Friday, December 18, 2009

One Year Anniversary: A Retrospective

I can't believe it has already been one year since I started writing and posting on Exploring Food My Way. What started out as a venue for me to talk about bread-related topics (which is where the Breads My Way blog originated), the tone and focus of the topics has ranged from eating to cooking to baking and even silly odes to my grandmother's green fluff. In the short year that I have been writing, I have been shocked and thrilled at the number of people I have met both on-line and, more amazingly, in person. Had someone told me that a by-product of writing a blog is meeting people, I wouldn't have believed them. I do now.

I look back at the first handful of write-ups that I did when I first posted and realize how much my writing style has changed over the course of just one short year. It seems obvious that one's style improves with practice, but I think there was a bigger Eureka! moment for me which occurred about three months into writing the blog. That shift was the discovery of you, gentle reader. What started out for me as more of an on-line journal I figured that only a few of my friends or family members would bother to read, morphed into the realization that a public blog that was searchable by any number of Internet search engines will bring in readers from all over the world.

To say that I changed how I wrote because I discovered that people were reading what I had to say is a truth, albeit a half-truth. I think what really happened, and continues to happen to this day, is that my writing is driven not specifically for my readers, but with the readers always in the back of my head. I wanted to make sure that I continued to post high quality, well written and edited pieces that not only informed people about the culinary world around them, but also entertained at the same time. What better way to drive home the point of a good story than with a laugh or two, right?

One of other interesting things I've learned from writing a blog for a year is the consistent effort you need to make to always come up with fresh ideas and new perspectives. What turned out to be just another weekend out at "The Lake" with my friends ended up with The Best Canned Corn You Will Ever Eat. An invitation to my friend Nancy's Passover and Rosh Hashanah celebrations resulted in some of the best photo-driven documentation stories that it was my honor and privilege to write about. I honestly thought by this point, I would be getting tired of doing this and I would've let it fall by the wayside. I've kept journals and blogs before, and while I was always gung-ho when I started, after I filled the void that writing gives me, the entries would gradually taper off and finally just stop.

Writing about food has been different though. Every time I thought I might have writer's block, I just sat down, tuned out my entire environment, and just started writing. Sometimes I would have to go back and rewrite entire sections of a post to get the right tone. Other times, like in my entry on my late Grandpa, it was as if the entire post had already written itself in my head and I was simply taking dictation as the words flowed freely from my brain to the keyboard. As I've pointed out here before, what I do here on Exploring Foods isn't rocket science. I don't hold a special degree, I haven't taken a special "blogger" class, and I don't think that my viewpoint is any more valid than anyone else's. What I do have is passion. Passion for food, passion for finding others who are passionate about food, and passion for writing about my experiences, be they good or bad.

I won't bother you with a recitation of statistics; that would be boring and silly and the only person who cares about that is me. I would like to point out, however, that since I started keeping track of my page loads at the end of April 2009, I have seen traffic quadruple in the last eight months. Some readers are of the one-time drive-by variety, directed to my blog by a Google search. Others find my blog through a link on another site or through a search engine and discover a connection to something they read. I always love to log into my statistics software to discover someone new who felt compelled to read the last forty entries that I've posted as they sit in front of their computer for hours on end. It is a real high for me because I feel like what I have written has really connected with them. At the same time, I get that my writing style isn't for everyone and I'm okay with the one-timers, too.

I want to thank all of my readers, whether you are a one-timer or a returning visitor. Granted, I think I would've continued to write and post even if I didn't know about any of you, but you have made this adventure that much more fun. The exposure I've gotten as a result of the blog has allowed me to meet many wonderful new people in my life and experience several food opportunities I might not have gotten otherwise.

As an anniversary present to myself, I had a longtime friend of mine who has helped me in the past with PR and Marketing, design a business card for Exploring Food My Way. I found that when I am out in the real world and people discover that I write about food, many are interested in checking it out for themselves. Unfortunately, expecting people to remember the web address for this site is unrealistic. So, with my friend Jayni's help, she assisted me in focusing my vision for the new business cards. Here is the final version:


If we happen to run into each other sometime soon, feel free to ask me for your very own card; I'll be happy to give you one (or five) to help spread the word. Thanks for your continued readership and I'm looking forward to another successful year here at Exploring Food My Way!

10 comments:

Mahala said...

Tom, congratulations on your anniversary! I thoroughly enjoy your blog and trust your palate to introduce me to new and worthy restaurants in NE Ohio. Among my friends I am known to try every new and interesting restaurant that I hear of and I am frequently asked for my opinion about them. Your assessment of so many restaurants is saving me time, money and calories. If you don't like it, I won't bother. And I admire your fairness and the gentle tenor of your comments. You are very kind and try to find what's good about your dining experience, while being honest about any of the negatives. So I wish you increased traffic and happy eating in the blog-year to come.

Dine O Mite said...

Congratulations! It's always fun to look at the year in retrospect and see what worked and what didn't. What you thought was going to be popular versus what actually ended up BEING popular.

From where I initially started, I've actually found myself gravitating more toward the cooking stuff and doing fewer and fewer restaurant reviews. It's just funny how your focus can change in a relatively short period of time.

Good luck in year II.

MikeV @ DadCooksDinner said...

Congratulations, Tom! I love reading your blog, and I'm glad to hear that you're enjoying it as much as I am.

I can relate to what you have to say about effort. When I started, I didn't think I had a year's worth of posts in me. But, whenever I get stuck, something comes up, and I'm off and running. Now I don't have enough time to keep up with all the ideas.

Keep up the good work. I can't wait to read the next year's worth of posts!

Mike V
DadCooksDinner

FastestDogEver said...

Tom-

I am one of the ones that accidently came across your blog and read every entry in that first sitting. It was actually your Ermanno's post that I first came across, and from then I've been hooked! I love that so many of the places you've visited are ones that I grew up eating (New Baltimore Ice Cream, Swenson's, Strickland's), but, even more so I love your new suggestions.

Keep up an amazing job! Also, let me know when you come across some great sausage gravy - I'm not sure if it exists.

Tino said...

Thanks, everyone, for all of your supportive comments! I'm hoping that year two of Exploring Food will be not just as good, but better than the first year.

@FastestDogEver: When I find a place with a good sausage gravy, you'd better believe I'll be blogging about it. Any suggestions of places to try?

BONNIE K said...

Happy Anniversary, Tom! I've been following you for a while now - don't even know how I found you - but I greatly enjoy all your posts. Especially the one about the people in the restaurant getting on to your blog as you sat in the same restaurant waiting for your food! Keep up the good work! My only complaint is that you make it very hard to diet. But I suppose food-haters wouldn't be bothering with your blog.

livetocook said...

Congrats on the anniversary! I have long been a blog reader but never realized the level of effort that goes into maintaining a blog until I started my own last month. I hope I can write a similar post someday. Keep up the good work.

DianeS said...

Tom,

Congratulations on your first year!

You have really found your voice. I enjoy your writing style and the perspective you bring to your reviews. I also appreciate (as another poster mentioned) that you look for the good in each dining experience even when there are negatives to report.

Here's to many more years.

Diane

P.S. I love your tag line on the new cards.

FastestDogEver said...

@Tino

Ha, I wish I had some suggestions. The last place I was at made their SAUSAGE gravy with hamburger, and the place before that just added cut-up sausage links to a white gravy base.

Tino said...

@FastestDogEver: I'm gonna keep my eyes peeled for a good sausage gravy place. I thought I found a place in Orrville (the write-up will post a couple weeks from now), but the biscuits they served were ... for lack of a better word ... "weird". For me it's as much about the gravy as it is about the biscuits.

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