Currently I’m listening to the Library of Congress lecture series on the digital future. The series explores our relationship to books, information and reading in the digital age. While that may seen dull to many of you it’s fascinating. And it’s vital.
As a child my family put a huge value on the importance of reading. Sure it helped that summers were humid and winters excessively cold. What does it say about a family where siblings compete and argue over who is reading more books? So today as an adult it is a concern to me that as a whole our culture appears to be reading less. If we don’t read deeply and critically we lose out as a culture. In the panel discussion one of the participants (they aren’t identified) noted that today many of us don’t slow down and actively engage with a book or with online content. What we do is ‘sample.’ We read in bits and pieces. You can see the symptoms of this behavior everyday.
I know many people consume information in this manner. I’m guilty of it myself. Someone in the office says, ‘I read that email/document and didn’t get that.’ This suggests to me that they are reading it but not reading the email or document for understanding. It also reflects on the current state of business writing (an entirely separate discussion). All of this is very commonplace.
Suffice it to say that the most surprising comment I hear from many aspiring writers is that they don’t have time to read. It completely discounts them in my mind as a writer. You are what you read and if you don’t read who are you as a writer? Who and what are your aspirations?
All of this is a long way of saying that as writers we all need to pay more attention. One of the personal challenges I face is the stigma that is placed on blogs. Yes, a stigma. I’m still timid about saying I write a food blog. It cheapens how much time and effort I put into a post. So now, and this is the part where I start to lose any of the virtual food blogging friends I may have, how do we overcome this perception?
Currently blogs only reach about 25% of the online world. Non blog-exposed friends know what they know about blogs through offline media. These sources trumpet news and political blogs as valuable. All others are thrown together as personal rants, raves and diaries. They are not entirely wrong. We come in all shapes and sizes as writers. But to be successful, as writers we need to have a voice. We need to sound articulate and have some sense about us so that readers return. There’s an audience for everyone. I don’t think I’m alone in saying this but personally I’m interested in having an audience beyond just other fellow food bloggers.
My blog has never been about being a diary. This could be why my blog is not nearly as popular as others. Many of us use the blog tactic in order to gain visibility around our talents. It’s about two interests that I have that I am actively looking to develop and explore further: writing and food. We want to write professionally. In order to do this we need to sing over the heads of the choir.
If we are ever going to move this tool beyond the diary form we need to challenge ourselves to do better. We need to continue pushing our craft and ourselves every time we sit down at the keyboard. Yes we may all be passionate about that new recipe or that new restaurant. But slow down and think about what you are doing. There are many food bloggers who do that with every post. Significant portions of us do not. If I read one more improperly modified word or fall over one more errantly dangling participle I’ll grow an ulcer. It’s not easy but it is the responsible and necessary. Don’t create obstacles for readers.
We’re learning. I’m learning. But we’re in this together. Think about it. What are you doing to contribute to the collective voice of food blogging? What are you doing to establish your voice, your style, and your brand in the world of food writing? Do you have credibility? Are you using the spell check?
I’ll stop pontificating and provide an assignment. A good jump start to walking the writing road. Last night finalists were announced for the IACP Bert Green Awards, which recognize excellence in food journalism. Winners will be announced in April. Read the full list of journalism finalists visit the IACP website. Read these essays and then read some more.
"Afloat a Kettuvallam on Lake Vembanad"
February 28, 2004
Sandy Szwarc, RN, BSN, CCP
"Fishy Advice: The Politics of Methylmercury in Fish and Mercury
December 15, 2004
"Rhubarb Hunts for a Place Beyond the Pie"
"A New Twist on Wine"
"American Idol" (? Link ?)
June 16, 2004
"Anything for Mother"
May 5, 2004
"The High Price of Cheap Food"
Los Angeles Times
January 21, 2004
"Devil With an Apron On"
"To Win a Cook’s Heart, Butter Her Up"
December 19, 2004
"Mother Knows Best"
May 4, 2004