On Blogging: My Creative Process.
[As I’m working on my tenth year blogging, I’m finally writing about some of the process and sharing answers to the questions you’ve asked me over the years! You can find the posts right here on Crumbs through the rest of 2019.]
Hello hello!! I’m back with another blogging post and bringing you the answers to one of my most asked questions – how do I come up with recipes and keep the blog going after so long?!
WELL. What I’m going to share with you below certainly isn’t any huge secret but it’s how I get things done. It’s my exact creative process of how I get recipes out of my kitchen and onto the screen for you! It’s slightly embarrassing, probably boring but definitely real life. Here we go!
I make a huuuuuge (ongoing!) list of ideas!
I mean, a HUUUUUGE ongoing list. I’ve had recipes lists going in notebooks and apps for well over five years. I put EVERY idea I think of or come across in these lists. Sometimes I test the exact recipe I’ve written down. Sometimes I’m merely inspired by the recipes I’ve written down. These lists tend to grow as I’m traveling or eating at restaurants or what not.
This is super important because it helps me to never run out of ideas.
About once a month or so, I actually sit down with pen and paper and add lots of seasonal ideas to these lists. I take at least an hour and write out everything, even if it’s just a “maybe.” For example, last month, I sat down and filled three pages with fall and holiday recipe ideas off the top of my head.
I’ve said it a million times but I firmly believe that creativity and motivation promote more creativity and motivation. This is why it’s so easy for me to come up with recipes… because I’m constantly creating them. My recipe brain is always working and I don’t think I’ll ever run out of recipes! This list definitely helps because occasionally I don’t LOVE the idea I have, so I’ll scroll through the list and see if anything else sparks in my brain.
This year, I did something with my list that has been life changing for me. I took the giant seasonal list and divided it up by month. This made creating my calendar (next step below!) so much easier.
p.s. I’ve talked about the Flavor Bible at length before, but it helped me so much in the past when developing recipes. If I knew I wanted to make something with brussels sprouts, I could flip through and see what flavors pair best. I’d go from there.
p.p.s. You can also see how I chose the specific recipes for The Pretty Dish here!
I plan a (very!) loose calendar.
Let me just say it: I do NOT work well with a content calendar. I am very fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants when it comes to what I share here on the blog. For instance, I started writing this post at 11PM last night. I want to share exactly what I want and love to share at that moment. I don’t even like to use the term “editorial calendar” because it sounds so limiting in my weird head.
However! Having kids has changed my methods here a bit. I don’t have as much wiggle room these days, so I have to be organized and somewhat scheduled with my work.
But I don’t like to work very far ahead because I know myself, and I ALWAYS think of something better as time goes on.
This first changed a bit when I was pregnant. I created enough content ahead of time so I wouldn’t have to be cooking + photographing – so all I’d have to do is work on my computer with an adorable baby sleeping next to me! With both kids, I worked about four months ahead and… I didn’t hate it. Maybe because I didn’t have much of a choice (I def wasn’t going to shoot five recipes a day when my kids were a week old!), but I think it was because I came up with ideas I really LOVED and sat with them for awhile. I took my time with it.
These days, I do the same. I plan my calendar VERY loosely a few months in advance. For instance, right now, I have all of my “ideas” planned until the end of the year. But I’m not married to them, and if I “think of something better,” I’ll swap it out. Nothing is ever set in stone. I leave space for ideas that may come later. But I do make a loose guideline of an idea if I REALLY can’t come up with something. One day in September I have “apple dessert.” What a mind blowing recipe!
When it comes to photography (more on that below), I tend to have recipes photographed about three to four weeks in advance.
When it comes to posts on Crumbs, I literally sit down, write them and publish them. Ha!
I work backwards from my calendar to plan a chunk of time.
When it comes to photographing recipes, I take the number of recipes divided by the number of weeks and figure out exactly what and how much I have to do each week. I’m terrible at math, but this is HUGE! for me. There is no guess work in “oh what should we shoot this week?” – it’s all laid out for me already.
This really only matters with photography and styling, because I need natural daylight + childcare for those days. When it comes to writing or testing recipes, I don’t care – I can do that at night if needed… or whenever it fits!
I also have enough time scheduled in there for mess-up weeks, when nothing goes right. Space in case someone (me, the kids) gets sick. Space in case I want/have to do something (go to lunch with someone, travel last minute) because I want to enjoy the perks of this job. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I miss a day, it doesn’t ruin my content plans.
I have everything planned and ready to go the night before big days.
Having everything prepped and planned the day before a big recipe development or photography day is HUGE for me. Before I had kids, I used to try and grocery shop and photograph recipes on the same day. OMG HOW?!
Now, I have all groceries and they are usually organized in accordance to how we will shoot recipes. I even have some of the dishes or props set out that I plan to use. I also have some photo ideas in mind and batteries are charged. I still loathe photography and styling, but picturing some recipes in my head tends to come naturally to me after doing it for so long now.
I batch my work. Shocker!
Do I sound like a broken record?! Haha, I am the biggest proponent of batching my work! I know, I never shut up about it. It’s been game changing for me and one of the reasons that I can be super efficient. I’ve done this since 2012 and I don’t think I’ll ever change.
Just a few examples of how I batch my work for the blog:
- I photograph and style multiple recipes in a day. I aim to get at least 4 to 5 done in one day.
- I edit all photos in a chunk of time.
- I transfer/write all finalized recipes to my computer in one chunk of time.
- I do all emails/comment replies/etc in certain chunks of time.
During these batches above, I do NOTHING ELSE except what is meant for that chunk of time.
One thing I don’t do is write my blog posts ahead of time or schedule them. I just can’t do that because I’m a crazy person and write off the top of my head and basically use my blog like I’m talking to a friend or writing in a diary, which is probably why I’m also horrified to go back and read every word I’ve ever written. And honestly, I much prefer the uncensored, write-from-the-heart type sharing that would happen back when I started, before commercials and sponsorships and the instagram highlight reel was a thing. But writing and scheduling ahead is highly suggested by most professional people in this blogging industry. I am clearly not one of them!
I actually don’t push it if things feel OFF.
This does not happen to me as often anymore, but I feel like I must mention it as it played a huge role in creating recipes for the first five years or so of my blog. I would have a day planned and things were going terribly – I’d have to run to the store (multiple times?!) because I forgot something, the photos weren’t turning out how I liked, I still had a few recipes to go. I learned this the hard way by trying to push through and the day just going TERRIBLY. I’d basically lose a full day of work.
These days, it rarely happens, probably because I have a tighter schedule with having kids, but also because by now this process is a well oiled machine! Bahahaha. An example of this today for me would be when I’ve done a lot of recipe development and/or shoots two or three days in a row… and I think I can push it and do “one more recipe!” in a rushed amount of time. Now I know to stop when I’m ahead because I don’t want to waste time.
On my photography process?
You guys ask me this a lot and I wish I had more to offer. I do not have a perfect process for photography. Photography and styling is still my least favorite part of this job. But it’s obviously a necessary part! On any given day, Lacy would probably tell you that my photography process goes list this:
Dish is ready > I try to set up a shot > I have a meltdown because I don’t like it > I take 200 photos anyway > I complain and whine some more > I rearrange things slightly > I take 10 more photos and declare that I’m finished > I repeat the entire process next time because I don’t like photography.
But in all seriousness, I don’t have a lot of advice for this part. My photos look like they do because I’ve done this every single week for ten years. So my only advice is to shoot every single week. You will grow!
My actual photography process? I shoot with a Canon 5D Mark IV and have since 2016. I only use natural light to shoot. I mostly use woodville photography backgrounds. I place the food on the board, stand on a chair or my actual kitchen table and shoot it as I see it through my lens. This has come with time as I’ve mentioned above. After, I use Lightroom to make a few adjustments (lighting, contrast) to my photos. That is it!
I realize that none of this is necessarily life-changing information, but it’s a peek into exactly how I do things and how I’ve kept the blog up and running for the last decade. This process has been great for me and is important because I still LOVE my work here and am so grateful I get to do it. Even though it’s fairly simple, it’s imperative to making it all run smoothly and it’s how the recipes get to you! Which is theeeee most important part.
Of course, if you have any more questions, ask below! xo