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Well Hello! Accidentally Wading Into Debate, Sydney, The Greening, Mudgee. And As You Were. Or As I Was.

The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

Hello there! Pull up a seat. How has everything been with you? Where have I been? Oh…

I really don’t like reading blogs that apologise for their absence. Why? This isn’t a newspaper, I don’t have an editor, I blog when I can and when I want to, and I would love to blog more. It becomes difficult though, when external pressures (book writing, bacon boxes, travel and other work that pays the rent and keeps me in Gremlins t-shirts). And here I am apologising, it seems. I just can’t help myself.

I am the sole writer here, and it will always be that way. That does limit content, and that is ok, as I am a big ole control freak, and I want everything to be just so and exactly as I saw it in my brain. Plus, this isn’t a place for food and travel stories, it is a place for my food and travel stories. I want to keep it that way. Ahem.

Blogging is a funny animal. When I started there was a few, and now there are a lot, which is great. But, I feel that there are a lot of people outside of blogging who want to define what a good blog is without maybe understanding blogging at all, and that creates pressure for bloggers (including me), when it shouldn’t.

It feels like lots of people are trying to own and control blogging from the outside, and I agree that there should be rules and strict ethical standards (which most bloggers I know do adhere to, if unofficially). It feels that the sometimes toxic conversation that surrounds it, and I say toxic because I always see that a certain small slice of protagonists use stories surrounding (usually) A. New. Blogger. who has wildly misbehaved (and yes, it is appropriate that they are called out for it), to define blogging as a whole. Added to this, usually these people don’t have many readers at all, and all the press does is draw attention to them, put them on a pedestal, and increase their readership.

With regard to ethical standards, for the record (and I have said this before, and many times) sponsorship, advertising etc are all fine (as they are for traditional press), but you must declare it and be transparent on your blog (and that goes for both sides). Most do. Readers follow because they trust the writer and like what they have to say, or how they say it. Once that trust is broken, they are gone.

The whole us and them thing is tragic and unnecessary. We do different things, in the main. I have many friends who are bloggers, but also journalists and editors too. Hey, I even have friends in PR! (And that is ok, too, you know). We all co-exist happily. For every one cowboy blogger, there is an equivalent journalist (rarely for the nationals, but they are there), and there are hundreds of diligent bloggers, just cooking and writing away, or secretly and speedily photographing their dinner. For them it is their outlet, their sanctum after their horrible day in the office, as it was for me.

I would like us to step off the merry-go-round and step back a bit and recognise the great passionate bloggers who are doing wonderful things that people never shout about. You just don’t know about them yet, or are wilfully ignoring them to prove your cause. And I am sorry if this has been discouraging for all of the newer bloggers out there, I am only starting to recognise that it was discouraging for me too. To the critics, I see your points, but please do consider that blogging (writing or reading) isn’t for you, and that is fine. Please just ignore it then, and get on with your day. I am so tired of the negativity. It is exhausting.

From an opposite angle, and this may sound like a contradiction, there are now many awards from established media that declare (unofficially) that good blogs behave in certain ways and do certain things. This is a good thing in many respects, they raise the profile of quality blogging and help to raise standards. I am very grateful for any that I have received, particularly from the OFM, a publication which I read and respect (and who, I believe, do it right).

However, I feel that sometimes some of these folks who declare this THIS-IS-A-GREAT-BLOG-AND-THIS-IS-HOW-YOU-DO-IT, don’t understand the diversity of blogging, or that a blogger needs to have a broader range (bloggers use text, photographs, illustrations, video etc), which requires a continually expanding set of skills, and can be imperfect, and that is ok. Often, it makes it better. (Now that I have read this for the twentieth time, I am seeing that this is just what happens, as blogging becomes more mainstream. And yes, at least twenty). But it is something that I have had to deal with, and that has bothered me. I have felt the pressure to change what I do to meet their requirements, or to feel that maybe what I do is no longer as good as it was. I now see that this (this being my reaction) is nonsense, and destructive, but I doubt that I am alone here, so I wanted to share this too. Rarely addressed is that blogging evolves, and that it needs to. In relative terms, it is a very new medium.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately – too much – which may also be a little (actually, I am now realising, that it is a lot) responsible for my hiatus. I have come to realise that none of this should matter, and it certainly shouldn’t bother me as much as it has done. My blog has always been my space, an hour or two every evening, where I typed after I cooked, or travelled, and shared, where I felt happy and removed from everything that might be bothering me. It hasn’t felt like this lately. I need my blog to be once more as random and life embracing as it was and was always intended to be. I do understand that a larger audience brings responsibility (an audience of one does too, in my opinion), but it shouldn’t kill the fun now, should it? And the audience is the best bit, on the occasion that they talk to me ;) (ahem, yes that is you).

So, I am ignoring everything and allowing this blog to just be. Allowing it to run away with itself, sometimes be silly, to play a little with video, imperfectly, and without worry. To exist in its own moment and not worry about what anyone thinks. I am over worrying about perfection, I never used to, and I think that this blog was always the better for that. When I started worrying about perfection, I stopped having fun and taking risks. The whole thing started to feel suffocating, and I very seriously questioned for a time if I wanted to continue. The answer is that I do, but on my terms, which is exactly how I began in the first place. It is time to shed my skin and start anew.

I am going to wade back out now, I never intended to wander into this when I started this post a few hours ago now, but I was driven to my laptop straight out of bed, I guess it wanted to come out. Truly, sometimes you just don’t know what you are going to write about when you sit down at your keyboard. Hello, subconscious! Should I really be exposing that to you? Well – quick head count – it looks like we all survived.

I am heading back to reviving ELAG now, which has been waiting patiently and hungrily at the side, shrinking with every toxic word. When I think of it, I always think of something positive and innocent and enthusiastic to share, wide eyed and small, and I want to protect it. Which is a feast for any psychologists reading, and I suppose, it is also why I struggle with being negative on here (but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be critical, something that is often misunderstood), but that is a whole other story and debate. And I am not getting into that now.

Back to the joy. Starting with some highlights from Sydney & Mudgee in New South Wales. There are lots more to come, I have not even edited all of my photos yet, this is only a smattering.

With thanks to Tourism Australia and Destination New South Wales, who supported my trip.

Before the pics, some housekeeping! :) – There are still places available for the next – and last for the foreseeable – Sunday Bacon Club on April 6th. The date had to be moved from the original March 30th date as I hadn’t realised that it was Mother’s Day (doh!). You can book by paying on paypal here.

You can still order April Bacon Boxes (including candied bacon salt, bacon flapjacks, bacon butter fudge, bacon butter toffee, bacon marshmallow krispie bars & bourbon bacon chocolate brownies). Numbers are limited. Limited edition gorgeous copies of the Project: BACON book are available too. I am investigating a possible paperback that will retail online, but this is not a guarantee, and won’t be available for a little while.

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I like food. I like to make food. Eat food. Photograph food. Write about food. Mainly in London but when I am lucky or organised further afield.

42 Comments

  1. ‘When I think of it, I always think of something positive and innocent and enthusiastic to share, wide eyed and small, and I want to protect it.’

    Keep the joy! That is what makes you special in the often overdone world of food.

    Reply

  2. Well said Niamh. I’ve felt the ‘guilt’ of the slow-to-blog and the pressure to feed it regularly until recently when I decided ‘feckit, this is me piling pressure on me, this should be fun. Just do what makes me happy’ which is why I started my blog in the first place. I love the creative gastro lucky dip of your blog; food travel, recipes, info, food exploration and general joy of your blog. Just keep writing about your adventures as you see fit and we’ll keep enjoying it (and marvelling at your energy!).

    Reply

    • Thanks, Ailbhe! I love your blog but I can see with your illustrations that it takes time. Better to enjoy life and blog when there is time to. Hope to see you soon! x

      Reply

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  4. Your blog is fabulous! Please don’t stop because it’s like getting an email from a friend, it’s something to read and take a moment out of what I’m doing to read about what you’re doing.

    How do you pack it all in?

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    • Sue, it is so lovely to read this. Thank you. I am pretty tired in truth and in desperate need of an actual holiday. My enthusiasm keeps me going otherwise, I just love it!

      Reply

  5. Thank you so much for writing this. I struggle a lot with the pressure to only post things I deem perfect, and it’s nice to hear that a blogger I admire so much does as well! And you are right, blogs are learning curves and it’s ok to be imperfect. x

    Reply

    • Thank you, Fiona! I have been wrestling with this for a while and it is been causing me some stress. Now that I have worked it out for myself, I feel so much better. I hope you do too! :)

      Reply

  6. Hi Niamh. Love your blog, and I’m not familiar with the controversy you speak of. I’m new to the world of food blogging, but really really enjoying it. I do it for myself first, and hopefully it will speak to other people too. I think if you’re passionate about something then that comes through in your writing, like it does with your blog. Keep writing whenever the mood strikes! All the best. X

    Reply

  7. Very nicely put.

    Lovely pics! I don’t know Mudgee as well as the Hunter, but the couple of trips I’ve done there have been full of good food and wine. Looks like the weather played along for you, too!

    Reply

    • Thanks, Alicia!

      Mudgee was lovely. Very laid back, great wine & food, only coming into its own but that is part of the charm. And the weather was awesome!

      Reply

  8. Lovely photos Niamh and I’m with you 100% on your comments about blogging. I’m not always proud of some of my earlier experiments, but you have to try new things to find what works and what doesn’t (and clearly what you’re doing works!). Hopefully catch you in London for the Chowzter awards in April!

    Reply

  9. Hi Niamh from western Massachusetts. I so enjoy your blog. I can’t imagine how much stress it could be to be a food blogger. I blog about our sheep farm and my knit and Stitchery design mostly which I try to keep fun and positive. I don’t even know how I found you but have been reading for a few years and really enjoy following you and your adventures including bacon. Since I don’t have the money to travel to the UK right now I live vicariously thru your blog and some others. Keep on ….. You are appreciated!

    Reply

  10. Welcome back! I am delighted that you are charting your own course joyfully. I am in London for a wee while if you ever have a moment for a restorative craft beer. :)

    I wonder if the Bacon Box has a dairy free option? If not, I will just go ahead and order the book.

    Reply

    • Hey! How long are you in London for? Would be great if we could manage it.

      I can make you a dairy free box! Email me and let me know if you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy. There are two options :)

      Thanks for the lovely comment.

      Reply

      • Well, am spending half the week here for a wee while, as I work on some new stuff… back each week in Dublin for service/recipe work etc.

        I will order now, I am allergic to dairy and a dairy free box would be brilliant! Let me know when things calm a little for you and maybe we can catch up. :)

  11. Yes yes and yes!

    I agree completely that it’s simply unnecessary for others to try and shape how bloggers choose to blog, or to impose a standard. Ethical issues aside (I’m a firm believer in disclosure and transparency), there’s no need for bloggers to follow a formula. We all blog for different reasons and vive la bloody difference, eh?

    I also think it’s important to retain the joy. I read a number of blogs with really beautiful recipe photographs – the plating is tidy, the styling is beautiful, lighting is well controlled and the final images just charming and for a while I really felt a lot of (self-imposed) pressure to provide the same. Especially because I have always had a strong interest in photography (mostly travel and wildlife these days but I’ve played with studio photography in the past) and I know I have the skills to produce this type of image if I invest the time and energy. But I took a step back and reminded myself that just because I can do something isn’t a good reason to do so if it’s not something that brings me pleasure. So my recipe photos remain snapshot like, albeit I’ll sometimes shove a piece of white or black paper behind the plate to hide all my worktop clutter. I just try and remind myself that sticking with my so-so food photos allows me focus my energy on the elements I find the most fun – to think of and write and share lots of content. And isn’t that the point?

    Thanks for talking about this!

    Reply

    • Thanks Kavey! It is all so true. And the troll-y comment below further reinforces it. People can be toxic, but most are awesome, and I will always remember that :)

      Onward and upward!

      Reply

  12. I really enjoyed reading this, Niamh, because it’s so real, and that’s what attracts me to all of my favourite food blog reads. I like different blogs for different reasons, but mostly because each reflects the blogger’s personality in a completely unique way. I admire some for the high quality writing, or photography, or layout, or whatever, but mostly it’s the personal voice that keeps me reading and not any kind of perfection. In fact, sometimes perfection can be quite intimidating and ‘unapproachable’. I say definitely keep carrying on ‘being you’ on here, because surely that’s how you’ve built up your readership over the years! I hope you’re enjoying Australia and all the best with all your exciting bacon projects!

    Reply

    • Thanks Helen! Australia was very busy but great. And Project: BACON continues.

      Thanks for your lovely comment.

      Reply

  13. I’ve not been blogging near as long as you but can relate on some levels. I too have looked at the external world of blogging and questioned whether there is a point. I started it to share my own creations, my style of cooking, my memories and experience and what I learn. It is energy consuming but I think it keeps me sane at times.

    I look at your blog as bold, adventurous, yet not losing the simplicity of life and food. I read your blog and I smile at how you follow your heart. I hope you will continue. X

    Reply

  14. This is a great post. Exactly how I feel about blogging, but I would have never been able to put it into words quite as well.

    Reply

  15. Hmm. You didn’t declare any payment or other reward regarding your Shake Shack London opening post.

    Reply

    • So, fake email address and name? How very cowardly of you.

      To be very clear, there was no payment or other award associated with
      my Shake Shack post. I went to the Burger Monday there – as was clear
      in the post,and that was what I wrote about, not the opening party.
      The day after I went to the launch party – along with most of the food
      media in London – but this was after my post was written.
      (http://eatlikeagirl.com/2013/07/04/burger-monday-on-a-wednesday-at-shake-shack-in-london/)

      So, have you been sitting on this, or did you comb my blog looking for
      faults? I don’t even want an answer to be honest, this is just really
      sad, especially given the content and tone of the post.

      Reply

  16. Well said Niamh. When blog writing becomes a chore rather than a joy it’s time to stop and think. I hit my own hiatus recently through being too busy with other things. At the end of the day a blog (reading and writing) is what it is for me – escapism at the end of a log day. Keep sharing the joy. Julie

    Reply

  17. Hi – I was really interested to read this piece as I have lately felt rather under assault from “mainstream” journalists who seem to think they are better qualified than bloggers to comment on all matters under the sun. I am classical music blogger and amongst my other writerly activities, I regularly review concerts in and around London. I have never claimed to be a “specialist” and my appreciation of live classical music is based on my love of the genre and a desire to share that love and pleasure with others. It distresses me when so-called “qualified” music journalists are held up as the arbiters of good taste, refinement, intellect etc (and the same goes for food journos too) when many of them have little or no musical training (I am a classically-trained pianist) and are simply “jobbing” writers. I blog for all the reasons you state in your excellent article and I make no money from my blog, nor do I want to. I am not in the thrall of any organisation, political party, musicians’ agency or any other body. I have no agenda beyond my love of live classical music. You can read more about my thoughts on this issue on my own blog here http://crosseyedpianist.com/2014/03/23/classical-music-critics-and-the-blogosphere/

    Reply

  18. Thank you for the post. I don’t know much about blogging, I just go for it and … sometimes I read things I think I might like … eh … like this today. Have fun! I’m sure you will.

    Reply

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