Writer Chats, Part V: What Writing Means to Me

Here we are with week five of our Writer Chats series, which comes from Lan Pham of More Stomach. Lan was one of my first blog friends many years ago—She is likely one of five or so people who’s seen almost every post here, and she’s been blogging in her own spaces the whole time, too. In April, Tim and I had the pleasure of sitting down to lunch with her and her fiancé, at which point she brought us presents (books! the best kind of gifts!). Here in this post, she talks about what writing means to her.


I remember the first time I received an A on a writing assignment. I was in 2nd grade. The assignment was to use the week’s vocabulary words in a story. I can’t recall what the words were, or even what the story was about, but I vividly remember the heady feeling of seeing that red A on my paper and Mrs. Baker’s beaming face when she handed it to me. I was hooked.

In the ensuing years my education career had a decided leaning towards the written word. Something about stringing words together to create sentences, thereby putting down on paper stories, thoughts, and dreams spoke to me.

As you can imagine, reading was also a passion of mine, so much so that my parents had to put a limit on how much I could read. I used to sneak around with a book hiding under my shirt. I skipped class not to hang out with friends, but to read. I wrote too, I had journal pages filled in messy cursive, long handwritten letters to pen pals, and in a time when home computers was not the norm, I wrote my papers by hand.

My writing isn’t consistent though. It’s usually influenced by who I’m reading at the time. I went through a phase where I wrote in run on sentences, similar to how I speak, and to the Terry McMillan books I devoured in 10th grade. I read haikus for long stretches of time one year and fragmented sentences were my go-to. I don’t write in purple prose, nor do I think I write particularly lovely. There isn’t a specific genre of writing that I hold most dear. It’s what I’m reading that I write like most.

For a while I thought writing was my forte, my calling. So I put down the books and focused on the writing. Can I just say: my writing suffered? It stagnated; it would start in fits and end with a disgruntled awkwardness. That’s when I came to understand that there is no writing without reading, as there is no reading without writing. Seems common sense doesn’t it? But for me, it was a revelation. In this day & age, where we are in constant competition to come up with new ways to create a dish, to style a dress, and yes, new ways to write, we lose the fact that everything is inspired or influenced by something else and to lose that is to lose the other.

So for now, I read about food, therefore, I write about food.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Lan for contributing this post! We love hearing her story, just as we’d love to hear some of your personal thoughts on writing—why you do it, what you’ve learned about it, what it means to you—too. If reading this post gets your own wheels turning, please leave a comment below!

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.

13 thoughts on “Writer Chats, Part V: What Writing Means to Me”

  1. Such great insights here – I was talking about something similar with one of my colleagues the other day and about how crucially important reading is if you want to be able to write.

    • I couldn’t agree more! I’ve heard from so many writers that regularly reading quality work is a major source of inspiration. (Hence why I love so many blogs… like yours!)

  2. I’ve been watching Lan evolve as a writer for what seems like ages – ever amazed at her ability to get better and better. And don’t get me started on her photography… She’s absolutely lovely.

  3. Lan! So absolutely loved reading about your journey as a writer! And even though I’ve only been following your blog for a couple of months now, I love the haiku-influenced writing that always graces your site, not to mention the incredibly moodily beautiful pictures that are so distinctly yours.

    Thanks for sharing the importance of how our reading habits influence our writing – you’re absolutely right. No good writing can come about without good sources of reading – the greater our input, the greater our output! My writing is like a mish-mash of all that I read too, so I completely get what you mean! 🙂

    keep on writing, reading & creating for our all pleasure! and thanks Shanna for featuring Lan! 🙂 Have a beautiful week you two!

  4. Such a great series, Shanna.

    “That’s when I came to understand that there is no writing without reading, as there is no reading without writing.” I think we all resonated with Lan’s line. I find that all the modern gadgetry pulls me away from the quietude of a good book, and it can often be a struggle to get and stay absorbed. (This is why having a wifi-connected e-reader is a blessing and a curse.) But once the story locks me in, I’m so grateful for the experience. (Grateful, too, that both my kids are BIG readers.)

    • Cheryl, Hi! I’m always so happy to see your name here. So much truth in what you wrote — and PS I love that your kids love to read.


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