Giving Thanks – Food Blogging, Mental Health, And An Announcement

Thanksgiving is THIS WEEK friends! I cannot even express how much I am looking forward to it. I know most of you are here for a recipe — perhaps a handy tip for a perfectly cooked turkey or extra creamy mashed potatoes (I do make some might find mashed potatoes). Alas, I disappoint you.

I don’t have a Thanksgiving recipe to share this week, so I’ll save you from having to read any further. Go on, shoo — the internet is a buffet, and there are plenty of good holiday treats to be found elsewhere.

Oh… are you still here? Well hey. I know I haven’t been the greatest recipe blogger lately, and I’m sorry for that. Here’s the thing: food blogging was becoming a problem for my mental health. Well there’s a truth-bomb I didn’t see coming.

For those of you who aren’t bloggers, it may be hard to understand. What’s not to love about working from home, cooking delicious food all day, and taking gorgeous, mouth-watering photos? Nothing, right? There certainly are perks to those things, but food blogging is actually a tremendous amount of work. I like to point out that at any regular company, there would be a least seven people doing the job a single food blogger does on their own. A writer, a web developer, a chef, a photographer, a marketing specialist, a data analyst, a stylist, a designer… the list goes on.

But the point isn’t about how much work it is, or even about how companies and brands try to take advantage of bloggers because they are willing to do so much work for so little. For me, the breaking point was inside the blogging community, not outside it. It was seeing my Facebook feed full of posts about how to optimize SEO, make your images more pinnable, adapt to some new rule Google rolled out, get more likes on Instagram… all good, important things! Things which, you might argue, are part of any online business. But what I realized… or what I knew all along… was that these measures of success don’t mean anything to me. The harder I worked at those aspects of my website, the less enjoyment I had.

My measure of success wasn’t about numbers or likes, it was about people, and sharing something I was passionate about. The times I felt most successful were reading emails from real people who had made my recipes and loved them, or getting a comment that someone had baked something for their grandmother while she was in the hospital. But those moments are few and far between. More often — daily, in fact — I felt drowned under a sea of people trying to get ahead, emails asking me to work for free, or empty, one-word comments left not because they read my post, but in the hope I would return the favor and boost their SEO.

And I get it, all these things are part of the blogging world, and that’s not going to change. Truly, I’m not trying to complain — just to explain. For me, these things became overwhelming, to the point where I was having trouble finding the good parts. The parts that were supposed to make it all worthwhile. I kept trying to see past the disingenuous face of things to find those moments of authenticity, of real connection… but the truth is I was tired of fighting the current. I felt alone, burned out, and like the passion that had been so bright in the beginning was about to flicker out.

So I took a break. A ten month break, in which I secretly dreamed of a website that wasn’t about food. (Gasp!) In which I could write without pressure. Without having to include a picture-perfect recipe (do you know how long it took me to even decide to make this post without a recipe in it? Weeks.) Without putting my heart into a blog post everyone will scroll past to get to the recipe at the bottom. Really, I thought… the internet can survive with one less food blog, right?

That doesn’t mean this site is going away — I know there are those of you reading this who are thinking, “that’s not me! I don’t just scroll past what you write!” — thank you, and I know. You are why I loved food blogging so much to begin with. But the recipes you love aren’t going anywhere, and heck, I’ll still be here too, even if I’m not making new posts.

What I am getting at with all this is, I finally accepted that food blogging wasn’t good for my mental or emotional health. As much as I tried to ignore that fact and focus on the parts I enjoyed, I couldn’t deny it forever. To all my food blogger friends reading this right now — you have my deepest respect and admiration.

And now, for those of you who have read this far (thank you) I’m happy to share some news. That website I was dreaming about? I made it happen.

The new site is called The Gratitude Log, and it’s all about the importance of gratitude, and cultivating gratitude through journaling.

I’ve talked about gratitude journaling a few times before, and it’s pretty much just what it sounds like: journaling with the intention of finding things to be grateful for. This explanation is deceptively simple, though, and doesn’t do justice to just how awesome keeping a gratitude journal can be. If you want to know more about why I love it so much, you can read more about it here.

And it’s about more than that, too — it’s also about creativity, art, bullet journaling, hand-lettering, mental health and positivity… basically it’s about life, with some art and journaling thrown in.

If you are interested in following me on this new adventure, or if journaling is your jam, come check it out at TheGratitudeLog.com. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram. I’d love to see you there.

And of course, I would be remiss to talk about the importance of gratitude, and to paint such a dark story of my recent months of food blogging, without also pointing out how incredibly grateful I am to have done it. Creating this site has had many up-sides, the most important of which is making connections with all of you — each and every one, whether you have commented or not, whether you’ve made any of my recipes or not — if you are reading this right now, thank you. That sounds so stupid and cliche, but I don’t have a better way to say it right now. Thanks for reading.

 

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6 Responses to Giving Thanks – Food Blogging, Mental Health, And An Announcement

  1. movita beaucoup November 23, 2017 at 8:58 am #

    I think the trouble with blogging – food or otherwise – is that there is an immense pressure for it to be one thing. That you are supposed to find a niche – a target audience – and write only for them. But that doesn’t reflect most people in real life. We talk about all sorts of things. When I’m at a party, I might join a conversation about something I know absolutely nothing about. You know, open my mind! If I walk into a store that is selling something I’m not interested in, I take a peek and then I walk out. I don’t shout, “Why are you selling this? I don’t want you selling this!” I simply move on. Food blogging sometimes requires us to be just one thing. WRITING allows us to be lots of things. To explore!

    This is all to say that I have no doubt that you will be putting lots of interesting things out into the world via your blogs. Freeing yourself of a particular genre will probably make you feel more creative and engaged. And there are a lot of us that are interested in coming along for the ride. Because we are readers, consumers of all things interesting and unique. That’s your niche, friend!

    Of course, while leaving this comment another 576 food blogs were born, so no one will go hungry…

    • Willow Arlen December 8, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

      Thank you, Rachel! I knew you would understand. And you’re absolutely right, that pressure to do one thing and one thing only IS part of it. It isn’t the whole thing, for me, but it certainly didn’t help. I’m not sure I did a great job articulating what wasn’t working for me, but I’m glad I tried… it feels good to acknowledge that I wasn’t happy with the way things were, and to move on to something different.

  2. Cynthia November 24, 2017 at 6:51 pm #

    2 years ago I found your blog and I’m grateful – I’ve never posted, just appreciated from afar and returned often. At 1:00 yesterday, Thanksgiving day, I went hunting for my favorite soup – your recipe for Curried Kobocha soup – it’s my favorite and as I grow my own Kobocha and Butternuts, I’m making mine fresh from a butternut squash I found last week out on the fence line. Thank you for a great recipe to complete my meal.

    I’v read and appreciated your challenge. I’m a nature/wildlife photographer and have dealt with all the challenges of the industry. The people who know me say, I march to my own drummer, because I don’t follow the protocols suggested to optimize SEO and insta and FB, etc…. it just doesn’t work for me. Cudos to you for standing firm for what you need and declaring what doesn’t work and for choosing what supports and inspires you. I’m still going to check in and see what’s happening and watch how your new site develops. Thank you for writing.

    • Willow Arlen December 8, 2017 at 6:07 pm #

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, Cynthia! Unfortunately I wrote a long response to this but then an issue came up with my site and now it’s gone… I’ll do my best to say again how much I appreciate what you said. I’m thrilled that one of my recipes has become a favorite of yours, and I’m touched that you read this whole post and will be following along as I move to this new site. I’m so happy to know you’re reading, and enjoying, what I create — thank you!

  3. Mackenzie Belcastro April 6, 2018 at 3:41 pm #

    This is so beautiful. We connected a while ago when I interviewed you for my old blog Journey To Self. I’m not sure if you’d remember but anyway that’s not the point. These types of post are what blogging (to me) is really about. The freedom of expression. The ability to truly connect. I just love it so much that you were so real here because it’s freaking what matters! Life is not perfect. And blogging often looks like the « perfect » career to non bloggers. So it’s so important to remind people how taxing it is. Because it IS a business. It’s not stupid or frivolous. And hell, it’s a tough business at that. So good for you hun for taking a break. You needed it and glad you’re back. In a new fashion too! 🙌 looking forward to following your new site xoxo

    • Willow Arlen April 6, 2018 at 6:45 pm #

      Thank you so much, Mackenzie! Absolutely I remember. I really appreciate this comment, it means a lot to me to know I connected with you. I was really getting burned out on the “pretty” side of blogging, and the whole idea that everything is easy breezy and beautiful without showing any of the realness. I’m honestly really grateful for all the experiences I’ve had food blogging, but I’m happy to be moving on and trying something new. Thanks for checking in and seeing what I’m up to now… feel free to reach out to me anytime if you ever want to connect. Here’s to the where this road leads!

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