22 Sep 2013

sunday breakfast pancakes + the definition of success

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The measure of achievement is not winning awards. It’s doing something that you appreciate, something you believe is worthwhile. I think of my strawberry souffle. I did that at least twenty-eight times before I finally conquered it. — Julia Child

Years ago, someone told me that this space, this blog you’re reading right this moment, will never be big. Scores of people have told me that my books will never be big because I’m difficult; I don’t color in the lines, rather I invent a whole new book in which to draw and write. I’m not easy, I erect walls the size of skyscrapers. The ambiguity in my writing tends to keep others at a remove, and I don’t tend to look at my work as something that could be viral, easily pinnable, endlessly commented on.

I’m never going to be big because, by definition, I’m not mass market.

For a time these statements confused me, and it’s not until this year that I understood why. Why are we defining success by a metric, a site visit, a number of comments? Why is mass suddenly the marker of achievement? A blog with a book deal and a stylish home living show and a line at a tasteful department store — are these the new markers of success? Have we updated the old playbook where we were told as children that a good life meant having a career, getting married, having kids, buying a house, having a summer house, and retiring blissfully?

Shouldn’t success and happiness be the achievement of what we love to its own end, knowing that end might be private and personal? That we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search? Being “social” because that’s the sort of thing we ought to do?

Someone once we told me that we have to think about content in the context of its distribution. For nearly four years I clung to this fiction, repeated it to a litany of clients, left an indelible mark on those whom I mentored, and it occurred to me that this statement was wrong. Yes, of course, of course, we don’t create something to simply leave it there to gather dust, wither and curl inward. But, if I start to fixate on the end game, the thing I’m creating suddenly loses something. It becomes airless, soulless, a pretty picture worth pinning.

I’ll be brutally honest. This blog will never be a platform, a means to make money, or a mechanism for achieving some sort of microfame. For me, this space has always been about exploration, an online space where I can collect and share what I’m thinking, reading, baking, eating, doing. I don’t have an endgame. What I have is a need to create something beautiful each day. So if that means that I post less content, or the pictures (like these delicious pancakes) are not a towering heap of global perfection basking in white light — so perfect for re-pinnning! — so be it.

We are not meant to be just one thing. There is not one endgame or goal. Rather, we should keep exploring and building all the things that make us want to bolt out of bed. For me, it’s writing, it’s baking, it’s sharing food with friends in my home, and it’s sometimes marketing. These worlds have to be symbiotic in some way, that the threads of creativity and passion and devotion find its way from one to another, like points on a map. My job is the driving, the journey.

By the way, who cares about being big? Why not be bold, bombastic and remarkable instead?

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort Cooking
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
butter for frying

DIRECTIONS
The method to make these deluxe, spongy pancakes is incredibly simple — Nigella is queen of convenience that way. Essentially, make sure all the dry ingredients are well mixed and evenly distributed, and then mix in, with a fork, all of the wet ingredients. Although Nigella recommends that you allow the batter to stand for twenty minutes (to activate the leavening agent, garnering towering fluffs of pancakes), I waited five and my pancakes were delicious and thick.

When you cook the pancakes, all you need to remember is that when the upper side of the pancake is blistering and bubbling it’s time to cook the second side, and this needs only about 1 minute, if that. You can get over a dozen silver dollar cakes with this recipe.

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8 Comments

  1. Amen! The American definition of success is very limiting (and exhausting).

    Posted on 9.22.13 · Reply to comment
  2. danayong wrote:

    Reblogged this on outofthecakebox.

    Posted on 9.22.13 · Reply to comment
  3. danayong wrote:

    Finally! I never understood why friends keep telling me to use those SEO thingies on my blog, when all I want to do is bake and write. I couldn’t have put it better myself, dear. “that we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search” Thumbs up for the great post!

    Posted on 9.22.13 · Reply to comment
    • Dana,

      Thank you so much for your warm words of encouragement! I tend to ignore all of the blog “tips + tricks” for content optimization. I often feel that if create meaningful content that has value, and if you find ways in which to cultivate REAL and authentic relationships with people, that’s what matters most.

      Shameless link baiting, networking and content optimization tactics drive me bonkers.

      Warmly, f.

      Posted on 9.23.13 · Reply to comment
  4. Tam317 wrote:

    “That we should strive to create depth, complexity, difficulty, meaning and devotion in every single thing that we do instead of optimizing our content for search?”
    You are speaking a very real and deep truth in these words, and your closing statement. Some may be scared off by even the thought of living a life with this purpose. To me, it is an exhilarating challenge…

    Posted on 9.22.13 · Reply to comment
  5. Wow this is amazing. Has inspired a whole blog post for me. I needed this – thanks F. And quoting you and Julia in my post:)xxx

    Posted on 9.24.13 · Reply to comment

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