Today’s entry in the Writer Chats series comes from the Los Angeles-based mom and writer who cultivates the beautifully photographed, inspiring blog, French Foodie Baby. Helene’s posts are filled with real-food-focused recipes, often with photos of her adorable son, Pablo, and I have to tell you, as I’ve told her, that she is one of the top bloggers with whom I would like someday to spend some offline time. From her perspective on food to her series of transparent menu plans for her growing son, Helene is a treasure. Below are her thoughts on what writing has looked like for her.
When I started reading this Writer Chats Series, I must admit I felt a bit envious. Of writers talking about how they cannot live without writing, how they love it and can’t imagine not doing it. I wish that were my case, and perhaps I’m getting there. But mostly, I have had a love/hate dysfunctional long-distance relationship with writing for many years.
I always felt like I had so much to express, and yet felt blocked by the daunting blank page, using the busyness of daily life to keep me away from the blank page. But some guilt and regret lingered, and the blank page kept beckoning somehow.
I started a writing workshop some years ago and it felt like I was on the right path. It was hard, I felt insecure and anxious, but with encouragement from the group, I kept at it. I almost finished a screenplay.
Then my best friend died. And the pages just blew away from my life for many years.
It just felt like life—the issues that preoccupy us, who we are—is so changing, in constant flux. And if so, then how can one put even one word down? If it is to be meaningless, or irrelevant, the next day? I felt like I needed to make sense of life to start writing. I wanted to paint the forest, and I could only see a few trees.
Also, all these years, I had expected to get things right the first time, as a precondition of worthiness. I didn’t want to write, I wanted to have written something good. And if I had any talent, I expected to just write brilliantly from the get-go. So I didn’t write.
Last year, the stars in my life lined up in a way to help me learn a most valuable lesson. I started to reclaim my life in a way, and began a food blog, in part inspired by this great post.
Parenting, cooking, blogging made me realize the importance of the process. The journey. Whatever we call it. The doing. Life is in the doing.
So it dawned on me: forget the forest, write about
the plate tree right in front of me. Write without expectations. Write as truly and genuinely as possible. Trust yourself and the process. And somehow, it will come together. I started to take great (non-judgmental) interest in the writing process, the trial and errors, the inspirations and the struggles, rather than focus on the end result. I also have my two-year-old son to thank for that lesson he demonstrated one afternoon, when after patiently struggling with a puzzle for quite some time, he immediately proceeded to take it apart to start over. The result was uninteresting to him. The process was the juicy part.
A couple of weeks ago, I sat down to write a new post, and for the first time, I actually looked forward to the process of writing. I trusted the process completely and knew somehow after a couple of hours, something would be on the page. So I didn’t worry about the end result. For the first time, writing was thoroughly enjoyable. No small victory after the tempestuous relationship I have had with the blank page.
Before, writing was like running around anxiously through the forest, trying to figure out where I was going, what it looked like from above, where other people had walked, being very lost in a way.
Now, writing feels like standing quietly, grounded, in the middle of the forest. I look around me and let it resonate within myself. And I listen. What I hear is my long lost writing voice.
Editor’s Note: Wasn’t that good? Special thanks to Helene for contributing here! For the rest of you, we are still accepting submissions for this series. You don’t need to be a blogger to contribute; you just need to have something to say about what it means to write or what the writing process looks like for you.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.