Seed & Water

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For Telling’s Sake pt. IV :: A Hundred Intangibles by Shanna Mallon

My friend Shanna is of the most refreshing type: the kind where you don’t even have to think about what to say and the kind that makes you feel totally inspired by simply being yourself. A real treasure, I love sharing a city with Shanna for all the book-swapping, lunch dates and conversations about the future, creativity and food. We share a handful of completely unrelated friends in common, and I have our blogs to thank for helping us find each other. (I also have her blog to thank for many-a-delicious real food recipes!)

For Telling’s Sake, is a net to catch the stories of people who inspire us and a place to hang the findings of how sharing life through blogs is a rich and meaningful experience—for sharers and readers.

As someone who’s been blogging at one space since 2008 and at a variety of other, now-retired spaces since four years before then, I’m going to be honest with you: Blogging isn’t always pretty. Every six months or so, I don’t want to do it anymore. I go through a period where I question the value, I compare myself to others, I think about income and stats and notoriety and I feel like I have nothing left to say. In fact, when my thoughtful blogging-turned-real-life friend Holly first told me about this new series here, sitting across from me in her charming Nashville living room while we ate her homemade blueberry scones on yellow-and-white plates and drank her tea, while I told her I loved the idea (almost as much as I’ve loved reading the beautiful entries it’s since produced!), I also told her I was pretty sure I couldn’t contribute. You want me to talk about what blogging’s meant to me, I told her, furrowing my brow, and the problem is, sometimes I don’t know.

Here’s what I do know: I started my food blog when I was 26. I wanted to write about my life, I wanted to remember my grandma and, mostly, I wanted to feel like something I was writing, unlike the real estate descriptions I wrote every day between nine and five, mattered to me. Although I come from a long line of cooking women, I still didn’t know much about food besides that I liked eating it, so I decided, on nights and weekends, to begin trying things out. Along the way, as I shared about the triumph of a golden peach cobbler and the defeat of a cake’s frosting going gray, I also wrote about my workdays and my life lessons and the way lilac bushes will always smell like my grandma’s house on Mother’s Day.

I met my first blog friend in person at a suburban strip-mall Thai restaurant in Naperville, Illinois. Jacqui and I talked for hours about our families and our work and hilarious facts like how she didn’t keep sugar on hand. Since then we’ve seen each other, and many other friends online, through engagements, weddings, new jobs, new moves, new experiences—mostly through the medium of computer screens. When I held a blog party on my site’s first anniversary, she was there, along with around four dozen other people, gathered together in a covered picnic area to eat barbecue chicken and salad with poppyseed dressing and trays and trays of cookies I’d baked. In the following years, when I traveled to new towns or states, I shared meals with dozens of friends who have turned out to share my passions or worldviews, each of whom I’d never have known without a blog. And in early 2010, I drove to Nashville with my coworker and met up with a blog connection who’d emailed me months earlier about a real-foods-focused lifestyle; that man’s since become my best friend and husband, as well as the person who helps me run the site today.

Blogging’s helped me quit my job and become a full-time freelance copywriter, buoyed in part by the connections and votes of confidence I found online. Blogging’s been a space to practice writing and a place to work out ideas or problems I don’t know how to face. Like Kathryn wrote in the last post in this series, blogging’s been a hundred “me too” responses, lights in dark times, friendship in loneliness. For many years, for me, blogging’s also been a safe place—somewhere I can be myself and know someone, out there, will think that’s okay.

It’s true that every six months or so, I don’t want to blog anymore. I think about the facts that blogging won’t pay our bills, blogging takes time and blogging is still so often misunderstood. I look at the competitive nature of food blogging and wonder if I should push for higher traffic or work to be noticed or simply throw in the towel.

But every six months or so, I don’t stop. And here’s, I think, why: Blogging has been God’s tool for giving me some of the most valuable blessings in my life. Through it, He has shone beautiful voices and beautiful creativity into my days. He’s brought me kindred spirits who rejoice and weep with me, wise voices who teach me, friendly voices who see me in my introverted, deep-thinking personality and don’t shy away. And over time, He’s used those relationships, along with the creative practice invested in blogging, to open my eyes to more of who He is and who He’s made be to be.

True, blogging rarely results in immediate, tangible benefits, the kind you can add to your pocketbook and count—but, in fact, what it gives is better still. Pour your heart out online, be honest and real and keep doing it, and there are a hundred intangibles, waiting to fall in your hands.

Read more from Shanna on her blog, Food Loves Writing. Plus, check out her book and her Etsy shop!

12 thoughts on “For Telling’s Sake pt. IV :: A Hundred Intangibles by Shanna Mallon

  1. Pingback: Guest Post at Seed + Water: A Hundred Intangibles | Food Loves Writing

  2. Beautiful thoughts, Shanna. I know well that feeling of competition, of trying to make a blog bigger and more “successful” – only to arrive at the conclusion that the true value is intangible yet priceless.

    Thankful for your words, both here and on your own blog on a regular basis.

  3. Shanna. Shanna! How blessed I am to know you and to call you friend. Even though we have never met in person, (because I attended the wrong college!) you have been so dear to me and I thank God, almost every time I think of you, for you.

    And Holly, thank you so. very. much. for the thought and heart behind this series!

  4. Oh I just love this post Shanna. I found your blog yesterday and it was one of those moments where you KNOW you have found a blog you won’t leave behind. I never grow tired of people who value food and community and writing and your words are so kindred. Thanks for sharing this Shanna :)

    • Oh, Maggy, that is my favorite compliment because it is exactly the way I so often feel about new blogs I find (like this one, Seed + Water!), which usually makes me keep reading and reading them. Thank you for your kind words.

  5. Shanna, this post is honest and beautiful, as every other post on your website. Yours is the very first food blog I have ever started following and kept on following over the past three years. While I love and appreciate beautiful pictures, great recipes and cookbooks of many other food blogs, I will always prefer a story that touches me to most amazing culinary work. For me, you’re one of the best writers out in the food blogging world and if I were to pick someone I would like to learn about writing and blogging from, it would definitely be you!

    P.S.Really glad you’re not giving in to those darker thoughts that always make us doubt ourselves and whatever we’re doing.

    • Wow, Adrianna, such grace in your words — thank you! I could not agree with you more about the value of a good story. I just heard Anne Lamott speak last night about the way we as humans have always, even when we’re small children, thrived around story. It’s so true. I love hearing about people’s lives and relationships and the way a chocolate cake sits alongside them. Yes. Thank you for reading and for commenting here!

  6. Your writing is always so genuine and to the core of things Shanna, I admire it very much. Thanks for the opportunity to discover this blog, I love this series. 9 months into the world of blogging, I am starting to grasp those intangibles you describe so well. Blogging seems worthwhile if we really give ourselves, and that is most certainly what you do in every one of your posts. Thank you for that.

    • Helene, I am so grateful for your blog friendship and for your reasoned, thoughtful voice in the blog world. You are a picture of grace. So thank you! -s

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