One of the best aspects of the Grad Certificate in Food Writing I recently completed was getting to know my fellow students, all of whom are as passionate about food and writing as I am. Tara Mathews is one of them and she recently invited me to take part in a blog hop. For the uninitiated (which previously included me), this isn’t a bunch of throwbacks to the fifties invading the dance floor, but a bit like a blog version of pass the parcel, in that you pick up a theme, do your bit then pass it on to others. What’s great about it is it gives bloggers the chance to connect with and promote each other. The theme of this one is “Why I Write” – which is something I often wonder.
I’m not sure who started the ball rolling but it’s fascinating to read the contributions of others and discover what inspires and motivates people to do this stuff. It’s a pastime that’s mostly rewarding but can sometimes seem more like self-punishment than self-fulfilment. Those hours spent gazing at a blinking cursor, trawling the mental swamp for a halfway articulate sentence, finding one at last that seems uniquely brilliant, only to realise on re-reading it’s actually garbage. Still, a sense of purpose is always a good thing and knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing an even better one. So I’m grateful to Tara for the opportunity.
Tara is a Sydneysider who has a wonderful food blog called “vegeTARAian” – cleverly combining her name with her passion for delicious vegetarian food. She has a wealth of knowledge about how and where to find the most yummy vegetarian food, either in restaurants, shopping or travelling so check her out. Vegetarian eating will never seem like a second best option again.
So, to the questions (and to dilute the textual overload of my rambling, there’ll be some visual distractions along the way, which have no particular significance except they’re pictures I like and, for a change, not of food) …
Too many projects would have to be the succinct answer to that one. Getting this blog up and running has taken lots of time and effort and will continue to be an ongoing work in progress. Aside from writing regular articles, I keep having ideas about new things to include and ways of improving the overall look and feel. Although I don’t concentrate on recipes, I’ve done some and figured out very quickly my food photography skills leave a lot to be desired. Web design and photography of course aren’t strictly writing, but as I’m learning there are many things that come under the umbrella of blogging and the learning curve ascends ever more steeply upward. As mentioned in a previous post, my aim is to get more work published which involves researching, drafting and refining articles and then pitching to publishers. As well as food writing, I like to fool around with fiction every so often and am working on some short stories. Lack of ideas and projects has never been my problem; getting them to come to heel long enough to do something useful with them is a constant challenge.
I’m not sure that I have a genre as such. Food writing is such a broad category, encompassing everything from recipes and restaurant reviews to politics, sociology, history, culture and … well the list is endless. Perhaps that’s why I like it. You’re never stuck for a subject. I find my style varies depending on the topic – sometimes lighthearted seems the way to go, but often a more serious approach is warranted. In terms of this blog, my focus is pretty wide ranging, perhaps too much so, but ideas have a mind of their own and take you off on journeys you never anticipated. One good thing about self-publishing is you have freedom to take random detours because you’re not answerable to anyone. I’ve discovered this is a mixed blessing. Sometimes I need the framework of deadlines and the idea that someone’s paying me to produce to conjure up the requisite self-discipline. So I decided early on I’d treat this as if it were a paid job. In other words, one where you turn up every day, plant your bum on the seat and get to work, ready or not. That way if I produce good enough stuff regularly enough, someone may eventually pay me to do it.
Writing is such hard work you have to love it. I’ve been writing for quite a few years now and I’ve covered lots of ground from fiction, creative non-fiction, memoir to journalism, non-fiction and now this blog. I even started a novel (hasn’t everyone?). But I decided a while ago that if I combined my love of food and cooking with my desire to write, it might create a happy synergy. And that’s turning out to be the case. Inspiration comes from many quarters, but for me it comes most readily from things I can taste, smell, see, touch and feel. Writing about food means I can take all those sensual experiences and share them with others.
Writing is, at least for me, primarily a way to connect. There’s a saying that goes something like “dance like no-one is watching” but I can’t write like that. I write for a reader. Even if the reader is only me, it doesn’t matter. Sometimes I need to connect with me, but more often I want to connect with others. M.F.K. Fisher, the American writer who wrote wonderfully about food, said “sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.” This sentiment applies equally to sharing words. To me it’s like opening your mind on the page, offering it to a reader and saying “here, this is me.” As a writer I do this somewhat anxiously, because I’m never sure of how what I offer will be received. It’s invariably unpredictable and sometimes I never know. But when something I’ve written does strike a chord or evoke a reaction or inspire a response, it’s hugely rewarding. And that’s what keeps me going.
“Process” is much too definite a noun to describe the random and haphazard behaviours that result in me getting something written. Another one of the reasons I write is to corral my ideas. Like skittish sheep they tend to scatter all over the paddock and the only way I can get them in order, short of a sheepdog, is to grab one of them by the hindlegs, tie it down and write it into submission. Along the way this involves mountains of reading, note taking, scribbling, internet browsing, in-depth social media analysis (hah!), multitudes of “to do” lists and “potential article” folders and, well you get the idea. I wish I could be more organised. I wish I could set myself a schedule and keep to it. But I’m resigned to the fact that this is the way things are. Somehow I keep producing because there’s a sadistic old crone inside my head wielding a whip and saying “get on with it … time is running out”. I think it’s the ghost of my mother (sorry Mum).
The three writers I’m passing the baton to are Liz Posmyk, Louise Rhodes and Mel Milojevic.
First to Liz …
Liz lives in Canberra and her website is Bizzy Lizzie’s Good Things. Here she shares her favourite recipes, quirky stories, news about food and cooking, her travels and interesting snippets about her family background. Liz is something of an inspiration to those of us who are fairly new to this game. Last year she won the SA Writers Centre and Food Bloggers Australia 2013 food writing competition and was recently named Top ACT food blog in the June 2014 listing of Top Australian Food Blogs compiled regularly by Thang Ngo at the Sydney Noodlies food travel and lifestyle website. Liz has a wealth of experience in food, cooking and writing and her website is a treasure trove of fascinating stories and delicious recipes. Drop in and see for yourself.
Now to Louise …
Louise’s website is Willunga Wino for the perfectly logical reason that she lives at Willunga in South Australia and loves wine, as how could you not, living in the Fleurieu Peninsula, a region renowned for both food and wine? She writes eloquently about both, with a focus on that area in particular. She knows lots about where to go for the best food and wine so I recommend you pay her website a visit. I love the Fleurieu Peninsula and we try to get there for weekends of indulgence as often as possible. If you’re from out of town and thinking of travelling down that way, Louise is just the person to ask to point you in the right direction for something delicious to eat and drink.
And lastly to Mel …
Mel’s website, The Life Habit, is one I like to read when life seems a bit ordinary and I need to be reminded that it’s not. Mel lives in Sydney and spent many years coaching people to manage change and improve their working lives. Now she defines herself as a “life strategist and change maker” and she helps people create the lives they’ve always wanted. Her mission is not to prod us up off the couch (even if we need it), but to inspire us to motivate ourselves so we want to get up, out there and achieve what we’re capable of. If you need a morale booster or just something to brighten your day, drop by “The Life Habit” and I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.
by Anne Green