November 13, 2008
molly wizenberg : artists who blog
I'm so excited about this week's guest : Molly from the Orangette blog. Orangette is a blog that many of you have cited as one of your absolute favorites, and Molly has a unique way of intertwining glorious food photographs with delectable food writing. I find Orangette to be a real crossover blog - uniting art, food, text, and the senses. Enjoy and imagine the smells and tastes of her photographs as you are inspired by her text.
Why did you decide to start a blog?
I guess the simplest answer is that I wanted to write about food. At the time that I started the blog, I had just – literally, days before – decided to quit graduate school, so that was a major catalyst. I have loved to write since I was a kid, and I love to cook, but I had never tried to do either in any serious way. I had always been scared to, to tell you the truth. When I was growing up, people would often ask if I wanted to be a writer, and I would shake my head emphatically, saying that I would never even dream of it, that trying to depend on my creativity for a living would probably crush any inspiration I had ever had. I really believed that. But here I was, in my mid-twenties, not liking graduate school or the path it was leading me down, and I wanted to do something different. I sort of told myself, "Listen, if you're going to take this huge risk by leaving grad school, you have to make it worthwhile. You have to do something you REALLY want to do, even if you don't know exactly how." That something, of course, was writing - and, more specifically, food writing. A journalist friend of mine suggested that I start a blog, that it would force me to write regularly and might help me figure out what to do next. So I started my site.
At first, I was so happy to be writing that I hardly even cared what became of it. I was absolutely ecstatic about coming home at the end of the day and having a real reason to write. And eventually, the more I wrote, the more I got a feel for the type of writing that felt most comfortable, and most engaging, to me. I discovered that, most often, what interests me about food isn't really the food: it's the story, or the context, or the feeling, that comes with food. That's what I like to write about - the stories that food "tells." So that's what Orangette is, I'd say - a collection of those stories.
How did you come up with the name of your blog?
On the day that I sat down to set up my blog, I happened to have a bag of orangettes – chocolate-dipped candied orange rinds – on my desk. I had some other blog names in mind, but they were taken, so I wound up naming it Orangette, after those chocolates.
How has blogging effected your work as an artist/designer?
On the most basic level, the mere fact of having to write on a regular basis was huge for me. Huge. I had never made myself do that before. I had always sort of sat around, waiting for the muses, or whatever. The blog changed all that by forcing me to produce. It sounds kind of nasty – certainly unromantic! – to say it that way, but it's been incredibly good for me. The blog is a terrific form of discipline. For as much as I love to write, actually sitting down to work is hard for me. Each day that I have an assignment due, I wake up with more dread than I would like to admit. But the blog has taught me that if I can just make myself get started, the weight will begin to dissipate and, eventually, what seemed so difficult turns out to feel like fun. It's kind of magic. It has shown me that I can write, and enjoy writing, even when I didn't want to. That's been a tremendous lesson.
And that – both the lesson and the blog itself – allowed me to start dreaming, in earnest, about becoming a full-time writer. In early 2006, about a year and a half into the blog, I started thinking about writing a book. There were a few bumps in the road – including an agent who told me that I couldn't get published unless I was a TV celebrity; needless to say, she's not my agent now! – but that fall, I got a book deal with Simon & Schuster. I had a full-time job then, a job I took when I left graduate school, and I gave them two months' notice before leaving in January of 2007 to write my book and freelance. I finished the book in December of 2007, and it will be published this coming March. I still can't believe that I did it. Pretty crazy, really. Every now and then, my old teenage self sort of freaks out, going, What are you DOING? What if you run out of ideas? What if you can't get work? What if, what if, what if? But I try not to listen.
Oh, and one more thing: photography. Before I started a blog, I liked photography, but I had no real drive to take pictures myself. But the world of blogs (and Flickr!) exposed me to so many amazing images, and I fell head-over-heels in love. Now I see photography as an integral part of what I do. Writing will always be my primary thing, I think, but photography feels like a natural compliment to it. Seeing my life - my food, my table, myself - through the lens of a camera gives me so many ideas, so many new ways of framing my thoughts. Dorothea Lange famously said something like, "A camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." I know what she meant.
What are your favorite artist/designer blogs? Why?
There are too many to name! I am always drawn to blogs with beautiful photos, and particularly ones with very clean design. My very favorites, though, are usually the ones that make me daydream, that show me other ways to see my everyday life and other possibilities for how to live. Right this minute, two favorites that come to mind are smosch and the glass doorknob.
Why do you think blogs have now become so popular with artists and designers?
It's pretty wonderful to feel like a part of a community, and I think blogging does that for a lot of us. Creative work is often solitary work, but blogs provide a means for connecting, and for sharing inspiration. They're pretty amazing that way. I don't know where I would be without my blog.
Do you have any advice for artists/designers who are starting a blog?
Focus on what moves you, whatever that may be. Don't worry about whether or not your blog will be successful; you can't control that. Do it for yourself. I know that sounds cheesy, but I really mean it. When I started Orangette, I was absolutely giddy - giddy to be writing again, giddy to have an excuse to cook all the time, giddy to be doing something remotely creative. That feeling alone made blogging rewarding, in and of itself. The fact that people started to read and comment, and that the blog opened up a whole career path for me, was the icing on the cake.
What has been the most positive and inspirational aspect of having a blog for you?
The people I've met, for sure. They are, every last one of them, amazing. I cannot even begin to measure the amount of inspiration and courage that I get from them every day. I feel so grateful to be a part of this community.
Thank you, Molly, for merging food and art in a new poetic way, and for sharing your tales in and out of the kitchen. You continue to inspire us all!