On blogging

All bloggers, at one point or many, ask themselves the following questions. Why do we blog and who do we write for? What do we wish and want from our readers? Why so many w’s in the last two sentences?

I have been posting regularly for almost two years now and I guess, it’s a good time to reflect on such pressing questions. Especially since it’s 2 am (now 3!) and I am waiting for my STATA code to finish running, have just eaten a bowl of noodles and am taking a break from watching Nigel Slater’s Simple Cooking. Most people write this post when they start blogging or after they have become famous.  Neither is true for me, but more on that later.

This is my second blog. I used to write another one when I lived in DC, but it didn’t last too long, may be half a year or so. The reason it died, I think, was my disinterest in what I was posting about. I was trying to write a “serious” blog, one with “important” themes. But it wasn’t me. There are people who are genuinely interested in writing about history and politics and do it very well precisely because they are curious about exploring them in more depth than I probably am. e.g. my friend A, who writes about geopolitics and economics at The Policy Tensor. I couldn’t do what he does. But, he probably couldn’t do what I do. Which brings us to a very pertinent question. What is it that I do?

Pursuit of Food started out as a food blog. I wanted to share original and borrowed recipes and my passion for eating and cooking.  It soon morphed into an all-purpose blog where I write about travel, my day-to-day life in New York and post photos of mundane scenes and objects that, in some way, inspire me. Sometimes people ask me how I find the time and motivation to post often. I think it’s because my reasons for writing are very simple. Firstly, blogging is not what I do for a living. I don’t plan to make a career out of photography or food writing. So, I don’t carry that extra burden of producing a regular stream of “interesting” content and meeting expectations that many bloggers who want to become professional cookbook authors or food writers face. This is not to imply that I don’t enjoy what I do for a living (i.e. research) or that people who blog for a living don’t enjoy themselves. Secondly, I never write what my readers want to read. I write what I want to write. Of course, it’s fun when people appreciate my posts, but it’s very important for any sort of creative exercise to be honest. Otherwise it won’t last. So, I share what I want, when I want and don’t follow any rules.

This also brings me to the issue that many new bloggers face and I also grappled with. Like most, I blindly started off with the assumption that I wanted PoF/me to be popular. And the most common advice popular bloggers give newbies is that you should link to other blogs, comment often on the links, take part in all sorts of blog events, post frequently, gently nudge your friends into subscribing, give out awards etc. etc. I spent a month or two trying to be this “ideal” new-blogger. But before you go ahead on that route, you should also ask yourself – do I want to be popular? I realized very early on that I don’t care about popularity. And I am not the kind of person who will go write one-line comments on other blogs just to attract traffic to mine, I just can’t do it. I treat this space as a creative outlet for my permanent and transitory interests. And of course, the purpose is to share them with the internet community. But not because I want to have the most hits and get a book deal or get hundreds of comments. In fact, when this post got freshly-pressed, I was overwhelmed with the response. It felt really nice to get all that attention, but after the 20th comment, the marginal utility diminished pretty fast!

This blog has become my diary, my kitchen and my living room in equal measures. And I like to share it with you. Thanks for reading and appreciating!

“I want your loves to be multiple. I don’t want you to be a snob about anything. Anything you love, you do it. It’s got to be with a great sense of fun. Writing is not a serious business. It’s a joy and a celebration. You should be having fun with it. Ignore the authors who say ‘Oh, my God, what word? Oh, Jesus Christ…,’ you know. Now, to hell with that. It’s not work. If it’s work, stop and do something else.”

~Ray Bradbury (in his fantastic 2001 speech at The Sixth Annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea)

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6 thoughts on “On blogging

  1. Pardon me for being too serious. Things are exciting these days. What with Crown Prince Nayef kicking the bucket (Hallelujah), the Brotherhood winning in Egypt (!), and Greeks returning more yogurt! I don’t know how you can not be paying attention to the world. I have been too busy absorbing to write. My writing style is different from yours. I write long form. I have been reading up about Saudi succession issues in response to my realization that I knew shamefully little Salman, Nayef’s replacement Heir. So I am reading http://www.amazon.com/Succession-Saudi-Arabia-Joseph-Kechichian/dp/0312238800

    I have been on an all meat intellectual diet. That is, I have only been reading non-fiction for the past two years. Perhaps, thats why I have ended up exploring certain themes. I don’t know what motivates you to write. For me, it is a nomothetic exercise.

  2. I feel the same. i just started writing on here..and i’m talking to someone as I write but truthfully I don’t care who. This is for me, no one else.

  3. @thepolicytensor: The point is not about people paying or not paying attention to serious issues. We should all pay attention to politics, economics, science and read more about them. It was about how you can’t force yourself to write a regular blog about topics that don’t come naturally to you. For many people writing about food might not be effortless, but I find it easy and satisfying. And by easy, I don’t mean convenient. It’s about that thing that drives you to spend hours on a post even though you have some other important deadline, but while you are writing, you go into that zone where you can’t think of doing anything else. And different things do that to different people. And we should acknowledge that. There need to be books and blogs about everything. So, this was my point, I guess 🙂

  4. Don’t listen to that chap up there upon his political high horse. I’m not entirely sure what general scientific laws he intends to discover by writing vast tracts on such issues – interesting use of the word nomothetic… Anyway, I just wanted to defend your point, because it is a fine point. I write my food blog simply because I enjoy it. I wont say it is a passion, because, quite frankly, it would be odd to get passionate with a carrot, but it is a favoured hobby.

    My blog is a virtual document of what I have cooked and everyone’s reaction to it. I believe our reasons for blogging are incredibly similar, equally noble and rather enjoyable. I don’t blog to achieve intellectual enlightenment, such a thing is best saved for one’s personal life. I blog in order to learn and discover, but not necessarily to benefit – the same reason I did a degree in history. What’s the point in doing anything if one does not enjoy it?

    Again, I don’t mean to be mean. This is a lovely, thoughtful post.

  5. @frugalfeeding: Thanks for defending my point. @thepolicytensor is a friend and we do enjoy reading each other’s blogs. So, it’s all in good spirit!

  6. @frugalfeeding I love her blog. It’s gorgeous and the aesthetic is refreshing. Apologies for sounding high and mighty. We all choose things of interest for pleasure and out of concern. Not reading fiction is hard when u love it as much as I do. The regimen is self imposed. I have good reason for it and I was just defending my position. I was taking issue at her use of quotation marks which implied that the seriousness of my blog is superficial. I assure you it is earnest.
    You are a good person to mount a spirited defense. Keep up the good work. (One of these days l’ll try your recipes. It was The Pursuit of Food who introduced me to the joys of cooking btw!)

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