Feature | 6 reasons to not write about food (& 4 reasons why you should)
I have, over the last few years, had people telling me what an amazing job I have. I have been met with a lot of snarky quips like, “You write about food? Oh, must be rough”, when referring to my job as a food writer. It’s funny to think about it from someone else’s perspective; it sounds like a dream job. Don’t get me wrong, it absolutely is. I love what I do, but there’s one word that most people overlook. “Job.” It’s still a job. There is much more to being a food writer than accepting an invitation to dinner or making reservations, gobbling up an amazing meal, snapping a few photos and then waddling home. It’s a lot of work, beautiful and delicious work, but work all the same.
I have been traversing through this way of life for quite a while so I have few tips on why you shouldn’t write about your food (and a few great reasons why you should!)
6 Reasons To Not Write About Food
It’s still a job, and it’s a lot of hard work
At the present time, I have 598 unread emails in my Inbox. That doesn’t include all the ones that I have skimmed and labeled as “To Do” or “Needs Response.” After the meal is over there are photos to be edited, research to be done on the restaurant, crafting an article that doesn’t suck and then a lot of marketing of yourself and the article that you just created. There are a lot of technical components like SEO research, meta descriptions and then scheduling of social media promotions. A typical 300-600 word article can take hours to complete.
Looking to make a stack of cash? You’re adorable.
Even people that work at nationally syndicated magazines, newspapers or websites are not driving McLaren P1’s. If you write cookbooks or how-to guides, then you may have a more comfortable life, but it’s a long and hungry road to get there. No matter how much time you spend pitching articles to magazines, newspapers, websites or publishing houses you’re not likely to be traveling the world in a private jet. The big bucks come when you parlay your writing into other careers, like food styling, photography, recipe curation, videos and even PR.
Everybody and their brother (and sister’s cousin’s ex-boyfriends daughter) are doing it
Because of Instagram and other social media outlets, food writing as a career has a certain sparkle and glimmer to it. Take a look around when you’re out to dinner and you’ll notice lots of diners taking photos of their dinners. They’re likely posting to Instagram or Facebook and then saying how great or terrible it is. Food is one thing that we all have in common and everyone has a unique perspective and taste, so they want their friends to know their thoughts. In the last few years, there has also been an influx of food writers and bloggers, so there are a lot more people clamoring for the best photo or the first interview.
People are sometimes the worst
For every one person that is going to love your profile on the role of kale in American agriculture, there are three that won’t and aren’t afraid to say it. While I have been lucky enough to avoid negative comments on my website as well as different articles that I have written for others and shared, some people I know have not been so lucky. Keyboard warriors are everywhere and ready to argue about a dish, a restaurant or a chef. It makes no difference what you write about and what stance you take on any side of a subject, someone will disagree with you and tell you all about it. On top of that, in some circles, there are other writers that will be hateful. Some will perceive you as competition and try to talk badly about you in an attempt to make themselves look better. I was called a bully last year and while it was a desperate attempt for that person to deplete me of my relevance as well as the respect of others, people perceive situations all sorts of ways. People are sometimes the worst, and if you put yourself in a mindset where other writers are your competition instead of your community, those kinds of things can happen. Thick skin and lots of positivity are in the “must have” section of the job description.
You spend a lot of time alone
Being a writer means lots of time behind a keyboard and monitor. For all the fancy dinners or events you might attend, double or even triple that time and that’s the amount of time you’ll be crafting articles, coming up with new ideas, completing research and outreach as well as educating yourself. It can be lonely sometimes, so if you are in need of constant attention and acknowledgment, this might not be for you.
Whether you are at home curating recipes, taking and editing gorgeous photos or think that you came up with the best article idea or concept for a series, someone will find it and try to claim it as their own. It’s a nature of the business. There’s little that you can do about it. (Suing might work, but refer back to that section on money.) Some will say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, some will say it’s just plain lazy. No matter which side you gravitate to–it’s going to happen.
Still interested? Don’t despair! There are also some really great reasons why you should be writing about your food, any food that you find.
4 Reasons Why You Absolutely Should Write About Food
Our local restaurateurs and Chefs need you
Our great state is full of amazing culinary artists, people who are creating magic on a plate each and every day. These people put all their time, money, heart and effort into creating an amazing experience for you from the first moment that you walk into the door, that first cocktail sip, the first bite of your dinner all the way to the moment that the hostess wishes you well and thanks you for your visit as you leave. It happens daily from local mom and pop shops to the highest-rated spot in town or a restaurant with a celebrity chef attached to it. Some of my culinary heroes are looked past year after year for national awards, and some local ones. The more people share a story and epic photos about a really outstanding meal that they have, the more people will pay attention to that spot. That means that restaurant will stay in business and we won’t have a chain restaurant taking its place within a year or two. People outside of our state will take notice and come to visit on their next trip through town. This keeps our economy going, keeps these talented people in business and inspires countless others to follow their passion and dream of opening up a local restaurant–which could very well be your next favorite restaurant.
People are sometimes the absolute best
For as many people as you meet that have dollar signs in their eyes and steal your ideas and try to make themselves look better than you, you will find some really amazing people. People that are incredibly gifted writers that will inspire you with their passion and dedication. There will be chefs that you sit down with that will take you on a journey with their words and then their food. You will find people that are incredibly savvy in all areas and are willing to help you learn and succeed. Cling to those people and cherish them, learn from them and let them help you grow and become a better person. Those are my favorite people. Those are the types of people we should all try to be more like.
You love to write and you love food
You don’t have to be the best writer. You need to be passionate about what you do; you need to be consistent and you need to work every single day. You’re called to write. To write about the amazing dinner you had, the phenomenally kind and knowledgeable chef that you just met. You’re passionate about your local community and keeping the best of the best here in your neighborhood. If we don’t support out local businesses and the people behind them, they will leave. They will be called to serve another community and then we all lose.
There’s room for everyone
Dr. Seuss wrote, “Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you.” This is all sorts of profound and you can apply it to all parts of your life. For today’s purposes, we can apply it to your role in writing about your food. No one has the same background, tastes and perspective as you do. You can write about the best places for a single guy to get a great meal on the cheap. How about the best spots in town to take your tenacious toddlers? Have a passion for gardening? Why not put together a list of restaurants that have their own gardens on property? The possibilities and perspectives are endless. If you want to be a writer, all you need to do is write. The more you write, the more your voice will appear and the better you will become.
If you have a call to be a food writer, a champion for the locals who make our culinary community so incredibly diverse, robust and outstanding, I commend you and welcome you to the fold. If you have questions, want advice or ever need help, please know that I am here for you. I’m just an email or lunch date away!
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© Taryn Jeffries 2017