Planting the Seed of Veganism Through Blogging: Reflections and Tips for Vegan Bloggers

by Gena on June 22, 2012

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Earlier this week, as I was recapping The Seed event in NYC, I told you guys that I’d circle back to my blogging panel with JL and Yoli Ouiya. I’m usually fairly hesitant to address the business of blogging. Why? Because I’m really not the savviest blogger when it comes to optimizing traffic and generating income! I have some ads (affiliate and Blogher, my advertising program), but my ad space is not extensive. I follow some basic SEO optimization guidelines, but I often ignore them, too; if the title of my post can’t logically fit into the first graf or so, so be it. If my blogging was more full time, I’d definitely seek out more guest posts, cross promotion, and so on; I’d also take a frenzied dive into more forms (and better use) of social media. For now, I do the best that I can. I take my blog seriously, and it is a serious part of my professional life, but school always has to come first, which means that my focus on blogging often comes second.

That said, I’ve learned a lot about blogging in my four years (!) as a food blogger. Some of this is practical and business-oriented; a lot of it is broader–let’s think of it as “life wisdom” for the blogger. How does one deal with criticism from readers? How does one talk about personal convictions (veganism, personal faith, a strong point of view) without alienating readers who have different worldviews? How does one evolve personally while also staying true to the voice and spirit that brought readers in in the first place?

These are tricky questions, and I don’t have all of the answers. But I have my own approach. I shared a lot of it in one of last year’s most popular posts: my top ten tips for new bloggers, which I recommend checking out if you’re just starting a blog!

Last weekend at The Seed, JL and Yoli and I spoke about one particular component of our blogging: blogging as a means of “planting” the vegan “seed.” We each spent about 15 minutes discussing the following questions:

  • What is your blog’s mission?
  • What is your unique voice when it comes to veganism?
  • Do you blog for business or pleasure?  How did your blog become a business?
  • What does a typical blog day/week look like for you?
  • Do you consider activism when posting? (food, animals, eco/green, etc)?
  • Talk about the different aspects of your blog as it pertains to veganism: plant-based vs. ethical vegan; authenticity and honesty when it comes to viewpoints; personal experiences; how you handle criticism, etc.
  • What three things have you learned since starting your blog that you think are important for new bloggers to consider?

I thought you guys might get a kick out of the answers I shared:

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What is your blog’s mission? To spread awareness and give people tools to explore vegan lifestyle and raw foods; to create a safe and supportive community in which people can learn to nourish themselves and find joy in the food on their plates.

What is your unique voice when it comes to veganism? I guess I’d say that Green Recovery and eating disorder activism on my blog is unique.

Do you blog for business or pleasure?  How did your blog become a business? Both! My blog started as a hobby, and I don’t rely on it for fiscal support. I would write it even if weren’t going to make me a cent. That said, writing my blog crystallized my desire to work in health care, so in that sense it has become a part of my greater professional mission!

What does a typical blog day/week look like for you? I blog every day except one weekend day, if my life permits. I make food whenever I can, and I try to show readers exactly what kind of stuff I eat. What you see on CR is stuff I’ve made and eaten in “real world” time and under “real world” circumstances!

Do you consider activism when posting? (food, animals, eco/green, etc)? Absolutely. I consider myself an activist for animals, and I am a person who creates a safe and open space for women with ED histories to meet, greet, and talk.

Talk about the different aspects of your blog as it pertains to veganism: plant-based vs. ethical vegan; authenticity and honesty when it comes to viewpoints; personal experiences; how you handle criticism, etc. We didn’t have much time to get into this, but I’d say that I actually feel kinship with both plant based and ethical vegans, and that I handle criticism by taking it seriously and responding to it respectfully whenever I can.

What three things have you learned since starting your blog that you think are important for new bloggers to consider?

  1. Be consistent. It doesn’t matter whether you blog once a day or once every three weeks; if you set a schedule, stick to the schedule.
  2. Blogging is hard work. There’s just no way around it. To do it well, you need to invest time, care, and energy.
  3. Content is what matters most. At the end of the day, consistent good writing, good photos, and thoughtful content is what will bring in the most readers. Social networking is immensely important, but if you have to choose between ten minutes spent tweeting, and ten spent improving a post, devote your time to making the post the best it can

Hope those are helpful!

The audience was full of good questions. Here are some highlights:

1. Self hosting or no?

Our thoughts: Yes! At least, if you want your blog to serve a professional purpose. If you’re blogging as a hobby, mostly for people in your inner circle, you may not want to spend money on self-hosting. Otherwise, I do suggest investing in self-hosting from the get go, because the transfer process can be quite a pain. Consider it an investment in your ongoing success :)

2. What do you do when you don’t like a product you’ve been given to review?

My answer: I typically don’t post really negative reviews. I just don’t like saying bad things about a vegan product, unless I really feel that the makers of the product have been careless or have a bad message (in which case I’ll almost always just not ask for a sample in the first place). Sometimes I’ll let the company know that I didn’t love the item, and ask if they’d prefer I run some constructive criticism or simply not run a review.

If I thought the product had some strengths, but some weaknesses, I’ll do my best to post something balanced, pointing out pros and cons for my readers!

JL and Yoli had similar thoughts; Yoli mentioned that it’s always OK to write a review in which you focus on the positives, rather than the negatives, of something you’ve been sent.

3. What do you do if you don’t have a supportive, pro-vegan community around you, but you’re trying to go vegan?

My response: Well, first and foremost, use the internet to your advantage! We’re so lucky to live in a time in which we can connect with a likeminded community through the world wide web. If you don’t have access to support in your “real” life, I promise you that you can find it through keystrokes. Start reading blogs, forums, meetups, and webzines: they’ll inspire you and remind you that there are a lot of people who share your conviction!

Second, and equally important: no matter how much energy and support you get from the online world, you’ll feel more secure and confident in your veganism if you can find ways to bring your family and friends on board. That doesn’t mean that they need to agree with your reasons for being vegan, or make the same choices, but it does mean that they can be enthusiastic for you (if not with you). The best way to elicit family/friend support is to make clear that the lifestyle makes you happy and fulfilled: don’t speak in terms of obligation (“I think I should be doing this”), but rather, in terms of conscious, enthusiastic choice (“I’m excited to be doing this because…”). Show them how inspired and excited you are. Over time, your satisfaction will render them more and more supportive, and your confidence, in turn, will grow!

The final highlight of the presentation was our emphasis on the fact that blogging “success” is measured in more ways than metrics alone. When JL spoke, she made a big point of saying that, although her blog isn’t necessary a major income source in its own right, it has lead to her (very wonderful) blogging and print work for The Journal News, and her forthcoming book (hooray!) with the wonderful Ginny Messina. I totally agree with this point: blogs don’t only contribute to your professional experience by offering you income/exposure. They can also open doors to new jobs, new writing projects, new friends, and so much more. Blogging opened up my social sphere and introduced me to a lot of people who are now dear, close friends. Writing my blog allowed me to find my voice as a person who has recovered from an eating disorder, and it inspired me to connect with others like me.

Most importantly, writing my blog inspired me to reconnect with a lifelong passion for health and well being. I’d always assumed that this passion was personal, and that I couldn’t translate it into a career because of my limited natural aptitude in the sciences (I was wrong about the first part, and dead right about the second!). As I wrote CR, day in and day out, it gave me the strength to take a big risk and turn a personal fascination with health into a commitment to serve others. So while I don’t earn a living as a full time blogger, I do credit blogging with steering me on a new direction, and changing my life in phenomenal ways. Don’t think narrowly about what a blog can offer you: think about the ways in which it may help you to redefine your aspirations!

Hope this is helpful and illuminating for those of you who take an interest in blogging — especially vegan blogging! And I’d also love to hear from you guys what sort of tips/questions you have about the whole enterprise, because I’ve been thinking that a “ten tips for new bloggers: party two” is well overdue. Let me know, and happy weekend to you!

xo

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Janae @ Bring-Joy June 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm

Gena, you ARE a vegan rock star! Never met you, but feel like I know you, & you are a fine individual. Loved all of your tips & insights, we need to stick together & help each other out.

I see blogs & the internet as one of the best tools for spreading the joy of veganism & healthy eating.

Thanks for being such a great example & voice.

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Gena June 23, 2012 at 5:25 am

As are you, Janae! I love your blog.

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Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy June 22, 2012 at 2:15 pm

what a great post! so much wisdom:) thanks for sharing!

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raechel @ the rebel grrl kitchen June 22, 2012 at 2:26 pm

Thank you so much for this, Gena! I know you know that you are such an inspiration to so many of us in the vegan blogging community, and I love that you offer this helpful guidance. <3

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Gena June 23, 2012 at 5:26 am

Thanks so much, Raechel.

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Stefania @ Revitalize with Stefania June 22, 2012 at 2:34 pm

As someone new to blogging, and someone trying to make a business (coaching/mentoring/consulting) out of my raw and vegan way of life, this post was super helpful to me. Thank you for posting it.

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Lisa @ The Raw Serenity June 22, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Blogging defiantly worth doing even if you don’t make an income out of it. The online community is amazing, I don’t know any vegans (in real life) but online I feel I have so many supporters and it helps you remember why you are living this way.
Such an inspiring post Gena.
Love your work!
Lisa

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Gena June 23, 2012 at 5:26 am

Ditto, Lisa! Thanks!

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Katherine June 22, 2012 at 3:37 pm

So you mean eventually other people besides my family will read my blog? No way! :) Thanks for the tips. Back when you originally posted the ten tips for new bloggers, I wasn’t one, and was only vaguely considering it. Thanks for the reminder!

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Cat @ Cat's Kitchen June 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Thank you for such an insightful and useful post Gena!
The online community truly is so welcoming and supporting, and absolutely indispensible for any aspiring vegans. I know I would not have done it were it not for years of reading your blog and others.
I found health-based vegetarianism awoke a love of cooking but 2 years later, ethical (and healthy) veganism transformed if into a passion. Creating my blog this year has been hard work, many a late night spent finishing a post and sorting photos, but so rewarding. It has given me a means to spend my time doing what I love and being creative. And it has opened the doors to a new range of career ideas. Just lately I’ve been paid to provide ‘Cat’s Kitchen’-style lunches for a friend at work who wants to eat more vegetables but doesn’t know how and doesn’t have the time to cook. I’m starting to think it could be the end of my day job! Hooray for blogging!

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Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See June 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Great recap! I think explaining veganism is hard enough–blogging is a whole ‘nother ball game :)

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Hannah June 22, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Thank you for sharing this with your readers, Gena. My blog is so tiny that I don’t really have any tips for people, but I would definitely appreciate some! :D

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Alex @ Raw Recovery June 22, 2012 at 10:33 pm

Your blog has been a big part of my recovery Gena, and when I first found it I was in the midst of my eating disorder and I was really glad to find someone with a raw and real perspective on veganism and more broadly, a balanced approach to life and food. I’m so grateful for the time you spend writing!

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JL goes Vegan June 23, 2012 at 3:57 am

Thank you so much for recapping the panel, Gena! I had the best of intentions but then the vegan academy training began this week and…. :)

I’m really glad you have shared these tips because I love healthy (especially vegan!) blogs because I truly learned how to eat a plant-based diet, and to become a vegan activist, through reading blogs. Individual stories and experiences contribute so much to the broader community!

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wendy (healthy girls kitchen) June 23, 2012 at 6:27 am

Great post Gena. What I struggle with is “authenticity and honesty when it comes to viewpoints.” First off, I have some major fears about revealing my religion, which I have gotten over to SOME degree and wrote posts on Passover. I have never had the courage to say “Shabbat dinner” on my blog, instead, calling it “Friday Night Family Dinner.” I really have a hard time with this aspect of my life coming through too much on my blog. I just don’t want my message about health getting muddled with religion and, G-d forbid, politics!

And now it gets really complicated . . . I don’t want to call my blog a “Vegan Blog” per se because it’s really a blog about healthy food (which I believe does not include anything from an animal). I think there are many people out there who are finding their way into this healthy eating arena by way of other routes (Plant-strong, Nutritarian, etc.), but who would have been afraid or disinterested if it was under the “Vegan” umbrella. I might be wrong on this one, but it’s just where my head is at.

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Wendy June 23, 2012 at 9:36 am

This is such a timely post for me. I have a website that was started as an “internet marketing” site 2 years ago before I even knew what a food blog was and before I EVER thought I’d become a vegan. Based on a recent survey 85% of my readers are carnivores. It isn’t a site where I really blog, its really all about the recipes. I find myself wanting to start a website where I can share more of myself and more of my journey as well as vegan recipes. A site that would be more of a passion site, with less focus on making money.

I guess the biggest question would be your thoughts on how do you strike the perfect balance so that you are honest enough about what you believe to make a difference without sending people running in the other direction. I know I’ve influenced people to include more plant based foods in their diets, but I’d like to make a bigger difference.

Beyond that, I think networking and getting to know other bloggers is something else I’d love to hear about in part 2 of your post. As someone who is naturally shy, this isn’t something that comes easy to me.

As far as tips I have to offer- I can say that by far the best way to monetize a site if you NEED to is with an ebook. It’s very possible for the right offer to nearly replace a full time income. It’s not the right choice for every site, but as a mom who had to generate income to be able to stay at home and home school it was the best decision for me.

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Kasandra June 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

So happy that you’ve shared this Gena, you really are a rock star blogger! Thank you for the tips. We are so lucky to have blogs to connect us with like minds across the globe. I do hope that someday soon I can connect with people I’ve “met” blogging as I do feel we are kindred spirits :)

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Christine (The Raw Project) June 23, 2012 at 11:40 am

Wonderfully informative post, thanks Gena! You’ve become such a vegan celebrity and that’s awesome! Thanks for the wonderful blogging tips, agreed on self hosting – worth it from the get go.

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Jess @AndSoButThen June 23, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Your blog inspired me to get started on my own. Mine is not food-related; I took inspiration from your ability to blog frequently and consistently while being a full-time student. I’ve been whining for years that I don’t have the time, but I finally decided to make it happen. As you say, you have to put in the effort.

And on a food-related note, you have inspired me to toss together some wildly divergent things in the kitchen. Vegan food has broadened my palate like crazy, which is pretty important in my line of work. So thanks!

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Leah Ebrahimi June 24, 2012 at 7:24 am

Your blog has been such a motivational tool for me! I’m in recovery from an ED and also vegetarian/ almost vegan and everyone tells me that I don’t want full recovery unless I am willing to incorporate all foods into my meal plan and blah, blah, blah. My vegetarianism has NOTHING to do with my ED!! You have shown me that it IS possible to be healthy and vegan! I have branched out so much with your wonderful recipes. I also really appreciate this safe environment you have provided. I really look forward to your posts and updates each day. Oh and I’m also hopefully applying for medical school as well so I can always relate to your posts about those tough pre-med classes and everything as well!
Thanks for the great blogging tips! I have recently started a blog of my own and will keep in mind each of your helpful hints! :)

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nero June 24, 2012 at 8:24 pm

I too had the pleasure of schlepping from DC to NY for Seed and got to hear your talk! Very insightful for us budding bloggists, thank you kindly for sharing your insights!

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Jade June 24, 2012 at 11:08 pm

These are some great tipe…especially the one about living in an area where there aren’t a whole lot vegans around. The internet is a great place to meet like-minded people who are (or aren’t) in your area!

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Kristy June 25, 2012 at 10:56 am

Thank you so much for this, Gena! It was such a great eye-opener and helped me gain focus. It is so true- blogging about what you are passionate about (not what you think readers want) is the way to go. I had also never seen your 10 tips for new bloggers, so it was great to be able to read those as well! This was just a treasure-trove of valuable information. :-)

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Claire June 25, 2012 at 12:24 pm

Wonderful post and so timely! I am in the process of getting my own blog going, and it is great to read the words of wisdom of an experienced and successful veteran. Thanks so much, and keep up the great work!

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