By September 14, 2012 7 Comments Read More →

Lasagna With a Side of Advice

I became a writer because of lasagna. Some people have stories of being heavily impacted by a book they read as a child. Others will tell you that they felt a calling to put words to paper the first time they held a pen. I discovered my passion because of baked noodles.

I loved writing growing up, and was one of those annoying kids who enjoyed diagramming sentences. I thought of writing as a form of art: the artist was the author, and the medium was words. I wanted to be a person who shared their words with the world, but didn’t think I had the chops for it. My vision always included thick glasses, a lot of brooding, referencing Kafka in conversation, and the kind of writing which brought people to their knees. I was someone who had barely figured out how to stop eating paste. (FYI: teachers really hate that.)

My freshman year of college I had an English professor who assigned us to write about any food of our choice. We needed to describe the way it tasted, smelled, looked and so on. “I can’t believe they pay this guy to ask us to give him ideas for dinner.” I struggled with the task, but eventually decided it would be fun to write about lasagna from Garfield’s perspective. I was surprised when my professor pulled me aside a few days later, and told me I had a future as a writer. “Oh, this is why they pay him the big bucks- he has impeccable taste.”

I had found my voice; I would be the person who made people laugh.

Fast forward a few years, and the internet became a handy platform for writers. I stumbled across a site which allowed anyone to post content; additionally, everyone had the opportunity to network with, and receive feedback from, the other writers. I wrote from the heart (as opposed to my preconceived notion of “good writing”) and was taken aback by the support I received from others. My beginning pieces were really rudimentary (seriously, they make me cringe when I read them now) but I still value that I wrote in my own style.

My goal now is to amuse people, and give them that moment of, “Wow, I can totally relate to that.” This isn’t to say I’ve thrown caution to the wind, and just write anything that comes to my head. I won’t make fat, mentally handicapped or gay jokes. I try to avoid cursing, or being overly vulgar unless it’s to make a point. I won’t tell stories about friends or family members if I haven’t gotten their approval first. I try to be honest, but not mean.

I needed a place to put my articles so I decided to create a blog through WordPress. I think the biggest misconception is that you need to be a tech wizard to create a blog, and that simply isn’t true. There are so many user-friendly platforms to choose from, and websites like this one which help you navigate the murky waters of writing on the internet.

Once you have the blog up and running the first thing you need to do is network; other bloggers are your biggest allies. It seems counterintuitive because wouldn’t we be competing for the attention of the same pool of readers? No; in fact, your best bet is to align yourself with people who write in the same tone and style as you. If they post about you on Facebook or Twitter, they are promoting you to your target audience.

While some competition exists between bloggers, the majority of the people I’ve met are enduringly supportive people. They know how much time and effort it takes to come up with, and post, fresh content on a regular basis. The new bloggers are in the same boat as you, and are eager to cross-promote. The established ones remember what it was like when they just started, and the excitement of getting a new subscriber.

Is it all sunshine and rainbows? No. I’ve gotten messages from people who tell me they think I suck. There are days when I have intense writer’s block, and can’t write even one sentence. There are times when I want to commit computer homicide after my laptop shuts down and erases the last half hour worth of work. Sometimes my regular job is so taxing that I don’t have energy left over for my blog.

And? That’s the question I ask myself when things get tough. My only alternative is to quit writing, and that’s just not something I’m willing to do. I kick myself in the pants and keep going.

If I was to only offer up one piece of advice to bloggers out there, it would be to remember that there isn’t a blueprint to blogging. You don’t have to post multiple times a week. You don’t have to write serious political pieces. You don’t have to post on every social media site out there. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open to inspiration because you never know when a piece of lasagna will be lying around.


This piece originally published on Crunchy Data as part of a series on advice for new bloggers. 

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About the Author:

Jen and Tonic was classically trained in the art of guzzling a beer in less than fifteen seconds. She is single-handedly responsible for creating the David Hasselhoff empire, and destroying Dustin Diamond’s career.
On the weekend she enjoys wearing pants with elastic in the waist, arm wrestling small children, and skinny dipping in her neighbors’ bathtubs when they’re not home. She has struggled for years with being overly badass, and scientists are currently studying her in an effort to figure out how one person can be so awesome. View My Profile

  • Oh Jen I wish I had known you when I started. The idea of moving my blog is daunting, but I do want to find my audience. I love this, and truly one of the things I love most about your writing is your candor. Bill is right, you are like a reality show. I do live vicariously through your words, and I find your humor refreshing. I try to be somewhat funny because I think humor not only makes serious things more palatable but we all need to laugh, and truly we don’t laugh enough. 🙂 So nice to see an article from you. Awesome done.

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    • Don’t be overwhelmed by moving your blog! It is a big-ish task to take on, but it’s totally doable. I am confident you could do it.

      Thank you so much for your lovely compliments, it really means a lot! I’ve worked hard to put myself out there in a way that is both scary for me, and fun for everyone else. You just gotta have fun in life!

      Oh, and your attitude about using humor to diffuse the seriousness of life is the right approach. I don’t know what my life would be like without laughter.

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  • Ah I have read this wonderful piece by you on the other site when you published it!! I absolutely love the way you write, your humor and you as a person and it’s so cool how something as simple as lasagna started it all 🙂 You never know what element in life will push you into the direction of your dreams huh?

    I never heard of WordPress when I started at Blogger. Starting a blog really was a spur in the moment thing and I needed a creative outlet like right that minute so I could cope with my thesis. The blog that decided me to start one of my own was on Blogger, so I went with that. However the last couple of weeks (months) I noticed that I’ve been on Blogger long enough to realize that it isn’t good enough for what I want to show to the world.

    Also I completely agree that laughter makes a looooooot, if not everything, better. I get the giggles quite easily though haha. Oh! And let’s not forget silly dancing!

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    • Yeah, you are definitely at a point when you need a WordPress site. I’m so excited that you’ve grown so much that you need something beyond what you have now. It’s such an exciting time for you 🙂

      And yeah, laughter really IS the answer to everything in life. If you can laugh about it, you can get through it.

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  • Jen, as you are a seasoned WordPress user and think it’s the dog’s bollocks, how about an article on the pros and cons of blogger vs wordpress, would be interested to learn more about it.

    By the way, if anyone tells you you suck send them to me and i’ll be happy to give them a Glasgow kiss..even though i’m not from Glasgow.

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  • Lasagna? That can inspire anyone! 🙂 My story is similar to yours. I loved writing, but I always thought that to be a writer you had to be so literary. The thought of sitting around in an ascots, sipping cognac and quoting Joyce Carol Oates to a small circle of friends wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. It wasn’t until much later that I realized there was more than one way to write. I really love what I do — as well as the friends who write alongside me in the blogging world. You’re one of them!

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