I’ve returned with a more attractive website, and this is why I was gone

by Ben on January 27, 2013 · 31 comments

in Essay, Index

I suppose you’re wondering what I’ve been doing since December 2011, when I made you those delicious Chilean Sea Pancakes. Perhaps I had died, or mistakenly thought I resided in some alternate universe where food blogs publish roughly 100 times less frequently than they do here. For better or worse, neither of those things is the case. Normally, I would have simply ignored my hiatus/sabbatical and launched into some poignant narrative about a potsticker I ate when I was 7. But I believe there are about a dozen of you who have been faithfully holding the mirror up my blog’s nose every once in a while to check for fog. And I feel like I owe you an explanation.

This website was born out of curiosity. Is it sustainable? Can I turn it into something? Can I do better? At the beginning of this blog, and through most of my life, actually, my favorite and best writing just happened. Words came out of me. I felt as if I were sitting across the room from myself, watching this gangly, bald man write. I found, though, that the more people started to notice what I was doing here, the more slowly the words would flow. I naively thought that I was close to turning my time-consuming hobby into a difficult career, and that in order to take the next step, I’d have to turn my blog into something else. But what? I wanted desperately to get things exactly right, and as a result, did nothing at all.

The first couple months of not posting were the hardest. I was terrified of losing relevance, equity, everything that I had worked hard to build. But it went by, and predictably, the world didn’t end. Another month went by, and then another. It got to the point where it’s now awkward to explain the concept of my blog to people who ask about it. I immediately have to point out that, no I haven’t actually been blogging lately and I feel vaguely guilty about it but I have Big Plans.

But you know? It’s also been kinda nice. It’s nice not going through the motions. It’s nice not to measure myself against standards I don’t necessarily agree with. And it’s really nice to cook. Ironically, I do that a lot more now. Not to develop recipes, or evoke some childhood memory. Just to cook. To feed my family. To enjoy making something. To relax.

In the meantime, I left science and started working in digital media. In doing so, I learned an awful lot about what makes publishers successful, some of which I may share with you here. The most important thing I learned is that it makes no difference whether you’re a conventionalist or a rebel if only a few thousand people are reading your blog. By saying that, I don’t mean it shouldn’t make a difference to you. I mean in the sense of trying to take the next step, earn some money, attract partners–you can’t start a business conversation with a blog of this size. It’s more important to go do awesome things and continue developing an audience. That’s the kind of cold-hearted, yet liberating reality that most people will not share with you.

I’m writing this because I miss you guys, and I miss thinking of my blog as a place to play. I want this to be fun again. I’m not trying to write a cookbook, land a column, be on TV, or otherwise go pro. I want to make things that I think are awesome, and I want to share them with you. I hope you’ll want to read them, even if they are not all about food.

Love,
Babychili

P.S. If you’ve been checking in, you’ve probably noticed that we’re changing the way the site looks. I wanted to build something cleaner and more beautiful, emphasizing words above all else. I think Amy Kim has done just that. There is some tweaking left to do, but what you’re seeing is most of the way there. I’d love to hear what you think.

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31 comments… read them below or add one

merry jennifer January 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm

I, for one, am very glad that you’ve written here again. I completely get this part: “I found, though, that the more people started to notice what I was doing here, the more slowly the words would flow.” I’ve been having the same issues, and my postings have trailed off, all because I feel there are now expectations, both external and self-imposed.

Glad you’re cooking, even more glad that you’re writing.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:50 pm

Thanks, Merry-Jennifer. I had a feeling another blogger could relate. Fortunately, you’ve managed to post more often than once a year! :)

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Laura January 27, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Hooray! You’re back!

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:51 pm

I am. Hopefully for a long time!

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Angela January 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm

Beautiful post. It’s so good to see you writing again.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:52 pm

Thanks so much, Angela. It means a lot to me that you’ve tuned in.

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Liren January 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I know I’m not the only one who has missed your posts and was thrilled to see that you are back, all shiny and new. Welcome back :) I’m glad you had the liberation of a sabbatical and that you are writing again; sometimes it’s best to step away, and to return renewed.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Thank you, Liren! Yes, it definitely gave me quite a different perspective to step back a bit. I’m very excited to be writing again.

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anneliesz January 27, 2013 at 4:39 pm

It takes cajones to open up about the other side of blogging and thrust yourself back into the process. Thinking about blogging for a cookbook deal, TV spot or column are worthwhile endeavors but not the reason to start a blog. What that seems to develop is an acute sense of always being on spotlight or better yet what I call the Bravo TV formula for blogging. Frankly, it can get boring and so very, very competitive. I, for one, am all about the playfulness of the space that you have created and that you get to envision for yourself. It’s something I try to hold myself to- do I enjoy this space of a blog I’ve created? Does it bring me joy? I think these need to come first and whatever else is to follow will come. This is your online playground and we are just fellow players in the sandbox. Welcome back Ben.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

Those are great questions, and I couldn’t have phrased them better, myself. Thanks.

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Irvin @ Eat the Love January 27, 2013 at 4:49 pm

Welcome back Ben.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Thanks, Irvin. Looking forward to our panel!

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Marie January 27, 2013 at 5:32 pm

So happy you’re back Ben. I know many of us missed your voice, and I’m looking forward to see you writing for fun again. Oh, and writing about what you learned since your career switch to digital media is a great idea!

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Merci, Marie! I’m looking forward to writing more, and that feels good.

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Oliver January 27, 2013 at 5:54 pm

I am looking forward to reading more of your wonderful prose again, Ben!

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 5:59 pm

Thanks, Oliver. And congratulations on your zine!

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Jean January 27, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Welcome back, Ben. I think a lot of people are happy for your return, me included. Amy did a very nice job on your new space–I like it! Looking forward to reading more of your writing and to seeing some of the food you’ve been cooking up. :)

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 11:46 pm

Thanks, Jean. It makes me happy to see old friends commenting here. :) And yes, Amy did a fantastic job.

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Dianne Jacob January 27, 2013 at 6:14 pm

Yay! There’s life here once again. I’m so glad to read this, Ben. I’ve checked back several times since you took a break. Looking forward to your forthcoming posts.

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Ben January 27, 2013 at 11:58 pm

Dianne, I’m glad to write it. I’d been resisting writing without a plan, but I think this is the best way. Hope to see you around soon.

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Donalyn January 28, 2013 at 6:21 am

So glad to read this and can’t wait to see how things go for you. I’m in the midst of re-purposing my blog [and kinda, myself], so I understand your thought process. It’s important to be relevant to your readers, but even more so, to stay relevant to yourself.

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Jen @ Tiny Urban Kitchen January 28, 2013 at 9:27 am

Wow, welcome back! It’s great to hear your voice again, and I’m really looking to hearing insights from what you’ve learned from your “time off.”

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Danielle January 28, 2013 at 10:32 am

Funny how the notion of one’s growing online audience leads to more paralysis instead of more creativity huh? I’m with you on that.

Reading this reminded me of why I enjoy those few blogs I that I’ve been following for years – it’s all in the writing, less so the pictures and very rarely about the recipes. Welcome back Ben, looking forward to more BabyChili goodness!

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amar January 28, 2013 at 10:35 am

i went thru the whole process of losing touch w/ my blog after kid #2… keep in mind i had been doing it continuously for 12 years, this wasn’t some ‘blog 3 entries and then give up’ type deal. it still bums me out sometimes that i don’t write so much anymore but it’s just something you come to terms w/ as a parent. anyway i hope you keep the fire burning cos somebody gots to

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Kelly January 28, 2013 at 11:13 am

Yours is one of the blogs that I most enjoyed reading. I was so happy to get a little message in my email saying that you had a little missive to share. I read your post wistfully and I’m making the same calculations about wanting to do more cooking and less jabbering about cooking, and about letting some of the satellite issues of blogging just blow away and enjoy what it was supposed to be in the first place…a place to share and write. I’m so glad to see your name pop into my inbox again. Hooray for more Babychili!

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Vickie Martin January 28, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I love to read blogs that have an easy conversational quality – sometimes those are hard to find. You have that and I love to read what you talk about. However often or little you care to do it and share the wonderful things you enjoy cooking. Thank you for thinking of us.

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Kathleen Flinn January 28, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Hurray! So glad to see you writing. I went through a “what is my blog, anyway” phase for about two years and randomly posted stuff. I finally decided that my author blog couldn’t be all things to all people. I wasn’t interested in turning it into a food blog because while I write about food, I also plan to write books about other things in the future. So I started my new site (http://cookfearless.com) where I can blatantly write about stuff I care about, like what you shouldn’t put knives in the dishwasher and you ought to know the B.S. on nutritional labels. It’s been liberating to find that identity, and to reclaim my own blog for work that’s more focused on writing and being an author. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I’m glad you’re back.

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Shari February 4, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Glad you returned as your thoughtful self, and not as a persona. Perhaps sincere blogging is a vote for honesty and conversation! Not much from us lately, but there will be again, and all that wonderful history and content is there.
You’re still linked on my blog!
Cheers!
from “Urban View”

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Tunde March 4, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Welcome back Ben..It will be great to read your latest musings. Taking a break is needed once in a while without the pressure of being a recipe mill.

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Gina March 23, 2013 at 1:09 pm

Your voice was missed. I’m moving folks around due to the fact I’m a technical dumb bunny and I think I lost most people when I moved from google reader to feedly. I probably should never be put in charge of government secrets. Cookies and jam I can handle!
-Gina-

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Chandara Creative April 12, 2013 at 1:03 am

I think we left and resurrected our blogs at the same time!! Formerly Spicy Green Mango, I, too, wanted something more clean and grown up. Glad to know I have a kindred spirit! Loved your writing way back when..still do. Looking forward to more great stuff.

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