Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Lauren Kate, the author of Fallen, which I reviewed here. It reminded me of a recent conversation I had about how good food, like good writing, takes both hard work and inspiration.
There was a time in my life when I was an aspiring novelist. In my teens and twenties, most of my endeavors pointed towards this aspiration:
I was creative writing major in college, spent five years as an editor at a publishing house, quit my job to move to California and go to graduate school for a masters degree in fiction, traveled as far as Alaska to speak at writers conferences, taught writing classes to undergrads at UC Davis. I marvel at people who were biochemists until they woke up one morning and poured out a novel. I guess I’ve always been a bit more single-minded.
That is, until I published my first novel. These days, I’m an aspiring chef…who also happens to be a writer by day. Being a full-time writer is fairly new to me and I don’t meant to come across as anything less than thrilled about it. I get to work wearing plaid slippers with dogs on them, you know? But it’s funny how finally doing the thing I’ve spent years working towards leaves me scrambling for the next ambition.
I’ve always loved to cook, but it wasn’t until recently that I started thinking seriously about making it a bigger part of my life—going to culinary school or getting a job in a kitchen. Right now, cooking is the thing that unwinds me; it’s a rest for my overwhelmed brain after writing ten pages in a day. Where writing is an ethereal, head-in-the-clouds kind of thing, cooking is tactile and grounded. Writing is solitary (the hardest thing about it for me), and cooking is best done with others. But this blog post has made me realize that the thing I love most about cooking may be precisely the same thing I love most about writing.
I grew up cooking with my dad, who is somewhat allergic to cookbooks. When he puts on an apron, chances are he’s going to wing it. This infuriates my mom because he has a hard time recreating the things that she likes—but there is something magical about Dad’s process to me.
I read cookbooks all the time—but I don’t usually cook with them. Similarly, I draw up outlines for each one my novels, sometimes ten pages of sketched out characters, scenes, and plot lines—but when I sit down to actually write, I hardly glance at my notes. Like my dad, I prefer to wing it.
It doesn’t always work, sometimes I want to tear my hair out over how completely uninspired my ten pages are at the end of the day. But the next day, I can start from scratch and hope again for magic. My best writing days are those where I veer away completely from the scene I’d intended to write, when my characters surprise me and carry me someplace new.
Five years from now, maybe I’ll have a food blog instead of a writing blog—and who knows what untold career ambition will be hatching inside of me then…