Blog hop: Why do I write?

I’ve been invited by the lovely Elizabeth at Dig In to participate in a blog hop and answer the question: Why do I write? Well, why wouldn’t I? I’ve been writing since I was a child: creative writing was my favourite subject in primary school and I’d scribble away in my bedroom penning short stories, poems and a novel, once upon a time. I come from a family of scribes: my sister writes children’s books and my dad is a short story writer. I guess you could say it’s in the blood.

Somewhere along the track a pastime turned into a profession and I became a journalist. I spent my days surrounded by wordsmiths of the most wonderful kind. I’ve most recently turned my hand at media relations, but still write a regular column for a food magazine and review for various restaurant guides. Then there’s The Food Sage

What am I working on?

I’ve always got several things on the go, usually on Post-it notes in the car, scribbled in one of dozens of notebooks that are strewn around the house, or tapped straight into my iPhone. Note-taking is part of my psyche; it comes with the territory. If I see something beautiful, or unusual I jot down a couple of lines that describe it. I’ve had a piece in the works for a while about winter food. I started composing it in my mind on the long commute home one darkening winter night. I have less time to write these days, so the piece will likely remain unfinished, but it starts like this:

Bats catapult across the indigo sky, first a single shot, then dozens of black bodies in a streamlined, full wingspan formation. They’re dinner bound, and so am I.

Why does my writing differ from others in my genre?

The Food Sage has always been about the writing, unashamedly so. Unlike most food blogs which tend to showcase photography, recipes or restaurant reviews The Food Sage is platform for professional food writing.

Why do I write what I do?

The Food Sage has always been a place to write what I want, not what an editor commissioned. It’s a place to experiment with different writing styles. It’s also a place to write purely about food. If I want to write something whimsical about a bequest china tea set, a personal piss-take about solo dining, or a reflective piece about slaughtering a chicken, I do. I write to express my feelings.

How does my writing process work?

As soon as I strike an idea I jot down notes, so I don’t forget my train of thought. I might be sitting in traffic in the car, waiting in the queue for a coffee, or sitting on the couch at home. I write on whatever I have at hand – a Post-it note, the margin of a newspaper column, or I  type into my iPhone. I bash out a few rough paragraphs and don’t think about style, or grammar, being witty, or wry – I just write whatever comes into my head.

Sometimes I do this in bed. An idea might come to me as sleep and I toy with each other. I switch on the lamp and start scribbling away. Sometimes I get really engaged in this drafting process and the piece of paper is littered with arrows that re-order paragraphs, strike-outs, re-writes and numbered sentences which identify a change of order. No one else could possibly understand these annotated notes: it’s my own cryptic way of working. Sometimes I don’t understand them myself!

The next step is to type up my notes, reordering and re-writing as I go. I like to work in my study, which is at the back of the house, with lovely, large windows over-looking the garden. It’s a light, airy room – a contemplative space. I’ll watch birds bathing in the cat’s water bowl, the sun moving over the rooftop of the house behind, or rain pelting the windows as I ponder the appropriateness of particular words – often at length. Ridiculous length! This second draft is usually very thorough – though it may lack a final sentence. I always find it difficult to know how to sign off.

Where possible I leave the piece to prove, if you like. I’ll come back to it the following day, or some hours later at the very least, and cast a final, critical eye over it. This is when I tweak words, sentence structure and grammar – switching emphasis to where it works best. I get immense satisfaction from perfecting a sentence, or making a structural or grammatical change that lifts my writing a notch. Hopefully, I’ll nail that final sentence. After that, my job is done. I hit publish (if it’s a blog post), or package it in an email to an editor (if it’s a freelance article). Then the note-taking starts again.

I often ask myself why I bother to blog, what with all the time constraints and commuting. Writing this has helped me understand why I do.

Part of this blog hop was to point to other writers – someone whose work I admire. The work of Ambra Sancin sprang immediately to mind. Ambra is the brains behind the wonderfully witty and well-scribed blog The Good, the Bad and the Italian. Ambra’s work is loaded with family anecdotes: like the times in the 1960s when her migrant parents used to row across Parramatta River, with Ambra in tow, to “mussel HQ” … the enormous wooden pylons around the shipbuilding facilities of Cockatoo Island.

“No lifejackets, sunscreen, water – just hessian sacks for the haul.”

Ambra’s work, littered with references to the arts, always brings a smile to my face. It’s a breath of fresh air, in the weird and wonderful world of blogging. Enjoy!

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14 Comments

Filed under Reflections

14 responses to “Blog hop: Why do I write?

  1. If I were Sally Field, I’d say “You like me, right now, you really like me”. (Academy Awards, 1984). But I’m not, so I’ll just say “I’m humbled”. Thanks so much Rachel. I guess it’s my turn now … gulp.

  2. I can totally relate to all that you have said. Great post!

  3. after reading this, FS, i am so glad you accepted my invitation! it is fascinating to read about your process – i now imagine a woman surrounded by scribbled notes and notebooks to catch the thoughts. so insightful on many wonderful levels.
    i enjoyed what you said about the final sentence. when it works, that’s when i surprise myself (in a good way): ‘well, how did i arrive here?!” but sometimes last sentences (and first ones) are the hardest to get out.
    Can’t wait to see where the bat sentence takes you :-) i’m off to check out ambra.

  4. Liz Posmyk of Bizzy Lizzy's Good Things

    Rachel, I’ve very much enjoyed reading this. I’m off to say hello to Ambra too!

  5. It is your writing that brings me back again and again. I can see you in the middle of the night scribbling and then sighing with satisfaction as you nestle under the covers again.

  6. Lovely insight into what makes you tick – and write! :)

  7. Hi Rachel, It’s a rare treat to read good writing on the Internet, but you’ve encapsulated your love of the craft beautifully. (PS We should exchange blog roll links!)

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