Friday, September 3, 2010

Food for Thought

I’m so hungry. I stare at the blocks of text on the screen, letting the words fill my mind so I can ignore my empty belly. It doesn’t work. It’s one of those chicken and egg situations: need to write to eat, need to eat to write. Finally I give up and swallow down a Nutri-Grain bar. Sorry mind, matter wins this round.

One of my favourite pieces of advice James D. Macdonald gives on his long thread at Absolute Write is not to eat while writing. It becomes a habit, and soon you’ll find yourself unable to string together sentences unless you have a plate of nachos within reach, piled high with lightly melted cheddar and mozzarella, a sprinkling of hot peppers, onions and tomatoes, some mild salsa and sour cream on the side...that bar wasn’t enough, I’m still super hungry.

Like a lot of writers, I strive to make time to write every day. It would be so much easier to just squash (mmm, squash) eating time and writing time together and type with one hand while the other holds a PB&J sandwich. But I can’t do that. One is for the reasons outlined above: I don’t want to fall into the habit of including food as my writing routine. The other is that when it comes to meals, I rarely do simple. I might start making something, like say soup, and decide that I want lentils in it too, and then I decide I need a salad, and basically the whole things snowballs to the point where I spend more time preparing the meal than actually eating it. For example, for lunch I’m going to have fried eggplant with cherry tomatoes, tofu and rice. The eggplant is already cut up and sitting salted on a plate in the kitchen so they won’t be bitter when I cook it. It takes a little more time and preparation, but it’s going to be so good when I finally eat it.

Of course, that time preparing food also cuts into time I could use for writing. But once again, got to write to eat, got to eat to write. And I like cooking, almost as much as I like eating. The trick isn’t too see it as an obstacle to writing, but in service of it. Sounds obvious (next blog post: “Breathing an important part of the writing process”) but it’s easy for me to get wrapped up in the idea that the only important thing in the world is my word count for the day. When I get in that mindset I really do ignore the growling in my stomach, except for the times when I growl back at it, reducing it to whimpers. My writing is never any good when I get that way. The characters all seem like they’re out to get me, minor distractions balloon to volcanic proportions, typos occurs every other word. Eventually my mom calls and if I manage not to bite her head off in the first thirty seconds I start telling her about how everything is just going to shit. To which my mom, fountain of all wisdom, will listen and ask “When was the last time you ate?” And I usually don’t answer right away, because I realize she’s right. So then I eat something and things are better. Not just with the world at large, but with my tiny world that takes up the laptop screen. So that’s what I’m going to go and do now and write later. By now the eggplants should be nice and sweet.

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