Sunday, 15 April 2007

Performance anxiety

Ok, I admit it....I'm suffering from blog anxiety. I was initially really excited about starting my own blog, having my own little corner of the innernet and using it as a lens to magnify the joy of the daily minutae that constitutes my life. That, and having somewhere to show of stuff that I've knitted or cooked!

For ages I've been a lurker. I never commented - why would a stranger want to hear what I think about their life? - just lurked and read and enjoyed the frisson of guilty voyeurism that comes from peeking into someone else's life. Some of the blogs I frequent are friends (one in particular who got me started!), and I love to keep up with what's going on in other areas of their lives that we wouldnt always talk about in person. I can keep up with them when I might not have time to compose an email. Others are total strangers on the other side of the world, whom I'm stumbled across in a quest for patterns for baby jumpers or beanies or the perfect yarn. Two of my regular reads have just had babies - I found myself checking hourly for news when I knew they were due! - and I was as thrilled to hear about the new arrivals as if they were old friends. Still didnt comment though.

I decided I needed in on this action - at the very least I could blog a bit of news and my friends and family might want to visit every so often. I canvassed opinions for funky blog names, composed posts while I was hanging out the washing, debated the pros and cons of putting my personal stuff out in the big wide PUBLIC world for everyone to see. Yeah, I can do that.

Then a new aquaintance wrote about her first year as a blogger and I was stunned by her eloquence and thoughfulness. I started to think a little more deeply about this whole blogging business. Expand my blog circle and read more closely. And I started to leave comments too.

And I've got cold feet. Lost my bottle. I can't write stuff that people want to read.

This is a personality trait that pops up quite often - if I can't do it perfectly, I'm not gonna bother. Can't hack the pressure. Not big on setting myself up to fail. There are so many beautifully crafted, fascinating, thought-provoking blogs out there, that in the face of them all I've lost my nerve and all those witty and insightful posts composed while pegging my smalls have vanished. Yay brain, way to go.

And I havent had time to knit, so I can't even blog a groovy finished object!

So I've thought all week about what I wanted my blog to be, and I think its best captured in the name I picked. I wanted this to be a virtual extension of my kitchen table, where there's always a fresh pot of tea, hopefully a nice little smackeral of something to go with it (time and toddler dependant of course), and you can pull up a stool and chat while everything just goes on - dinner gets cooked, we discuss the recipes, Pirate Jim draws, the new yarn order is shown off, someone helps me pick up those damn dropped stitches, we solve the problems of the world.

In that vein, I thought I might try and overcome my writer's block and performance anxiety by posting a couple of recipes (not my own) inspired by dinner for my Dad's birthday on Saturday night (this is the on-the-off-then-on party that will be the subject of another post if I get my nerve back!). We had Sticky Date Pudding - yeah, I know, how 90's. I'm not going to write that one out again.

But the sauce, now that's another matter. Might even go so far as to call it "timeless".

Butterscotch or caramel sauce is brilliant over Bill Grainger's Ricotta Hotcakes. Or any pancakes. Ice cream, natch. Baked pears or bananas. Straight off the spoon if no one is looking. Porridge, so I'm told (I dont do porridge. Long story).

I have 2 fantastic recipes, depending on how much time I have. The first is super fast and dead easy, the second takes more time and care but has a superior depth of flavour.

Caramel sauce (from Super Food Ideas July 2004 p 49)

1 cup brown sugar
300ml thickened cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
60g butter

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until sauce comes to the boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 2 minutes.

Butterscotch Sauce (from The Cooks Companion by Stephanie Alexander, Penguin Books 1996)

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup boiling water
50g unsalted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
few drops pure vanilla
100 ml thick cream

Dissolve sugar in a saucepan over gentle heat until a deep gold. Carefully pour on boiling water and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in butter and bown sugar. Return to heat and stir until mixture is smooth and brown sugar has dissolved. Stir in vanilla and cream.

Both these recipes can be made ahead and reheated in the microwave - they keep in the fridge for a few days (unless your husband likes it on his cereal, then it has a much shorter life-span).



Jejune said...

Oooh those recipes look good George - thanks!

Like you, I have struggled with the procrastination that perfectionism brings - if it has to be perfect, how can you possibly ever do it? So I can relate to how you're feeling - I also get sort of stage fright at times, realising that people from all over the world are reading my Blog - it's kinda freaky! But then I think - meh - who cares. I keep names and so on anonymous, and if people keep coming back to read, they must like something I'm doing :)

What helped me get over the whole perfectionism thing was to think, what if I did something that was good enough? Sure - I need to do close-to-perfect work for my business - that matters - but when it comes to cooking for friends, writing, running the household, painting, and so on - if the results are 85% wonderful instead of 100% perfect, does it really matter that much? I'd still score an 'A' with those marks, and have much less stress.

And the answer I discovered - much to my surprise - is that no, it doesn't matter, no-one's going to pull you up, mark you down, criticise you, or even notice, actually..

Everyone's Blog is different, too - I also thought about Bells' recent post about influential Blogs - and was being impressed and a bit intimidated by some of the Blogs she referenced. But then I thought, no, it's not what I want to write about in public, generally. I have plenty of serious difficult challenges in my life already, and when I write my Blog, I want it to be fun, a bit of an escape. I just want to say 'Ooooh look at the pretty things' for a while.

So George - phew - that was rather long winded, sorry - I really like what you've written so far, and the idea of sitting around your kitchen table - it feels cosy, friendly and lovely. It's a way we can meet with you in that setting even if we're stuck behind a computer for work all day, and all wishing we were at your place having tea in your kitchen instead :)

Taphophile said...

Crikey I wanna be at your place for dessert - or breakfast if the pancakes are on offer.

Dinna fash about the blog anxiety. WE ALL get it. It's about what you want.

I decided I didn't really care if anyone else wants to read it and I don't blog for comments. My blog is mine to record my stuff. If anyone else wants to look and comment, that's fine, but I'm not tidying up for their visit.

I enjoy yours, BTW. :)

Bells said...

hey George, I totally understand. At around the one-two month mark, I totally freaked out! I almost gave it up. And I don't know how long I'll go on for. I pretty much think that if it becomes an anxiety-causing exercise, there's no point. We all do it for fun, for a record and as a way of keeping in touch. anything after that (for me, and I'm assuming for most of us) is an absolute bonus.

I'm loving watching yours develop. I think one of the fascinating things about blogging is how we all start out a little tentatively, with no real vision except that we want to play, too. Then slowly we start to find our voice and the blog becomes an extension of us and a record of our place in the world in whichever way we choose.

I've always meant to have more food in mine and I just don't quite get to it. So I'll just watch yours instead. Bill and Stephanie are two of my heroes.

Trent said...

Well George, this is fantastic, I wish I had of known sooner that you were a blogger. I always find you fascinating to talk to and always filling to be around when you are the cook. I will be back more often.

kms said...

i always thought the kitchen table idea was perfect - and you always say theres something wrong with your cooking so why should your blog be any different?! but of course, to the rest of us its perfect and just as your cooking mojo comes and goes so will your blogging. having said that, a conversation that goes six different ways at once is exactly what its like at your kitchen table anyway, so i hope the blog continues to reflect that!