as the hands in charge move me

The following is the second of what hopefully becomes a regular, infrequent series on this site: personal essays relating to food or writing themes. If you are a writer and would like to submit a contribution, contact me. Or, if this is not your thing, visit the home page for what else is new!

a personal essay on food blogging / Go Eat Your Bread with Joy
Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

I started food blogging in 2008. The original site where I wrote got sold in 2017 and has since been repurposed, but I can remember the archives via the Internet’s Way Back Machine—and yesterday I did. I was 25 when I started the blog, a year out of grad school. My day job was boring, I read food blogs for fun and I was trying to learn to write another way. The blog was practice.

Blogging, to me, has always been practice. Doctors practice medicine. Lawyers practice law. Writers practice paragraphs strung together online. I like the way Trillia Newbell describes it: publishing first drafts. There is a craft about writing, as with any art, so to get better at it there’s just no substitute. Like my pottery teacher said last week to us with our jiggling clay: “You have to put in the time.” You have to plug away. Day by day. Line by line. Bird by bird.

For a writer, a blog is a place to put in the time. It’s a pottery wheel: a place to do it and do it and do it again.

As I practiced, year after year, my old food blog bore witness to seismic personal changes (I married! Moved! Switched jobs! Bore children!), but none that were as disorienting as the ones that led to its sale. In 2017, I left the wheel. This first draft is not the place to explain why.

Only at the close of that year, in December, did I cautiously, carefully, with new understanding, come back to plug away again. It’s different this time: a new URL, a new focus, a new name. As you would expect from 11 years of practice, the voice with which I write about food has changed, as it’s changed and changed other times along the way. A few times over the last decade, I’ve had people write to me and say they miss some version of my older voices. Sometimes I miss them, too.

But here’s what I’ve learned: as a writer, you like to think you’re a potter. You want to cast a vision, form a mold, watch your ideas take shape. I can only speak for myself, but: I am the clay. I write what I can, when I can, as the hands in charge move me to do.

I’ve had blogs bear witness to what have, so far, been my life’s most transformative, painful, surprising shapings. There have been posts about food right alongside my own deaths and rebirths. I don’t know why. I don’t know what’s coming next.

On the wheel—spinning,  changing, shaping—you never do.

This is the second in a series of personal essays posted on Go Eat Your Bread with Joy, a blog that primarily features food research and inspiration for daily life. See the first here.