There is nothing to writing.
All you do is sit down at the typewriter and bleed.
- Ernest Hemingway
Sometimes I feel that writing is like marriage. It takes a lot of hard work. The more time passes, the more we are in the relationship, the more we understand and build on that newfound understanding, one step at a time, in a never-ending attempt to get better at the whole darn thing. It is a constant struggle abounding in frustration, complications and compromises. And patience. Tremendous patience. Yet, swept up in the burning passion and desire, driven by love, we are certainly able to weather the rough storms that keep cropping up on the horizon. We strive to evolve, develop our skill and our knowledge in a constant effort to reach higher and farther, to improve and get it right.
But for all practical purposes, one must compare food writing to food photography.
Over the years I have learned that bloggers treat photography and writing differently. They understand the steps to what they consider a successful photograph. They are prepared to invest mightily in their photography: they buy cameras and lenses after lengthy discussions on Facebook, they invest in lighting equipment and learn how to take photos in natural light vs artificial light vs low-light situations. They invest in Photoshop or Lightroom and learn how to post process their photos – cropping, adjusting and redefining color, light, intensity, etc – to achieve the best possible image. They invest in props – backgrounds, linens, cutlery, dishes, holiday decorations, etc - and learn how to use them to the best of their advantage.
Food bloggers do understand that the secret to a beautiful photograph, one that tells a story, creates an ambiance that draws the viewer in, evokes and incites an emotion, one that titillates the senses and makes the visitor stay, ogle, enjoy… want to eat the food pictured and want to come back again and again requires skill, time, effort and thought. The food blogger knows that the more control he or she has over each element, the more one is able to manipulate the image, the better the chance he or she has to produce a powerful and effective photograph.
Rare is the food blogger today that snaps one single photo, slaps it onto the blog and hits publish.
Yet, what about the writing? Few bloggers think of writing in the same light. “I can write therefore I am a writer!” Yet writing is an art just as is photography – just like cooking, painting, knitting, surgery for that matter. Both are skills in which the understanding and mastering of the equipment – the camera and lens for a photographer, language for a writer – is crucial. Both are skills in which the gestures require constant practice, attention and improvement. Writing, like photography, becomes more interesting the more props – words – we have at our command, yet those props – words – must be used correctly and to effect.
Okay, let’s back up and I will make this comparison clear.
Photographer: camera and lenses
Photographer: linens (tablecloths, napkins, dishtowels, backdrops), background surfaces, cutlery, dishes, holiday tools and decorations, antique utensils, backgrounds, serving platters, etc.
Writer: vocabulary, idiomatic expressions, similes, metaphors, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
Photographer: editing with Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.
Don't only think about your photos!
There is so much to say about writing. There is both a technical side of writing and a creative side of writing (storytelling), and, like any skill or craft, writing – good, interesting, effective writing, takes a long time to develop and evolve, learn and master. What I want to do is get you to look at and think about writing in a different way, from a different angle than you might normally do. In a series of posts, I will offer you my thoughts on the process, urging you to consider writing in a new light. I will offer my thoughts and ideas on everything from how to master the equipment, grow your prop collection (prop shopping for the writer!) and self-edit. I will give advice, explanations and tips. Feel free to leave any questions you might have on writing in the comment section! And away we go!
As a writer, a writing instructor and someone who is passionate about language, the first thing – or one of the first things - I always point out to my students is (and the First Rule!) The Trifecta of Good Writing… (and respect for one’s readers):
Equip yourself with Spell Check and Grammar Check! Inviting someone to read a post riddled with grammar, punctuation and spelling errors is like inviting someone to a dirty home; editing for these three things shows that you care!
For Part II Playing the Lead: Your Role as a Writer link here