Food blogging: the things I’ve learnt

I’ve noticed it’s customary after a certain period of time has passed to share with readers the important and very useful things bloggers have learnt on their journey to becoming a blogging superstar.  Well, my friends, my time has come.  I’ve managed to put a fairly reasonable list together of things I’ve learnt about blogging and about me while I’ve been blogging.

A blogging superstar I am not but I have learnt a few things so far on my blogging journey.  The time frame is irrelevant.  What is relevant is that I’ve now been doing this long enough to, first of all, learn some things and second of all, have the ability and the platform with which to share it with you.  Secrets to success, tricks to attract more readers and tips on how to be awesome won’t be among the wisdom I share with you unfortunately (because I just don’t know).  So, lucky you! Today I’m here to share a bit of wisdom.  Just don’t expect it to be very useful.

Things I’ve learnt about myself while blogging

1. I find writing recipes is tedious and boring

No one was more surprised than me to discover this.  It’s ironic considering as a teen I used to copy recipes from library books into an old notebook with pictures of cakes ripped from magazines stuck all over it.  I would spend hours during the summer sat in the shade of the apple tree copying recipes for things like nut roast, stuffed peppers and lentil soup.  I was vegetarian at the time and also not very ambitious in the kitchen.  Now, I find I want to abbreviate recipe instructions to such an extent that they cease to be useful.  Which leads me on to my next point.

2. I don’t develop recipes

I didn’t do this before I started writing a blog so I don’t know why I thought I would suddenly develop into a recipe writing trailblazer overnight.  There are so many excellent recipes out there by awesome talented and inspirational people who know what they’re doing which, coming from me, you know, means absolutely nothing. Why would I want to try and develop my own recipes?  I do best following instructions written by someone else.  I enjoy planning my meals, looking through the cook books and choosing what to make.  It’s a process that I spend a goodly portion of my free time doing.  If I do make something up it’s because I’ve got some odd random ingredients languishing in the bottom of the fridge that need using up.  And I doubt anyone is going to want to recreate that.  Although, after reading through this post on how to develop and write a recipe from A Cozy Kitchen I may be persuaded to have a change of heart. Before I decided to embrace my not-writing-recipes-ness it was a constant source of worry.  I mean, come on, who has a food blog and doesn’t like writing recipes?!  Repeat after me: I am not a recipe developer and that’s ok.

3. I was terrible at managing my expectations (but I’m much better at it now)

There’s a fair amount of blogging success stories out there if you look for them.  I’m referring to bloggers who shot to stratospheric superstardom after a month or so of putting themselves out there.  For every stratospheric success story there’s a goodly portion of bloggers who’ll put their heart and soul into their blogging, produce decent copy (this is a new phrase I’ve learnt recently) and not become famous.  This is hard to hear I know but considering every man and his dog is blogging these days the stats are probably not good.  Please don’t quote me on this since I haven’t used any stats or produced any decent references.  It’s just a gut feeling and plus it’s a bit obvious.  Manage your expectations: it’s highly unlikely you’ll achieve superstardom. There’s no harm in trying though eh?

4. Given the opportunity I embrace change

Change is inevitable.  So embrace it.  My blog has evolved even during the short time I’ve been doing it.  So much has changed.  My approach to blogging and my outlook and attitude have all changed and evolved.  What I thought I would be doing is not what I ended up doing (or rather am doing at the moment).  And when I set out I didn’t really have any expectations.  I just wanted to write and share it and see what happened after that.  I don’t have a plan or any goals at the moment.  My expectations grew and then they changed as I figured out what worked for me, what I could do, what I enjoyed, what I didn’t like, what I was good at and not so good at.  In the early days (listen to me, I’m still in my early days!!) my enthusiasm for my blog was limitless.  Like everything else in life it cycled through peaks and troughs.  I’m in a peak at the moment and do you know why that is? It’s because I’m doing what I enjoy and what makes me happy.

Some things I’ve learnt about blogging

1. Stay hydrated

Now, this is a big one.  I really can’t emphasise enough how important it is to stay hydrated while you’re creating.  You’re not going to be able to produce anything useful if you’re dehydrated.  As I sit here now I’m starting to feel my mouth a little dry.  So, if you’re the main brewer of tea in the house you need to make sure there’s someone able to step up and keep you in a constant supply (ideally without asking but that’s something you can work on).  Or else drag yourself away from the laptop for a moment while you pop and put the kettle on.

2. People will think they’re being helpful but they’re really not

Input from others is useful, essential in fact, but sometimes you just want people to butt out.  Let them say their piece.  Be patient, hear them out and then be aloof in your response since you’re the one with the blog and they just think they know what they’re talking about.  Some things just don’t photograph very well you say? Well, I don’t accept that! Even brown food can be made to look good!  Some well placed greenery or a smattering of herbs works wonders.  Except, if they do know what they’re talking about then listen to them.  It will probably be useful.

3. Not everyone will be as enthusiastic as you about your blog

But on the other hand you will find many people who are enthusiastic, incredibly supportive and very understanding.  Friends, family, new blogging friends, and readers will help you maintain perspective when you go through periods when nothing seems to work or you have writers block.  They’ll help develop ideas with you and help you keep your focus.  They’ll give advice, encouragement, share experience and give you tips on what works for them.  They’ll tell you you’re doing a great job even when you think everything you do is rubbish.  And more importantly, if you’re a little bit off the mark, they’ll let you know that too.  They’ll be honest.  You need this.  These are the people to talk to about your blog.  The eye rollers and people who cut you off mid-blog sentence?  Well, I don’t think you need to bother with those.

4. Taking (good) pictures of food is really hard (especially brown food)

All those beautiful pictures on Instagram of cakes, chocolate treats and colourful smoothie bowls.  Oh!  The artworks in buttercream are just stunning!  A great deal of effort goes into making something that amazing so why would it be easy?  Nothing easy is ever worth doing.  I don’t have any fancy equipment.  I have a camera phone and a kitchen and that is pretty much it and I do the best I can.  Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t.

5. Plan your photo subjects in good time

For she who takes pictures of her meals will not eat at a sensible time.  Plan which food to take pictures of and which food to make the focus of a blog post.  Or don’t plan.  In either case things that need to be eaten hot or which you want to eat right now, because you’re hungry and it’s dinner time don’t make for easy pictures (added time pressure and grumpy hungry people in the background don’t help).  Supportive people can turn mean when they’re hungry.  Things that can quite happily keep to the next day when the light is better like cakes and bakes make for much easier photographs.

6. Get ready to do some juggling

Eating vs Cooking vs Blogging vs Working vs Sleeping.  And then there’s the rest!  Something’s got to give because there are just not enough hours in the day.  Some tasks will inevitably fall by the wayside like cleaning the house, watering the plants and maintaining attention during a conversation.  Sorry.

7. Keep a notebook with you at all times

Write all your ideas down. Even if at the time they don’t seem worth it.  It’s something that can always be built on later. Or not if you change your mind.  In the beginning I had so much to get out of my head I was a note taking machine.  I always get good ideas in the bathroom and when I’m walking.  I do my best thinking in the bathroom.  It must be the calming, relaxing influence of water.  It clears the mind and then the ideas flow.  I’m considering getting a waterproof notebook to keep in there so when the ideas come I can write them down straight away.  Many an idea has been lost during the walk from the bathroom to the notebook.  Which actually tells you more about my ability to retain information than anything else.

8. Research how to be better

Read articles (and, alright go on, books too) on how to improve and be better by people who know what they are talking about.  I’m talking about successful bloggers, blogging specialist and online marketeers.  I have recently discovered Simple and Season (http://www.simpleandseason.com) and A Branch of Holly (abranchofholly.com) which are incredibly useful sources of inspiration.  There is so much out there.  The internet is a big place and some people have been doing this for coming on 10 years or more by now.  I was so late to the social media and online blogging scene it’s just not funny.  So, not only am I trying to figure out how to be better but I’m trying to figure out what I was supposed to be doing in the first place.  Seeking advice from people who are prepared to share what they’ve learnt along the way is invaluable.  Unlike this post of course which is not that useful at all.

9. Social media is overwhelming

There’s so much out there it’s hard to keep up with it all.  I don’t have time to use all social media platforms.  Or perhaps I’m just not being very efficient.  I’m just trying to find excuses not to use Twitter even though I’ve heard it’s really great.  I’m befuddled by it and have no idea what I’m doing.  I focus on the platforms that I get the most from at any one time (or know how to use) and don’t worry too much about trying to master them all at once.  Besides the fact my brain would not be able to cope with all that new information I simply don’t have the time.

10. Remember why you’re doing it

If the reason is because you’re passionate about your subject, you just can’t get enough of it and probably spend about 80% of your day thinking about it then you’re probably on the right track.  I love food and I love cooking.  I love reading about it, eating it, planning it, talking about it, reading about inspirational people who love it, looking at it, watching it and not forgetting writing about it.  Creating in the kitchen and writing about my endeavours is my creative outlet.  My head was full of so many words after a spell in the kitchen that I needed to get the words out of my head and share my experiences.  So I did.  In the beginning there was nothing and then there were words.  I enjoy the writing.  It’s actually easier for me to write if I imagine that no one reads it.

I guess the biggest lesson I’ve learnt during this whole experience so far is to just get on with it.  If there’s something you want to do stop procrastinating and just get on with it.  I’m on a blogging journey, come join me!

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