HOW I STARTED BLOGGING
So thrilling was the fact that whatever I wrote on a draft post could be published somewhere on the internet – for the entire internet-savvy world to read – that I immediately created a username, an account, and started typing away, my thoughts flying faster than my fingers could put them into writing. Then, with a click of the magical “Publish” button, BOOM, and there my post was created, now literally a part of the internet.
I BEGAN TO BLOG…AND I COULDN’T STOP
Back then, we had just entered into the 21st century; many things had happened and were about to happen. I remember writing about the last day of 1999, where we spent New Year’s Eve with my family in a hotel room on the 51st floor of Westin Hotel, wondering if the world would go beserk at the strike of midnight. I remember scribbling about the horror of the fall of the twin towers on September 11, 2001, and shuddering at the television image of thick, black smoke engulfing the city of New York. I can recall writing about my first date, and the first boy who ever asked me out, and years later, about the breakup, a release from the feelings of captivity and self-worthlessness he had made me feel.
I wrote about life in University, short posts about the friends I had made; journaling the feelings of insecurity and eventually confidence as I blossomed at school; writing about internship interviews I had survived. When I fell in love on exchange in Mannhein, Germany, I wrote about the boy who had captured my heart, the travels we made together, and the journeys we spent in our long-distance years, and nowadays, I write about being able to live in the same country as him. I created poems, lines dictated by the emotions that tugged at my heart; I wrote long, winding prose, uninhibited by time or space or the opinions of others.
I remember years of writing, on and off. Some posts were private, for my eyes only. Others were password-protected, by invitation solely. The rest were free for the world to read, if any eyes felt keen to graze upon my writing.
Because of the convenience of blogging, I’d turned to my online journal for almost every time I felt I needed to put thoughts into concrete words, not penciled on paper, but tapped on a keyboard and manifested on a page. There were hiatuses every now and then; I’d blog whenever I felt the urge and need to do so. For those spaces of time during which I experienced neither, I was content leaving my blog on vacation.
The last long hiatus from blogging was during the first two years I’d spent in Buenos Aires. While blogging had initially kept me occupied and allowed me a canvas on which I could pen down and create anything I thought, new friends, work life and more activities such as painting kept me busy. I let my blog hang somewhere in cyberspace, on perpetual monkeybars.
THE CREATION OF DISH BY DISH
Then somehow, admist a flurry of activities and a venture into the unknown world called “the kitchen”, I found myself once more contemplating blogging. But I wanted to start afresh – to have a space just for cooking and chronicles of my culinary adventures. I hoped to prove to my mum that I’d finally fulfilled her dream of domesticating me; that these dishes that I told them about were actually cooked by me.
And then..I thought, there must be millions of people out there just like myself, who cannot understand complicated recipes, who have never learnt how to cook and suddenly find themselves needing to do so, and who probably understand recipes and instructions better through pictures instead of strings of words.
I wanted to change the world, no matter how small a part of it, by cooking up a storm, Dish by Dish.
This blog was started a year ago – it still astounds me how I’ve been consistently blogging for the last 1 year, but that’s exactly what I did.
So began my obsession with snapping pictures of food I had cooked, not just the end product, but the entire process of it. From start to finish. Being the lazy girl I was intially, I used my camera phone which unsurprisingly produced some of the most shockingly ugly pictures I have ever taken. The funny thing was, when I first took those photos, they actually seemed pleasing to me. I later upgraded to my Sony point-and-shoot camera, and finally, after months of deciding, invested in a Canon EOS 650D (thank God!).
24 hours is a lot of time each day, if you use them wisely and efficiently, but if not, hours may fly fleetingly before our eyes, and another day is gone, then another month, and then another year.
Because the last one year of my life has been mostly defined by what consumed a majority of my free time – food blogging, to be precise – it struck me as perfectly logical that I take this opportunity to ponder on how blogging has changed me, and the value blogging brings to my life.
THE VALUE OF BLOGGING
Every blogger probably goes through this phase; a point in time where so much effort is being spent on maintaining a blog (in my case, a food blog), that there must be significant benefits for it to justify continuing this hobby (or maybe obsession?)
I’m going to be as brutally honest as I can, because I’ve found that honesty from other food bloggers has helped me see things from a clearer perspective.
I’ll say that when I first started this food blog in May 2012, I never quite expected it to transform into what is has become today. I’m not saying that it has become a hugely popular site like that of Glutten Free Girl, Smitten Kitchen, or Skinny Taste. I’m not saying that I shoot photos as pretty as those on Canelle et Vanille, or Honey and Jam, or Sprouted Kitchen. Neither am I saying that I create literature as beautiful and inspiring as that on Food Loves Writing, Not Without Salt or Eat This Poem.
I’m just saying that when Dish by Dish was first created, I just assumed it would be a static site to practice my writing and chronicle my kitchen experiments (or failures). But it’s become so much more than that.
But life’s that way isn’t it? We never really know what the future will bring – but I’m absolutely certain about one thing – when you work hard at something, every single day, whether you’re in a bad mood of not, and whether the sky is blue or grey, it becomes a plant with life. It grows, it flourishes, it brings forth fruits of every positive kind.
If I had to tell you about the best things blogging has given me, it would have to be these three.
1) I’ve become a better person. In terms of being more open, more receptive and accepting of other people’s opinions. I’ve experienced the graciousness and humble attitudes of big bloggers first hand, and I’ve realized that you don’t have to be arrogant to be good. Receiving personal email replies from bloggers who have already made it big and have even written books honestly humbles me. I’ve learnt to respect other people’s work, knowing first hand that sheer hard work is what is needed to be good, not plaguerism or stealing other bloggers’ pictures or recipes. I’ve been taught the importance to give credit where credit’s due, and to always, always err on the side of politeness. And so very often, I’m so grateful for all the support from readers, especially those who take the time and effort to comment, and give me a pat on the back. Most importantly, I’ve learnt to accept feedback, about my writing, my photos and my recipes. It’s all a very humbling experience.
2) I am blessed with more friends. Being a foreignor in a country that doesn’t speak your mother tongue is difficult, and the hardest part of it is being far away from my family and friends. With an 11-hour time difference and differing paths in life, it was inevitable for some friendships to bend in the test of time. I’ve realized that my family members are the ones with whom I am most in contact with, and that somehow, in my search for friendship and connection, I’ve found friends. Not in the traditional manner, where you meet in a park or at the movies or talk over dinner tables. Instead, I’ve met friends on the WordPress blogging platform, on Pinterest, on Facebook, all because I started my cooking blog. Friends whom I have never met, and probably may not have the chance to meet personally, but whose hearts and love can be felt through constant commenting which birthed our friendship. It’s absolutely beautiful to know that in many corners of the world, I know people who I consider friends. People who have the same interests as me – who want to know how to use barley in salads, or how to make homemade pesto, or just kitchen tips in general. I am blessed for these virtual friends.
3) I’ve become a better writer and photographer. Some say that to be a good food writer, you have to learn to write well in general. So I practice almost every single day. I write posts and then I write drafts, and then even more drafts. I think about blog topics while I’m on the train home, I imagine them in bullet points. I get home and the moment I switch on the computer, I let my thoughts run like wild horses, unwilling to hold them back lest they rebel. And after writing horrible first drafts, dotted with grammar errors and excess punctuation marks, I go through them, over and over again, correcting and cutting down words. But I also love to describe, so while I can’t exactly keep my posts too short, I try to employ Dianne Jacob‘s advice of “Show, not tell” in her book Will Write for Food. I push myself to use new vocabulary and try not to repeat adjectives. I learn, and am still learning, from reading very good bloggers like Shanna, how to craft a piece and bring the reader in. But good writing isn’t the only thing that’s essential for a food blog. Because people are essentially visual in nature, good food photography (or at least pictures of food that do not turn you off) is a determining factor on how much your recipes appeal to others. So I look at beautiful food photography on other blogs, I read food magazines to see how food is styled, and I subscribe to food photography blogs. I’m still really far off from being a great photographer, but look at one of my first posts from May 2012, and look at this post or this other post a year later, and you’ll see that there definitely has been some pretty big improvement.
THANK YOU FOR READING
Every writer yearns to be read, and it is safe to say that no writer is successful without any readers. So thank you so much for taking the time to read, and for making the effort to write comments and give me feedback, whether good or bad. Thank you for your encouragement, and sticking through some really horrible pictures a year ago, and for returning over and over again to Dish by Dish. I wouldn’t have kept at blogging for so long if it weren’t for the fact that I knew there were people who actually read what I wrote (apart from my mum and my sister).
A big toast to 1 amazing year of food blogging and hopefully many more!