Happy holidays to all who celebrate!
It’s been an interesting year. I published my novel Magical Ties and my short story “In the Smoke” appeared in the anthology Smoke: Tales Between Dark and Light. Also, I copyedited a wonderful cookbook by Roberta Roberti, World Party: Vegetarian Appetizers, Hors d’oeuvres and Party Plates, and maintained my blog for the second year.
And yet, it feels like I did nothing. I know it’s not productive to look at other people, but to read that so-and-so wrote two novels in a year and a screenplay and trains beagles on the side…okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea. It seems like I should be doing more.
Why are we so hard on ourselves? Writing a novel is a long, grueling race, sometimes like running through molasses. And there’s no guarantee of any kind of success. Yet we write on.
The only thing to do is write.
Book two is percolating, leaving me multiple scenarios running through my mind and handwritten scraps of paper floating from surface to surface in the living room while a Word doc has scenes waiting to be placed in the right order. It’s filling me to the brim and very soon I’ll be sitting down and putting it all into a more coherent mess. I find that I miss the people and I’m looking forward to what happens to them in the new year.
I guess if the point of this year was to continue me into the next, pen and keyboard ready, that’s a better year than I thought.
Not forever! But take a week or two to recharge. Do something completely unrelated to writing. Walk. Cook. Hit the gym. Color in coloring books. Go to a concert.
I finished my hat. It’s difficult to see since it’s all black (well, I am a New Yorker 🙂 ), but black also hides the errors so I’m pleased with it for now.
But more than that, it was something tangible coming to life in my hands. Counting rows forced me to concentrate on the yarn and pegs. There was no way to foster a story idea unless I wanted a really bad hat. Sometimes I focus so much on how to use things in my writing, I miss the point of the object—to just admire or let it be.
So step away from the keyboard and pen for a week. Then see where your thoughts take you.
Oh, and for anyone who wants to see how I made the hat (or try your hand at it) here’s the YouTube vid I used:
Full disclosure: I was the copy editor of this book. In case you think that makes me want to gush, think again. I had to look at each page with a critical eye. I could not allow myself to be swayed by the pretty pictures or charming anecdotes. Each recipe needed to be thought out and visualized. I’ve read too many cookbooks that omitted a step or even an ingredient. (One cookbook listed a recipe in its index and in one of its menus but left out the actual recipe.)
World Party was a pleasure. I learned food facts that were artfully interspersed with recipes, and was introduced to ingredients far outside my comfort zone. I bookmarked dishes to try and cautiously considered others. Roberta Roberti’s book showed me how deficient I am in the world’s cuisine. Here are a few of the recipes she gives and the country each is from:
Black Bean Cakes with Mango-Peach Salsa
Morocho/Spiced Corn Drink
Pub Ale Cheese Spread
Aceitunas Fritas/Fried Olives
Piyaz/White Bean Salad
I hope you’ll take a look and try this cookbook for the simple pleasure of tempting one’s palate with flavors that might be familiar—or, more excitingly, are not.