15 Jun 2014

blog hop: why i write



Recently I’ve been flapping about, floundering as the winter dark closes in, wondering where my energy and passion and commitment lies. Where’s my creative outlet? My intellectual challenge? Somehow, flopping on the couch after work with the latest Vogue doesn’t quite count. Should I take up drawing, or knitting, or learning Spanish, or learning about — what? Or who?

While I was half-heartedly trying to pin something down, Bec at Think Big Live Wisely invited me to take part in a blog hop on writing, and everything I’d been tossing around crystallised into this:

Where was my commitment to my writing?

(In detail: Wow, I’ve been invited to write about my writing! Someone likes my writing — someone thinks of me as a writer! But — what am I actually writing? How can I write about my writing when I’m not writing? I need to commit to my writing.)

So I took Bec’s invitation as a big nudge to reinvigorate the one way I creatively express and intellectually challenge myself: not through paint or wool or spoken works, but thru pen and paper. I used the blog hop’s questions to return my focus to my writing, on why I write — and then, to start writing again, regularly.

So here goes. Perhaps you’ll find out a little more about me, and not think this too narcissistic.

What am I working on?

Right. Um. This is the question that hit the nail on the head for me. I think by now you get the idea I am not working on … enough. There is Dig In, but there should be more ‘behind the scenes’ writing, every day, that never even appears beneath my spoon-and-trowel header. Practice, as they say, makes perfect, and I’m not practising enough if I want to consider myself a writer.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

Perhaps a certain ‘signature’ is that I share my failures. I will never be offered a paid writing gig when I write so often about the cake that burnt, the crumble that didn’t cook, and the cupcakes that exploded. Or the capsicum the snails ate!

But I like doing that, because I think there’s a myth that if you write/blog about food, you must be good at it, all the time. 

I am not a subject expert; I’m a subject explorer. I’m waving the flag for anyone who has a dud day in the kitchen. I’m the honest one admitting it.

Why do I write what I do?

I started to write about sowing kale seeds, sweeping autumn leaves, or simmering pasta sauce to get away from my day job, which is writing and editing for a government department. That work is ‘translating’ — converting legalistic or bureaucratic stuff into plain English stuff that hopefully anyone can understand and follow. Some days I get enormous satisfaction deciphering complex information for people, hoping it may help them.

But as challenging as it is, I can’t play with alliteration or adjectives or patterns in structure or other colourful parts of the English language. I can’t play. So with Dig In, I take off my editor’s hat for a bit, maybe even break the rules, and see where the words take me.

The kind of food I like to cook and eat is ‘from scratch’, made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. And I’m not a fancy cook (I like to bake quite old-fashioned cakes) and as much as possible I want to celebrate wonderful homegrown fruit and vegies in my kitchen — and in my writing. I am lucky to have attracted readers and other bloggers who share my love of real food.

I also like exploring ideas related to this domestic sphere — doing the dishes was a fun one — just to test what I can write about that.

Oh, and I should also add, I write because I can't take photos. As regular Dig In visitors may have noticed, this is a word-focussed blog, not a photo-driven one.

How does my writing process work?

Before I pick up pen and paper, writing starts in my head. While I’m pouring a cake batter into a tin, or weeding the parsley from around the silverbeet, or just going for a walk, I’m working out an angle, composing sentences, playing with words, rearranging phrases. It’s talking to myself, I guess!  (Hey, I do live alone.) In her book ‘Writing down the bones’, Natalie Goldberg said this was an important part of the writing process. She calls it ‘composting’: turning events and words over and over before writing about them. I cannot write immediately about anything, be it a successful pudding or a failed bean crop. I need to compost it first.

But when I pick up my pen and paper, after a few false starts (where my internal editor is stronger than my writer), I can astound myself where the words will go. Even if I have mentally rehearsed it a dozen times over! Sometimes I know how to start a piece but that’s all; soon my hand flies across the page, possessed, faster than my thoughts, which tumble out, the words and phrases surprising me. Where did that come from? When writing is like that, it is magical. Even if I am just writing about toast.

I hope you don't think this was too self-indulgent! Because writing can be a selfish thrill — and writing about one’s writing, even more so. But putting my words out into the blogosphere - it' s taking the internal and making it public, and I’m always touched and happily amazed when someone tells me they’ve enjoyed a post I’ve written (the sense of community from blogging was something I never expected, but I enjoy immensely). So thank you.

Part of this blog hop was to tap other writers on the shoulder to participate. If Bec hadn’t invited me, she would gave been on my list, as she has written some thought-provoking stuff, so please do go to her blog. And someone else beat me to Carla, who at My Yellow Heart has written about her experiences being transplanted from one extreme part of the country to another.
 
Let me introduce you to:

Sarah at The Garden Deli: Sarah writes thoughtfully about the vegies and flowers in her garden and kitchen. I always come away with something to think about or to try out. And as she is on the other side of the world to me (UK), we often compare the contrast between our seasons!

Rachel at The Food Sage: Rachel is a proper-really-truly food writer — it’s what she does as a living! I’m always interested in the topics Rachel explores in her clear writing style, be it a book review or an insight into the food industry.

Jo at All the BlueDay: Jo is a fellow Tasmanian (actually, I’m a ring-in) writing truthfully and humourously about her family life. I love Jo’s voice; it’s so vivid and sharp. She often makes me laugh — and wish I’d written that.

30 comments:

  1. Hello e. Great post and not self indulgent at all. We wouldn't be here if we didn't want to read your thoughts! Your day job sounds so interesting and a world away from writing about food, gardening and life. That is the wonderful thing about blogging isn't it? Writing is such a personal thing and we all have different ways of approaching it.

    Thanks for the links too...so many lovely blogs, so little time! Happy Sunday to you x

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    1. thank you Jane for your kind thoughts. Yes, the subject matter that fills my 9 to 5 job is definitely worlds away from Dig In's subject matter.
      PS I've just added Rachel at Food Sage, but I think you visit her blog anyway!

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  2. Thank you for still mentioning me Elizabeth. I love that you share all your burnt moments!! I enjoy reading them perhaps more than your success xx

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    1. You're very welcome Carla!
      Oh, does that mean i need to burn the cakes more often?! that's something to think about!

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  3. So, you're a writer in your day job too... translating legal gobbledygook takes a lot of skill, I know... as a food writer myself, I love this piece.

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    1. oh, thank you lizzy!
      i think because i write and edit so much during the day,i can find it hard to have any energy for my personal, creative writing after hours. especially as we head into annual report time of the year! but this blog hop as been a good kick up the pants :-)

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  4. I think you write beautifully E. This was an honest, from the heart view and it helps us to identify with you.I love reading about your successes and your failures, it is all interesting and relevant. I think many bloggers write to escape from their daily existence and it is fascinating that you write by day, and by night (almost like a fairytale heroine) x :D

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    1. wow merryn, now you have given me something to aspire to: a fairytale heroine! and thank you; when you (and others) are kind enough to compliment my writing, it makes me feel like i'm getting it right not just for my own enjoyment, but for others' too.

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  5. Not narcissistic at all! It's actually really nice to read about why you do what you do. I think some of your descriptive posts of general events (like the sweeping of leaves) is where you are at your best; making general events beautiful. Thanks for the prose.

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    1. and then thank you bec for those lovely words. that's like a vote of confidence, that i'm heading in the right direction.
      i was not expecting all these lovely positive comments from everyone at all. it's a real boost - thank you everyone.

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  6. I compost, too! Lovely piece, lady. And thanks for the invite. It's so lovely to get to know your better. Love your work!

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    1. stop it, FS, you're making me blush!
      it's great to meet a fellow composter :-) sometimes i think it may be procrastination, but it's validating to have a proper name for one's thought processes.
      i'm looking forward to reading you piece next week.

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  7. Great post - it's interesting to read about the process other bloggers go through in putting a post together. You've set the bar high though... going to be a tough one to follow!

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    1. hey GD - you're right, because we don't often talk about how we do what we do, there's a bit of mystery. i've enjoyed reading how others come to their subject matter, what's close to their hearts, and then how they gets those words out. it is inspiring.
      oooh, and i have complete faith in you, GD! can't wait to see what you do next week.

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  8. Great post. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love writing but labour often - words there one minute and gone the next! Ah, the joys of writing. Love your pics too by the way! :)

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    1. thanks frogpond - i think you are being too kind about the photos!
      i get stuck most on first paras - i can thrash them about endlessly! sometimes i give up and skip straight to the next para, and come back to my beginnings :-)

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  9. It's true that there’s a myth that if you write/blog about food, you must be good at it, all the time. I also like that you share your successes and bloopers in the kitchen, we all have them even if we've been cooking for years. It's warm and honest and that's what I like about your blog. I sometimes struggle knowing what to write on my blog but find the cooking and photo taking less challenging now. I love your writing style.

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    1. thank you catherine for your lovely compliments. and your reassurance that everyone has 'bloopers' in the kitchen, even the experienced cooks! it's life i guess, isn't it?

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  10. I love this post. Not self-indulgent - very interesting and beautifully written! Thank you - I felt like I needed to read just THIS this week. I know it may partly because I've gotten a winter flu and perhaps partly because I've had so many deadlines lately, but I feel like I lost my blogging mojo (my husband laughed very hard when I used to word 'mojo' to describe this to him) this past week. Like you I write full-time for my job (as a journalist, which doesn't push my creative buttons much) and as you know I blog too. Because I write so many hours every day, like you sometimes I need a little motivational push, and your post gave it to me. And you are definitely a writer. You have a natural talent that comes through in every post. (Also I disagree with your statement that no-one would ever pay you to blog, because you happen to burn cakes. I think that is part of your charm, and any clever marketing or PR person would see that!) :)

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    1. :-) blogging has so many unexpected outcomes - and inspiring others by sharing our stories is definitely a biggie, and if i've done this for you maya, i'm touched and thrilled. thank you for your lovely words about my writing; that is inspiring for me! we all need pushes and pats on the back.
      ps 'mojo' is a funny word, isn't it!

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  11. An interesting post! I haven't really thought much about this subject. I really enjoy writing, and have even done so for a living, but these days my blog is my main outlet. I also hang out at Internet forums, putting in my two cents whenever I feel compelled to do so, if that counts. ;)

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    1. hey leaf, i'm sure it does count ;-) it would certainly count for whoever you are talking with!
      and i didn't know you had a writing job. see, this blog hop post is not just revealing stuff about me!

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  12. I really enjoyed reading this post, and I enjoyed finding your blog, via The Garden Deli, as well. I'll be following along from now on.

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  13. hello CJ and welcome to Dig In!
    i'm constantly amazing how blogging can connect people all over the world. thru Garden deli? it's like six degrees of separation! i love english blogs, especially when they're featuring fresh summer strawberries and peas ... i can't wait to explore more of your blog!

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  14. Woohoo! You got the post out! (I've been away for a few days, so I'm a little slow to get here ;) ). SO pleased you agreed to be a part of this - and I hope it's helped you re-invigorate your writing spark E x

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  15. i did - and i didn't start it the way i said i would, becs! thanks for invititng me to take part, it has helped with the spark, and it - or rather hearing everyone's lovely comments - has also been very reaffirming about what i'm doing here. so thank you again becs xx

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  16. Hi E, How cool -- we've got the same day job! I do it freelance, mostly with Government agencies. It is very important for us to have this creative outlet for sure, although I sometimes struggle with sitting at the computer wordsmithing in my spare time, when I've been doing all day or all week in the day job!

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    1. hey sue, snap! it's good to hear you feel the same way about the sitting at the computer bit...it is hard sometimes, even when we know it is so important to exercise the creative part of our brains.

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  17. Great post, always interesting to hear why other people write!

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    1. hi anna and welcome to dig in. and thank you!

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I've had to turn word-verification back on - the robot-spammers are loving my orange pudding too much at the moment! I hope you understand - and I hope you'll still leave a comment at Dig In. I love hearing your thoughts, knowing someone is reading, and will always reply. Unless you're a robot-spammer.