That’s Just Not Me (a reflection on IFBC)

I find some of the typical “food blogger” stereotypes to be somewhat comical at times… It is assumed that I cook a gourmet meal three times each day, dream of the next time I will have a chance to dine on foie gras, and have a deep desire to one day make my appearance on Top Chef or The Next Food Network Star. Well, today I will share a bit of a secret with you… That’s just not me!

Last weekend, as I sat amongst the 250 other bloggers attending the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle, I was once again reminded of what a diverse group we bloggers really are.  From recipes to restaurant reviews, gluten free to gastronomy, and everything else in between, each blogger saw the conference from a slightly different perspective.

For me, the conference evoked a mixed bag of thoughts and emotions. I was surprised by the inspiration I felt in the session on special diets (since that isn’t something I address regularly on my blog and have few dietary restrictions myself). I found it hard to get excited about the session on SEO and cringed at the idea of using trending topics and keywords on Google to decide what to cook in my kitchen and ultimately post on my blog (perhaps you saw my tweets of outrage). While I found the Modernist Cuisine session to be fascinating (and may even have to save my pennies to purchase the book), you probably won’t find a sous vide machine in my kitchen any time soon. I got choked up listening to Penny De Los Santos speak about photography but found myself frustrated with attempts to describe a lemon using all five senses. At times I was much more interested in participating in the so called “aggressive tweeting” than paying attention to the session taking place.

Here’s the thing… More often than not, I found myself thinking, “That’s not me!” But, was that really such a bad thing?

Sure, it would have been great if I left every single session feeling renewed and inspired (and a few times, I did), but the sessions where I felt frustrated or less-than-inspired ended up having an equally important impact on me. Now, as I look back on the conference, I have a much clearer understanding of my personal perspective as a blogger.

I blog because I love to cook and I want to share that love of cooking with everyone who reads my blog. I am not here to give you a flowery description of a restaurant experience (and I even use the forbidden word delicious).  I don’t really worry about my blog stats or whether or not my posts contain all of the right keywords to maximize traffic to my site. Instead, I think it is important to focus in the things that I enjoy – cooking with whole foods and local ingredients, baking from scratch, and making food beautiful and enticing while still remaining approachable for other home cooks like me.

So, did I learn all of the secrets to blogging at IFBC and leave feeling refreshed and inspired? Honestly, no. Instead, I was reminded that I need to always remain true to myself. For me, blogging is a hobby. I find joy in cooking and photography, and that’s why I do it. And, if my posts inspire you to get in the kitchen, then I feel that my blog has been a success.  No statistics required!

51 Responses to That’s Just Not Me (a reflection on IFBC)

  1. Kinda nice to read… As a new blogger I can often feel that I’m not plugged in to all the “right” stuff! And that after only 4 short months! Nice to remember to calm down and do what I do… I do not want the joy to go away!

  2. So very well said Jen! People tend to forget that to keep it real they have to be real and true to themselves. *Be You…Blog True*
    Continue to focus on the things that you enjoy, it is what makes your blog such a joy for us readers.

  3. I really enjoyed this post. It’s okay to be just ‘you!’ I think I’m a lot like you-I don’t care much about stats either. I do this because it’s my passion. I can be at work with my hands in the dirt and be thinking about my next creation. It takes my mind elsewhere and I find it relaxing and exciting at the same time.

    So I like you! Don’t change! It’s that ‘it’s just not you’ :)

  4. Oh good!! I was getting a little discouraged seeing all the IFBC tweets over the weekend….thinking I hadn’t realized I was trying to get into a BUSINESS community veiled as at-home-cooks sharing with eachother. All the talk about asking Google what trendy thing to eat and whether I have considered charging for recipes…it was like I’d walked into the wrong classroom or something, and I was only getting a taste of it from the Tweets!

  5. First and foremost, we should be blogging because we love food. And we all express that love differently…

    I love that you were so honest in this post and I think it will make everyone think more about why they blog.

  6. Great post, Jen! I feel the exact same way you do about blogging! I used to think I was in the minority with not worrying about SEO, stats, etc., but it sounds like many people think the same way. It was refreshing and encouraging to read your post. Thank you!

  7. Bravo Jen, bravo! It’s refreshing to see someone who knows who she is and refuses to bend in another direction to follow the crowd or trend. You ‘get’ it – that blogging from the heart trumps any SEO stat or any other type of analytics – it’s about the joy that comes from the journey. You are awesome!

  8. jen! this was very well said! very truthful and brave. i feel so down in the dumps about blogging sometimes i want to quit. it’s a silly game and i think that if you keep it in the proper perspective you really can make it special. it may not be the most popular or have the best “pretend” “set-up” photos but it will be yours and THAT matters!!

  9. Best post yet on IFBC… I agree with you in so many ways and levels! We are all incredibly different in our styles, our cooking levels, our goals, and why we spend insane amounts of time working on these amazing blogs. Thank you for sharing this and being so honest. Love it! And I’ll definitely be back to read more about what you love in the kitchen!

  10. I love this Jen. You are a gifted blogger and knowing why you are doing it and the fact that you know what is true to you; that makes your blog a joy to read. Such a beautiful post! Thank you for it :).

  11. You’re not alone Jen; I think many feel the same way…including myself. I’ve done this for 15 yrs w/o notoriety or income because I just love to cook and share that passion with others.

    As a professional web developer; I do need to know what to stay on top of for SEO; but from what I’ve heard, I would have a difficult time listening to the seminar on that piece. If I were guessing from a distance, someone forgot that corporate SEO rules can not apply across the board for people blogging about what they love.

    That piece was in direct contrast to how I feel…as a food blogger for sport and a developer professionally…you have to stay true to who you are. Would I hope your title tags and description listed in Google are crafted? Yes, must admit I do. But should you craft your post to trending topics? You have to be kidding, someone really said that? How uninteresting if that advice was taken across the board and everyone made the same thing!

    I know what I look for in a food blog. A personality…some are funny, some are more fact driven, some just make amazing food and that’s enough, but each of those voices are important to me and the reason I remain a reader. Suggesting we all become prisoners of stats and Stepford Wives in the process is foolish.

    You have your own voice and part of that is this post…a refreshing honesty that is admirable and forthright. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

  12. THANK YOU! I love that you said “I blog because I love to cook”, it shows in your work. Unfortunately, many look at blogging as a business and see it as the “big” trend. Your work, and people who celebrate cooking, prove that it won’t be “bubble”.

  13. I really appreciate your perspective! Just yesterday I decided that I was not going to participate in a contest because I did not want to post about the required topic on my blog. It wasn’t me, and it had nothing to do with what my blog is about. Thanks for validating my feelings!

  14. Great post. You’re clear about your blogging activity and ambitions.
    I’ve difficulties in understanding SEO. But being a statistician, I love blog stats. Anyway as you I try to remember myself who I’m and what’s my real job.
    Only after almost 3 years of blogging, I bought a reflex digital camera.
    Follow your heart, I think, it’s the more powerful tool.

  15. Yes, yes, and yes. Everything you said here resonated with me. The only negative thing I feel about blogging is when it starts to feel like high school. When I start wanting to be the popular girl, I pull back and just try to remember who I am and what I am good at. I was inspired by the same parts as you and turned off by the same parts. I wish we had had more time to talk at Delancey!

  16. Great post Jen! I was feeling left out not going to the conference, and wondering if I was missing out. Well, I”m sure I missed out on a great time with all you girls I would love to meet in person, but I feel like I learned a ton just from reading your post. You’re so right – success is not defined by statistics (at least not for me), and is not defined by popularity, or being in the “in” blogging circles. It’s defined by doing what you love, helping others, making friends, and enjoying food. Thanks for the reminder!

  17. Yes! I came away from IFBC both inspired and discouraged. Part of it is because I’m going through some personal stuff and have been exhausted and ill so I just wasn’t able to throw myself into the conference and all the events like I’d originally hoped. Either way, though, I think I would have come away thinking, wow… I’m seriously out of my league! I’m not a chef and never will be. I’m a home cook who just used her first vanilla bean three weeks ago. I realize no conference is going to fit each individual perfectly and I am definitely taking away enough valuable tidbits to have made it worthwhile, but I’ve still been ruminating on how I feel about the whole thing overall. Your post helped me get closer to figuring it out. “Just be yourself.” Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    An aside – is the infomercial thing typical at these conferences? This was my first food blogging conference. I’ve attended a gazillion (non-blogging) conferences in my time and the only time I’ve been advertised to like that, I somewhat expected it because I was attending the conference for free. That aspect was sort of… disarming.

  18. Thank you for sharing. I’ve been blogging for years and never thought much about SEO or anything of the sort, and never even considered a conference until the Big Summer Potluck. I thought maybe I was just lazy but now you reminded me that I am just being me. :-)

  19. Well said, Jen! Everyone is different and everyone who blogs, does so for different reasons. You just keep on doing what you do – honestly and for the love of your food!

  20. What a refreshing perspective. I found myself nodding in agreement while reading your post. During the conference, I was asking myself — “Is it not enough to just cook and blog because you love it? I wasn’t looking for a book deal or to get published in print, and I certainly wasn’t doing it for money. I took what I needed from all the sessions, mostly inspiration from those who are so passionate about food, and enjoyed the connection with friends old and new.

    It was great to finally meet you in person last weekend!

  21. Mardi – Thanks for your comment! It was great to see you at IFBC and have a chance to hang out some more!

    Lori – It was lovely to finally meet you, too!

    UrMomCooks – Glad you stopped by and left a comment! When I started blogging I did it because I wanted to share my recipes with friends and family. Although I have a few more readers now, that’s still my goal. If you’re true to yourself, then you’re doing it right!

    LisaB – Thanks for stopping by!

    Paula – Thanks for your kind words of encouragement!

    Amber – Thanks for your comment… Always nice to know others are feeling the same way!

    DessertforTwo – Yes, I love that the kitchen is my escape from my daily chores and work… Glad to know we share the same perspective!

    Becki D – I can tell you that I am not running a business… Can’t speak for everyone else. Just keep doing what you’re doing because you love it!

    Brian – Thanks for stopping by… Really appreciated your comment!

    Mags – So glad you enjoyed the post! I can tell you I’ll be saving my money from now on… Would much rather travel and meet friends than attend conferences!

    Flavia – Glad I could encourage you with my post! Thanks for your comment!

    Smith Bites -Thanks for your comment… I am overwhelmed by the positive response to this post, and your kind words mean a lot to me!

    Carol – I think a lot of people were feeling this way… Perhaps our response will help to change conferences and blogger meet-ups in the future!

    Tiffany – I agree with you about not playing the game… When you need a break, take one… and blog about what you love! Then it comes so much more naturally!

    Carrie – It was delightful to meet you at IFBC and I appreciate your kind words on my post. I look forward to staying connected in the future!

    Lauren – Your blog is so inspiring to me, and I really appreciate your comments. Thank you!

    Barbara – Yes, we all come from different perspectives, and I think that is part of what makes everyone’s blogs interesting to read. If we were all the same, it would be quite boring! Thanks for sharing your perspective!

    Kate – It is comforting to know I wasn’t the only one feeling that way. It was a delight to finally meet you, and I hope our paths cross again soon!

    Melissa – Thanks so much for your kind comment and for stopping by!

    Lael – Thanks so much for your comment… I am blown away by everyone’s response!

    Daydreamer Desserts – I really appreciate your comment! It’s nice to know we’re all in this together and it’s not a big competition!

    Tracey – Thanks! I am so glad I had a chance to meet you at the Big Summer Potluck… that event will forever be one that I deeply cherish, and I did leave that one feeling refreshed and inspired!

    Kath – You definitely have to do the things that you love and be true to yourself! Glad I could help!

    Rossella – It’s funny that you’re a statistician… I was actually a math and computer science major in college (focusing on Actuarial Science, so I love stats, too). I enjoy the stats, but have learned not to let them affect my view of success!

    Kelly – Thanks for your comment! It was so wonderful to spend time with you this weekend… definitely one of the highlights for me! I love you too!!

    Dana – Thank you so much for stopping by and for your kind words. The positive response to this post has been very encouraging and overwhelming to me. I hope our paths will cross again soon!

    Megan – Though I would have loved to meet you at the conference, I don’t think you missed too much! I always enjoy reading your blog, and I’m glad I could help to inspire you (even if it’s just a bit!).

    Kare – So glad my post could help you sort through your own feelings about the event. It was a lot to take in over a few short days! Thanks so much for stopping by! Also – as for the “infomercial”, I haven’t been to too many conferences/events so I am not sure how “normal” it is, but I, too, was a bit put off by that.

    JenniferA – I don’t think it’s lazy, at all! You have to do what makes you happy and what you love. The Big Summer Potluck was truly a wonderful and inspiring event… I think we were both luck to have the chance to attend!

    RJ Flamingo – It was great to meet you at the conference. Thanks for your kind words in response to my post!

    Joy – It was great to meet you, as well! I know a lot of people are still sorting through their feelings about the event… It’s nice to hear someone else’s perspective!

    TripleScoop – Thanks for your kind words! I really appreciate it!

  22. Lovely post. As both a speaker and a participant, I found the ability to generate a 360-view on the IFBC conference via all the tweets and posts such as your honest description incredibly valuable.

    The remarkable thing about the democratic nature of blogging is that there’s a place for everyone’s voice. You’re a passionate person and it comes across in what you write. In many ways, that’s all that matters.

    Keep up the good words.

    • Kathleen – Thank you so much for your kind comment! I agree that it is amazing to see all of the different perspectives from the attendees of IFBC. I enjoy the diversity… If we were all the same, our blogs would become incredibly mundane!

  23. This is an interesting and well-written take on the conference. It’s so important to know yourself, know why you do what you do, and stay focused on what really matters to you.

    And it was lovely to meet you last weekend–looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  24. Well said, Jen. I couldn’t agree with you more! I just want to continue doing what I love to do, and hopefully keep getting better at it. At the conference, I often felt like something was wrong with me because I wasn’t chasing the ubiquitous “Book Deal”, running around with a 10 lb camera strapped to my neck and tweeting like mad. Silly me! I just wanted to relax, meet some nice people and try to learn a few things.

  25. Maria – Thanks for your comment! Wish you could have been there, too!

    The Rowdy Chowgirl – It was great to meet you, too! Thanks for your comment

    Susan – I know the exact feeling you are referring to… There were times where I felt a bit guilty for not being 110% excited about everything, and that’s exactly why I wrote this post!

    The Italian Dish – Thanks for your comment!

    Steph – Thanks!

  26. Great post! It’s nice to hear someone else voice displeasure over the thought of having key words run your life. I cannot imagine writing like that. My posts would become inauthentic and contrived and I can’t imagine anyone WANTING to read that kind of crap! So hey, I’m GLAD that’s not you. I hope I’m able to get to one of these conferences in the near future and see you again! XOXO

  27. Your blog is a definite success Jen. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Thanks for staying true to yourself and delighting us day after day with your amazing foodie posts.

  28. Jen….I love this post! Sometimes hearing what I *should* be doing makes me nervous and second guess what I *am* doing. Heck, I’m still using blogger, with a blogspot address and that’s the biggest no-no ever, right?

    Your post made me breathe a little deeper and feel ok with what my blog is…and isn’t.

  29. Well put! I can’t stand reading a blog that is tripping over itself to mention keywords and spewing a bunch of fake SEO blather. *shudders* To me, blogging about is writing about what you love – and not letting anyone tell you what to write, what to cook, or what to photograph. It’s one of the few instances where we hold all the power over our creative expression.

  30. I think we all had “that’s just not me” moments at the IFBC (or any other food blogging conference, for that matter). And, as others have pointed out, there’s room for all kinds of voices and perspectives and even reasons for blogging about food in the first place.

    Good for you, Jen, for getting this discussion going with your honest take on the weekend.