with this past year and politics taking such a central role in peoples lives, I felt that I just couldn’t stay silent, even though in theory I should only be writing about food and Italy.
The way I’ve approached things is by being more personal in specific platforms. For instance, I feel that in my newsletter – which people have to opt in to read , but is free – I feel that i have more freedom to say whatever I want to. People can always unsubscribe.
However in my books and apps, which people pay for, I feel I have an obligation to give them what they want: food with no side order of me.
I have a hard time deciding how personal to get on my blog though, which I often feel is the most unpersonal of my platforms, oddly enough.
Yes this is a tough one to sort out, Elizabeth. In my newsletter, I feel like I am writing a letter to people, whereas in my blog, I think people want advice, trends, solid resource info, and stuff to ponder like this post. Who knows if this is the right approach? I’ve decided it’s right for me.
I think of your apps etc. as a characature of you. You are having this glamorous life in Italy, eating beautiful food, snapping gorgeous photos — everyone wants to be you or tag along. There is nothing about a broken washing machine or gaining weight or whatever else is really going on in your life that does not fit this image. It works for many, especially actors, who feel safer making someone up who is parts of them but not all of them.
Maureen C. Berry says
Hi Dianne and happy 2017. What a terrific topic to start the new year.
Is sharing our deeply personal intimacies too much information for a food blog?
I don’t think so. But I’m also conflicted. Like life, it’s messy. Thanks for bringing this topic to the front burner.
Couple of thoughts. There are no hard and fast rules for writing. Sure there are guidelines for specific genres, food writing is no exception. But of all the writing genres, food writing is one of the most diverse. It encompasses the political and the cultural, textures and flavors, demographics and academic (think math and grammar), family and religion.
That said regarding the Pinch of Yum piece (one of my FB friends asked me if I saw the tragic article on the site because I had shared 5 Ingredient Banana Muffin recipe a week ago). I hadn’t, and was stunned by the amount of information Lindsay and Bjork shared. Mostly the photos. I felt like they shared too much information, possibly because I wasn’t expecting to see this level of intimacy on this mostly How-to site. Admittedly I only follow Pinch of Yum in my FB feed (although I know them and had the pleasure to meet them a few years ago, adorable couple!) and I didn’t know she was pregnant. So was it my expectations at play here?
I mean, this is 2017. (Love CW’s bad-ass blog post too!) We live in a world where nothing is private or sacred thanks to the Information Age and Social Media. Our loves, hates, sorrows, joys and politics pour across the Internet like a raging river surging over a broken dam.
We feel disgust, awe, sadness and elation as photos, snaps, memes, gifs, and tweets about war, politics, celebrities, our deepest intimacies and cat videos continue unabated.
So anything is fair game, right?
I think about this much these days as I work on revision with my editor on my memoir, which ironically, like Molly Wizenberg, began as a food memoir and evolved into a coming of age memoir and includes much about my Dad.
I commend Lindsay and Molly for their bravery and honesty. They affirm what I have been feeling about my own writing future, the need to write courageously, like I mean it.
I agree with what you wrote here, Maureen. There’s no shortage of oversharing online. We don’t like it, although we are used to it and we just scroll past it or click away. (Although sometimes I am amazed at how often and how many people respond to overshares on Facebook sometimes!)
So when you get hit over the head with a post like that of Pinch of Yum, it’s hard to digest — is it oversharing or is it what goes on now? Is it okay to see them crying and personally “unstyled,” to see their baby who died, to see photos of their family crying. It was super intimate. I have never met them in person. I imagine their 3 million viewers per month have not. Would that have made a difference?
It was raw and uncensored — exactly the opposite of what we are told not to do on our blogs. I have a professional photo (just put some new ones up!), I rarely talk about personal stuff on my blog. But I am working on something intensely personal, like you. We’ll see if ever sees the light!
Annie Fenn says
As an obstetrician, I have suffered along with my patients in the event of pregnancy loss, and I greatly admire how Lindsay and Bork decided to deal with the death of their infant. I believe it will encourage others to honor an infant death by holding a service, taking lots of photos, and sharing the experience however they feel comfortable. This would have been unheard of twenty years ago and rare even five years ago, but it does help grieving parents deal with a loss. By having such a huge platform on which to share this grieving process, I think they will help others tremendously and I hope it will end up being therapeutic for them. This potential benefit for others far outweighs any uncomfortable feelings it may elicit in sensitive readers, in my opinion.
As a long time follower of Molly’s blog, I recall when she first wrote about post-partum depression, a topic that was almost never discussed at that time. I can’t imagine how many women (and their families) she helped by writing about her experience. I know she helped many of my patients seek help when they otherwise would not.
I really value the “food blogs” that transcend the genre and write about the guts of life. It takes a lot of courage to write in an authentic voice. I continually aspire to tap into my own authentic voice but I think it is easier for some than others.
This is an interesting perspective, Annie. Very positive and affirming.
Yes, we haven’t even discussed the role of voice here. Molly W, especially, has it in spades. I’m sure she has honed it for a long time. It takes a while to develop, so be persistent.
I was also very moved by Lindsay’s post and pictures. It may be a subject that’s uncomfortable, but sharing it might help others in the same situation. And for those of us that aren’t, it helps us understand it.
There was a very moving blog post (not on a food blog) that changed my perspective, written by a mother whose child had the same violence-prone affliction that a teenage school shooter had, whose mother was implicated because she hadn’t properly controlled her son. The woman who wrote the post talked about how hard (or impossible) it was for her to manage her child, who was very violent, as there are little she could do via the social, medical, or legal systems, to take care of him and protect her and her other children. A lot of people blame parents when things like this happen, so it was good that she spoke up and I found it enlightening to read about her experiences. After that, I’ll think again before coming to the conclusion that we often come to.
I remember that post well. It went viral. I talked about it with people and I know I mentioned it somewhere on the blog. It’s amazing how much we all connected with it, even though it was not the usual subject.
Linda A. Ditch says
Two and a half years ago, I wrote about the death of my husband, who my readers knew as The Picky Eater. I felt like I needed to let them know he had died since I wrote about him so often. He even made comments on my posts signed “The Picky Eater”, or “PE” for short. The outpouring of comfort from readers was amazing and that post was one of my most shared ones. Afterwards I made occasional posts about life without him and memories of him, often with recipes to go with the post.
Oh that is sweet, how he commented as himself. You must have loved that, and it must have been fun to create the character. My condolences, Linda. I’m glad you kept up some content about him in later posts. As for the outpouring of comfort, you must have loved that two, as Molly and Lindsday (and Bjork) surely did. It sounds very satisfying.
Nancy Nicholls says
What a great topic you choose to write on. I received both of those blogs that you gave an example on, one with the life change and I guess the other was life changing as well, the death of their son. I read both of those posts several times, one for the way that she laid out how her change in life came about because it was written so well and the second post I cried tears of grief for the loss of their son because I felt the raw emotion, pictures and their life changing loss reminded me how fragile life is and how brave it was to share that with us here in “space”. Both posts brought me reality, the kind of reality that happens between friends or between people who share a commonality which in this case, a food blog. I found them both brave in different ways, but both necessary to their lives and ours the reader.
Thanks Nancy. I’m interested in the fact that you read both posts several times, and that you cried over Pinch of Yum’s. I love that writing has the power to do that — and the photos had a big part of it as well, in POY’s case. It takes skill to lay out that raw emotion and to ask readers to feel it with you. Though of course what we felt was probably 1 percent of what they were going through. I hope it has been cathartic for them to write down what happened. If I had written those posts I would feel very satisfied to have you as a reader.
I wish more people shared more about their lives on their blogs. I find most food blogs very sterile to be honest so it’s rare that I read any regularly. To pull me in as a regular reader, I need to feel some kind of connection to this person on the other side of the screen.
My personal blog has veered away from food over the last year (although food is still a part of it) but even when it was 100% food focused I injected myself into every post. I really don’t care if people who just want the recipe skim through it – I know my regular readers, the people I value and want to keep coming back, enjoy it. My most long term popular posts have always been ones where I’ve gotten very personal or gone on a rant and worried about hitting the publish button.
Where I draw the line is involving my family and close friends. Most of them are not comfortable with playing a big role in my on-line stories and yet, they are a huge part of my life. So my challenge is talking about my life while respecting the people who contribute to it but at the same time making it not sound like I’m the only person IN my life!
Melissa, it just kills me that, as the co-founder of Food Bloggers of Canada, you write, “I find most food blogs very sterile to be honest so it’s rare that I read any regularly.” That is a sad statement.
I’m glad you inject personality and opinions into your posts because that is what differentiates them from many other writers who write about rice pudding or tea. A strong voice is what makes your posts stand out. Re sounding like you’re all alone in the world, I don’t notice that when I read blogs. I assume that it’s all about that person and his or her thoughts.
Alisa Fleming says
The very few times I’ve read either of their blogs, these two struck me as storytellers who connected with their readers. On that level, these posts may have been more extreme, but still seem to fall within what readers might expect. That said, I do have to agree a bit with a prior commenter that my first thought with the Orangette post was about how airing so much, so publicly might affect others involved. I don’t typically read her work though (I’ve just seen her speak), so perhaps the people in her life are used to things being less than private.
I’m not that familiar with Lindsay as a storyteller, but Molly — that is her work. Re other people, I’m sure she was professional about it, asking for permission or showing people her work in advance. And yes, as you know, the spouse can figure into our posts with regularity, if we (both) like it that way.
Wow, what post Dianne. I saw Lindsay’s post, which broke my heart. I was blown away at her honesty, in her sharing something so intimate, and personal with the thousands who read her; with the world. She is fearless. I’ve prayed daily for them. I had not read Molly’s. Then with your link, read it twice. She is an amazing writer. I wish I had that gift. I would love to share more of me with my readers. I’ve always thought, who would care? Isn’t it all about food? Maybe that is how you really connect with people. Maybe I need to try to step out. Just have not taken that step. Where or how to start? I certainly don’t have the writing gift of Molly or the reach of Lindsay, with her style of writing. My passion is food, educating, inspiring. But it is, as with all of us, deeply connected somewhere, always with more to the story than we may write..no, more than we share.
I started a post a few years ago and never published it. We dropped our lives and moved into an LA hotel, spending days at USC Keck hospital with my father-in-law in CCU. It was about surviving the waiting room. The emotional and physical challenge of going through a life-threatening illness within your family, when you have to be strong. Could have called it thank God for the salad bar, as I ate there daily for almost 6 weeks because everything else was so horrible. I think we all have much to pull from, if we have the courage to craft, reach deep, risk, and post.
I applaud and appreciate both Molly’s and Lindsay’s courage to post what they did, and pray for their challenging journey ahead.
“Fearless” is a good way to describe them both. Re “who cares,” that is a valid question. They don’t care, unless you make them care. These two know how to do it, how to connect with people and create emotion.
Re whether you need to do it, there’s not much risk in telling a personal story. It certainly doesn’t have to be as devastating as these. The one about your father-in-law is a good start. You’ll have to get in there though, saying more than than you do here about what was “so horrible.” The waiting room and the salad bar can be good characters in the story.
Mary Ann says
I read Lindsay Ostrom’s post on Pinch of Yum about the death of their premature son. As a subscriber, I was not put off by it. I empathized with them for their loss and admired them for having the bravery to post such personal grief. It connected me more to them, as a reader. I don’t know how I would react if I were not a follower and just came across their blog post. As a mother, their loss saddens me and I still think about it. As a subscriber, I’m glad they shared.
Very good to have this feedback, Mary Ann. I bet people who just “came across it” reacted similarly. It’s hard not to. It shows that sometimes our lives cannot be pigeonholed to fit into these neat little packages such as “food blogger.”
Suzannah Kolbeck says
This is my blog. To me, food and life as so interwined that it is impossible to write a perky little post about ____. Yes, there are some slightly flippant posts; I think it would be difficult to read the ongoing story of tragedy when visiting a food blog, but I only write (and cook) what feels real to me and what is reflected in my life.
I do maintain another, non-food blog that deals with more tragic aspects of life (widowed in 2013 at 42 with a 12-year-old), but those pieces do still make their way into my work. I want to be a real person with real triumphs and struggles, in the kitchen and in the world. I post failures and ugly pictures as well a beautiful delicious food. That’s what it’s all about, right? This life of ours?
Donna Minkowitz says
Diane, I’m so glad you posted this. Food writing is far too often anodyne, and our closeness to the industry often leads us to not want to make waves. I do sometimes include rage in my food writing, – here’s a recent example from my column in Gay City News:
Terrific piece, Donna, and I see that you got good feedback on it. It’s satisfying to read more complicated pieces sometimes.
Mary Ann Rollano says
Lindsey at Pinch of Yum has a wonderful way of expressing her heart. I read her posts about the death of their premature son. Sad and truthful.
Sometimes when you go through major life events it’s hard to write or think about anything else. So you write that or nothing.
I write nothing because I’m not secure enough in my writing or my audience yet to write about the major life event that’s on my mind in a blog post.
I admire people who can do that. Beth at Local Milk also has a a way of bearing her soul to the world that just works. It doesn’t sound like oversharing. It’s insightful. And she’s taken her photography to the level of fine art.
I think there’s an art to writing down your soul. The ability to share your heart without it sounding like too much but making it insightful for the reader instead is a road few writers find.
I haven’t found that road yet.
Mary Ann, thanks for your comment. I hope you will start writing soon. Maybe your inner critic is keeping you from “writing down your soul.”