3 Things Learned from Second Month of Blogging

Blogging blues

Summary: Here are the three lessons that helped me overcome the second month blogging blues. I’ll outline the steps and provide personal examples.

Blogging is like switching to a healthy lifestyle.

When I was 16, I gained 20 pounds in under 6 months. It has taken me 10 years to lose the weight and to make the complete switch to a healthy lifestyle. The start of the blogging experience and its continuation are very similar to making the commitment to a healthier lifestyle. Some days are exciting, others are exhausting, but you know that you will be happier in the end.

I found the first month of blogging like the start of a workout program: you’re enthusiastic, eager, and you start seeing the results. When I first got into working out, I exercised for 3 hours a day, 3 to 4 times a week. Before long, the time pressures begin to set in. The exercising takes up so much time from other parts of your life that you rationalize the good in skipping a workout or two. Before you know it, you have skipped several sessions in a row.

This is like the second month of blogging. There were a lot of skipped writing sessions. After taking a week off from writing, I felt that I could not produce anything worthwhile.

Note to friends and lovers: wannabe writers on their journey to being actual writers can be so insecure and needy at times.

The joy of reading and admiration for writers have been big parts of my life, from learning English as an immigrant child, to being a bookish and painfully shy teenager to today, as a nerdy adult. I hold writers at such high esteem, I do not feel worthy of calling myself one. Under the same title as Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami and Kurt Vonnegut? No way, I’m much more comfortable calling myself a wannabe. Andrew lovingly reminds me that as long as I’m writing on a consistent basis, I’m no longer a wannabe but simply, a writer.

Here are the lessons that helped in finding motivation to write on a consistent basis.

1. Understand the Who, What, and Why.

Why does your blog exist?

You need to take some time and define and redefine these three critical elements. You’ll feel a big rush of motivation once you’ve thought about it!

Linh’s Kitchen answers:
Who: people that love different kinds of food and are trying to cook more at home.
What: a food blog for cooking inspiration and international recipes.
Why: I love food and cooking and I want to share recipes for great home cooked meals. In addition, through writing about these things I love, I hope to become a better writer.

Read Pushing Social’s – How to Climb Out of Your Blogging Slump for more inspiration. After a week of writer’s block, I started writing immediately after reading Standford’s article.

2. “WHAT YOU’RE DOING IS SO OVER!” You’ll need to defend it with your whole heart or find something new.

Recently, there was an article at New York Magazine that included a throwaway comment about food blogs and how, “they really had their moment in the early aughts.” The food blog community exploded in discussion about the perceived state of food blogs at the moment. My favourite discussion was found at Amateur Gourmet: “Are Food Blogs Over?”

How would you respond to the argument about your blog topic being passé?

I was very discouraged at first, feeling that I had absolutely nothing to contribute to an oversaturated market. The important thing is to always remember that powerful why that got you going on that first day. I talk about food and cooking with the same affection I have for good friends; if I was to write about any subject, this would be it. If nothing else, this blog will be a memory bank of the food I have enjoyed with the great people in my life.

I love this quote from Vonnegut on finding a subject:

“Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Overcoming blogging blues

3. Seek inspiration and read everything.

Identify sources of inspiration

Once you start writing, your mind goes berserk in a good way and creativity starts flowing through your body, threatening to overflow. However, there are also dark days, when your mind is as barren as the dead grass in wintertime. During these dark days, my perception of the beloved weekend changes. Instead of languid mornings, reading on the sun drenched couch beside a loved one, the excitement of writing and a promise of nap in the air, the weekend feels like a dark vortex of high expectations and looming failure.

Here are some sources of inspirations that have helped me find motivation and reclaim the sunny weekends on the couch.

Frank Ocean – Dust
You tell yourself to keep writing all the time. To have it sang to you is really something.

Use Twitter as an inspirational source

I love Moorcock’s first rule for writers:

“Read everything you can lay hands on.” – Michael Moorcock

His other writing rules were so inspirational, I looked up the Lester Dent master plot formula and felt compelled to write an action adventure story. Although I have never had intentions of writing short stories, I started jotting down ideas for one.

What now?

Whether you new to blogging or are a seasoned blogger, whatever you do, KEEP WRITING. Also, remember to have fun. You’re writing about the chosen subject matter because you love it and want to share it with people. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Relax and enjoy this time and space that you have set aside for yourself.

Which one of these motivational tips you will use?

I’ll leave you with Harlan Ellison’s advice for new writers.

“Get a day job, make your money from that, and write to please yourself. And don’t be a whore. Don’t be a whore! Everybody works for the dollar. You work for the dollar, I work for the dollar. Everybody works for the Man… Spend 90 percent of your day not looking into a screen and spend it on yourself, living life, making friends, actually talking to people, doing things. Ten percent of your day, give to the Man. Ninety for you, ten for the Man. Otherwise, you’re nothing but a whore.”

 

March Round Up – Post You May Have Missed

March brought some ups and downs for Linh’s Kitchen.

  • Highs: We received over 1000 views!

Make Up and Beauty Blog shared the link to 5 Things Learned from First Month of Blogging and I saw my traffic quadruple in the same day. It was incredible! I was mildly addicted to checking the site stats and seeing the numbers climb to new highs. Exhilarating!

However, the rush didn’t last. I started wondering if the success of a blog hangs in the balance of link sharing. With that in mind, this little side project started feeling like an online popularity concert, where it was more about being shared by influential bloggers than having great content. I re-evaluated exactly why I started blogging and if it was worth continuing.

Not to worry! I found a lot of reasons to keep blogging, mainly my love and enthusiasm for food. Hope you try out these easy and delicious recipes from the March round up!

Buttermilk and Paprika Roast Chicken

 

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Fish stew

Guinness Chocolate Stout Cake

5 Things Learned from First Month of Blogging

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Fish stew with rice

Verdict: A hearty and delicious stew of tender fish and succulent shrimp which can be made in 30 minutes. The dill and soft licorice flavours make for a refreshing version of a traditional fish stew recipe.

Memories are the unreliable narrators of life; selective, pleasantly fuzzy around the edges, and often showered in a soft, warm glow is how I recall most of the past. Since enjoying food can be such a wonderful experience, I tend to hold on tightly to the memories of sharing great meals with friends and family.

Adding tomoatoes to fish stewTomato broth with a soft licorice flavour from the fennel (or anise seeds).

Last year, on a dark, blistering cold night in Calgary, Alberta (Canada), I first enjoyed the comfort of this fish stew. My roommate, with a newly acquired recipe collection from her mom, decided to make this on a -40 degrees Celsius winter night, the kind of cold that freezes nostril hairs together and eyelashes shut. In my memory, we huddled over a small table lit by a solitary kerosene lamp while the wind whistled a lonely tune across the Arctic landscape. Dressed in knee-length parkas, we handled the hot bowls of stew with seal skin gloves. Outside, the sled dogs howled for their dinner.

In reality, we ate this over an Ikea wooden table, in our well heated but poorly insulated house, its windows always dewy with condensation in the winter time. I can recall with confidence that the soup was delicious, fragrant and oh so comforting. Like the shrimp niçoise pasta, this was another example of the winning combination of seafood, licorice flavour and tomato based broth.

Dill for the fish stewFresh dill, a herb commonly used in North Vietnamese cooking.

The Mediterranean fish stew recipe reminded me of my mom’s take on fish stew: she poached salmon steaks in a simple broth composed of sauteed shallots and tomatoes, and seasoned with tamarind powder for the sweet and sour element. When the salmon was almost cooked through, she would add fresh chopped dill and large lettuce leaves, which would wilt slightly but retain their crunch. The stew was served with your choice of rice or vermicelli and garnished with chopped green onions and cilantro.

Since I was too intimidated to re-create my mom’s fish stew, I followed my friend’s family recipe and threw in some Viet twists along the way, like the fresh dill and serving it with white rice. Try out this wonderful stew and create some new fuzzy and warm food memories of your own, Arctic themed or otherwise.

Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Continue reading Mediterranean Fish Stew with a Viet Twist

Guinness Chocolate Stout Cake

Guinness chocolate cake with coffee ganache

Verdict: The use of Guinness in this recipe creates a soft, dense, and surprisingly moist chocolate cake. The smooth and velvety chocolate ganache is the perfect compliment.

This recipe was found in search of an Irish dish to take to a St. Patrick’s Day potluck. The use of Guinness in a cake was sensational enough to catch my eye – it would be a first in our kitchen – but the selfish reason for choosing this recipe was the undeniable delicious leftovers: cold Guinness in the fridge.

Editor’s note: one or two may also have been enjoyed by both your gracious host and tireless editor during the preparation of this cake.

Guinness chocolate cake in angle food cake panGuinness chocolate cake made in an angel food cake pan.

It was a great experience making this cake for two main reasons:
(1) the recipe was simple and came together quickly
(2) it created strong olfactory memories.

I won’t be able to think about this recipe without recalling how the addition of Guinness to the unsalted butter infused the air with the smell of fresh bread baking. As the cake baked, the promise of chocolate indulgence floated from the oven like a warm spring wind. Even the clean up was surprisingly pleasant. When the warm water from the faucet hit the big mixing bowl, the smell of rich chocolate swept through the the kitchen like a mini choclately vacation.

Guinness chocolate cake with ganacheChocolate cake topped with the deceptively complex tasting yet easy to make ganache.

At first, I was a intimidated by the thought of making ganache; it seemed so delicate and easy to mess up. Wrong! Don’t let its perfect smooth texture, powerful chocolate flavour, and glossy finish fool you. The ganache was super easy to make and came together very quickly. The whisper of coffee flavour enhances the chocolate flavours and gives the impression of a gourmet dessert. I can’t wait to make this again.

One thing I’d do differently is to serve it the same day it is baked. Fresh from the oven, a delectably soft cake topped with warm and smooth ganache, it was intoxicating. Although everyone who tried it the next day loved it and asked for the recipe, we secretly knew that it could be even better.

Continue reading Guinness Chocolate Stout Cake

Buttermilk and Paprika Roast Chicken

Easy and delicious buttermilk roast chicken

Andrew’s Verdict: This dish provides an excellent, quick, and delicious way to cook chicken, perfect for a Sunday family dinner, or as an easy dinner any night. Experienced and inexperienced cooks: give this one a go. It’s fantastic.

A short, telling introduction: once, while attempting to strain pasta, I came very close to burning down our home.  While I do love food (even if I did not, I believe that anyone who spends a significant amount of time around Linh would come away with at least some appreciation for food, even if it were merely peripheral, like wearing a black sweater and leaning against a chalk-covered blackboard written upon by a favorite professor), I do not possess the full passion which Linh does.

Buttermilk and paprika Buttermilk with Spanished smoked paprika marinade.

So, then, it should be clear: cooking is not my forte.  I’ve never had much experience with it, nor have I had a great deal of success on those rare times when I stretched myself and tried to make a more elaborate dish.

Given my past difficulties, when I asked Linh to suggest a meal that I could prepare, the number one criterion was simplicity. After some thinking, she suggested this dish which originates from Smitten Kitchen; it promised to be a simple, delicious way to prepare roast chicken.  The blurb, beginning with a mouth-watering description of chicken done to a golden-tinged exterior perfection with a rich, flavorful, moist interior from the marinade sold me.

Roast for 30 minutes at 350F Chicken roasted to perfection in 30 minutes.

The marinade was very simple and quick to make.  I used a smoked Spanish paprika, and we’ve since prepared it with regular paprika (paprika can be found in many varieties).  Both turned out delicious, it’s just a matter of taste as to whether you’d prefer a less spicy, smokier, woodsy chicken or a something in the spicier spectrum.  I whipped up the marinade, dumped it in the bag with the chicken, and let it soak overnight. Easy. The original recipe noted that a day-long soak makes a remarkable difference, so that’s what I stuck to this time.   We’ve since made this in a time-crunched two-hour soak, and while still yielding a tasty result, the 24 hour sit is definitely preferable.  Roasting the chicken was a simple matter of 30 minutes in the oven at 425 (for legs; 35 to 40 minutes for breasts is suggested).  As per the recipe, I drizzled the legs lightly with extra olive oil, and sprinkled paprika and some sea salt to taste.

Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli Roast chicken with quinoa and broccoli.

Due to my lack of culinary experience (as previously noted), I messed up a bit and ended up with some soggy sides – a serving of broccoli that was on the limp side, and some ill-timed quinoa– which, in turn, caused me to leave the chicken in the oven a bit longer than I should have.  As it turns out, the marinade saved the day by helping to attenuate any errors incurred from my poor form.  The chicken came out of the oven moist and delicious.

Tender morsel of chicken Super moist buttermilk marinated chicken.

Continue reading Buttermilk and Paprika Roast Chicken