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.