Last week, I decided to quit my blog. I was having a pity party that it wasn't growing, that it was medium-sized and medium-sized it was going to stay, that it wasn't hitting my goal number of unique viewers.
That's right, I have a goal number. Bored yet?
I texted my good friend Jennie Perillo and said I was "blowing it up", starting over, new platform, new concept, something more marketable, more attention-getting, whatever, just more. I talked a lot about "my brand". I sounded like a crazy woman. I wasn't leaving blogging, I told her, just shaking things up a bit by dynamiting the whole store and starting from scratch. Jennie spent an hour of her life talking me off the ledge, and the equivalent of stroking my hair and purring self-confidence-inducing messages into my ear, until I re-gained reason again and took my finger off the delete button. Thank God for girlfriends.
That night, still unsure of what exactly to do, but armed with ideas, I told David about our conversation. I talked about platform and positioning myself to sell my book. He listened to me babble on, as he always does, while I made my seemingly salient points, and then...he told me that everything I was saying was bunk.
Bunk. My salient points.
David thinks it's stupid to think of my blog as a platform. He thinks that platform stuff is yesterdays news. He thinks connection, intimacy and creating intense bonds with people who can reach out and touch you, talk to you, know you, is what is truly relevant.
In his mind (and Bob Lefsetz's - if you aren't getting his e-mails, you should) we don't live in a world of grand, untouchable pop stars. We live in a world where indie bands make good careers creating a local fan base, touring hard, getting in front of people and making it about entertaining the fans. They are responsive, connected, adored because they give a shit about the people who listen to their music. And it shows. They aren't filling stadiums, but they are making an impact on thousands, and thousands more, and thousands after that, and their reach is organic, connected and responsive. And that makes them more important, more relevant, in many ways than the Beyonces and the Gagas. David thinks that the number isn't a real goal, connecting to people through stories is.
David would also like me to stop calling my blog "a platform". He thinks my blog is art, my art, and that the only thing I need to do differently is write more intimately, tell more personal stories, ones that reverberate with readers and also ones that I am too afraid to write now. The ones I'm trying not to write, and instead, writing fluffy pieces about pretty food and my kids slurping up lobster.
And he's right. I have fallen a bit into the "food writing trap". That's what I call it. That thing where every picture of a kid is a little charming hand reaching into a quart of freshly picked berries, or a sweet little curly-haired girl picking tomatoes in the garden wearing a gingham dress and a straw sun hat.
A lot of my summer pictures are of the girls and their friends making s'mores around the fire in the backyard, the hot flames dancing around their faces, tables laden with food well-cooked and, kids running buck naked through the meadow in the buttery light of sunset. So much so that many people wrote to me these past few months telling me how idyllic our lives are. It always made me cringe.
In some ways, our life is idyllic, but that's not the whole truth, is it? That's one moment in one night. It is propaganda in some ways. It has to be, because I certainly didn't blog about how I yelled at the kids to pick up their toys a half hour later and then the kids started chanting, "Bad Mommy!" as if they were at a Child Welfare rally.
And that's the "food writing trap" - beautiful images and lipid, pretty words that conjure up the ideal. It's flowing, pretty, and unreal. It's words dressed up in gingham and a floppy sun hat. Those images, those book trailers of authors frolicking with their kids, is nothing more than a snippet of family life. But it isn't actually family life. Family life is much more nuanced, multiple-sided, intense, grueling, euphoric, boring. Food writing and food photography rarely capture that. It is too ugly for food writing. No one wants that in their book, or their blog, or their book trailer, all that messy stuff. It just messes with the food, which should be camera-ready perfect at all times.
I want to capture that again. The real stuff. I mean, that's what I used to do, when I called myself a "parenting humor writer who blogs about food", before I decided that I had to march in toe to the rigid definitions of food writing. I think that was the gist of what David and I talked about late into the night. That's what I think is worth my time here.
My new purpose - and my promise - on this blog, is to tell it like it is. To stop being afraid of what I say, for fear that the food community might find me and my food hideous and undeserving. To tell the whole truth, and not just a snippet or a pretty replica of the truth. To not worry about my numbers, or how big my blog is, or how many A list get-togethers I get invited to, and just be okay with the fact that I dig my readers, and they dig me, and focus on telling stories they care about.
Stories THEY care about. My readers.
And I suppose, it follows that if I can do that, maybe more people will come here everyday to see what I wrote for them. Maybe I'll hit my number. Maybe that will feel good or maybe I'll be too busy writing, doing my thing, to even notice.
Oh and there's the other thing. On the day I decided to blow up the blog I got an e-mail from a young woman named Sarah, who sat down and read every single post I had ever written. Every single freakin' post. After a lovely e-mail exchange, she told me this:
I myself am struggling to put together a book of recipes that I cooked with my father before he passed away and there are some that I will never have back. I just don't remember what went into that stew when I was five. I can only remember how it felt to sit on his shoulder while he plopped mystery ingredients into the pot, and how it smelled and tasted so much better because I "helped", and that will have to be enough.
This is really the best reason of all to write the blog - for the girls. So they might be able to read about the things they can't remember and be able to have them all over again, someday when it really matters. David told me that, of course, but it was a reader who really drove that home for me.
Thanks for that, Sarah.