That loud “pop” you heard earlier today? That’s the collective sound of aspiring food writers’ dreams dashed, in a single instant, after Food 52 cofounder Amanda Hesser published this blog post.
“I can no longer responsibly recommend that you drop everything to try to become a food writer,” the former New York Times editor wrote. “Except for a very small group of people…it’s nearly impossible to make a living as a food writer, and I think it’s only going to get worse.”
While the declaration may have burst a lot of bubbles, it hit home for me. Maybe a little too hard. Hesser’s words were nothing I haven’t heard (or experienced) before, but it was just a sober reminder that the job I love so much will never be financially satisfying.
In Hartford, I was never spoiled by the halcyon days Hesser refers to – six-figure salaries, unlimited expense accounts, $2 a word freelance assignments. Having entered journalism in the already-tumultuous year 2006, I actually have trouble believing these things ever existed.
When I started blogging and freelancing full-time in 2009, I had no expectations that I’d ever become wealthy. Such is the life of a writer.
The blog comes at an eerie time for me. In addition to my print and web writing with the Hartford Courant, I’m about to start a part-time job with another news organization in Massachusetts. It’s an effort to increase my income and diversify my work in journalism.
But I consider myself so lucky that I’ve been able to do what I’ve done for the past two and a half years. Writing about food daily, and getting paid to do so, has been the most rewarding period of my career. I’m better for it. Everyone should get the chance to do what they love.
My own advice would mirror much of Hesser’s. Even if you don’t have designs on a full-time food career, you should make the effort to stoke your passion anyway, even on the side.
Broaden your skills (particularly in web technology.) Eat everything, and take notes. Attend as many festivals, tastings, dinners and events you can, because that’s where you’ll learn. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Start a blog, if you haven’t already, and establish your voice.
And connect with others who love food as much as yourself. They will be your community, your sounding board, your support, your cheerleaders.