What to Do When You are Sick of Writing (or any other brain-sucking activity)
Just ask Caroline Carlson, who wrote The Door at the End of the World, a book I won (by the luck of the draw) for commenting on L. Marie’s website. Woo Hoo!
Here is Caroline’s solution to too much sitting at the computer and thinking, thinking, thinking.
She says, “I love to bake because baking feels like the exact opposite of writing a book: you just follow the instructions in the recipe, and a few hours later, you have a finished product. Books don’t work that way at all,” a fact verified on my last post!
Taking a clue from Caroline, I followed the nudge. It wouldn’t be a cake. Instead, I’d create an entrée salad for an evening meal!
- Opening the fridge, I found:2. Adding to the chopped celery: tomato, almonds and walnuts
3. I plucked herbs from the bathroom window sill: basil and mint pots (#2 and #5)
4. Spices; cinnamon, black pepper, turmeric. And a squeeze of lemon and I was DONE!
My mother’s oft-heard advice on following recipes “Just add what you think!” applied here. However, whimsy certainly wouldn’t work for a cake where proportions count, as I’m sure Ms. Carlson would agree!
The dressing? I prefer balsamic vinaigrette, but the finishing touch is your choice!
What some writers think about cooking:
“Writing’s a lot like cooking. Sometimes the cake won’t rise, no matter what you do, and every now and again the cake tastes better than you ever could have dreamed it would.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
“A writing cook and a cooking writer must be bold at the desk as well as the stove.”
― M.F.K. Fisher
Writing is work and cooking is relaxing . — Diane Mott Davidson
Your salad-making tips?
Your solution to balancing brain-taxing tasks?
Other quotes to add?
Benefits of eating light at night?
I had a brain sucking day yesterday but not because of writing. I was drained because of probably 6-8 phone calls and one stop at a doctor’s office, trying to get to the bottom of a medicare prescription plan’s provisions for a prescription, bouncing between a drug formulary book, two inept customer service people, the pharmacy, an assistant at the doctor’s office–plus working to straighten out our AT&T + Direct TV bill (a nightmare since their merger months ago).
I got relief helping clean up and pile wood from a backyard project of my husband’s. It felt so good to make order out of chaos and get physical instead of mental! That’s my sad story and I’m sticking to it and I hope I can get some resolution to the phone call items that are still not resolved. #FirstWorldProblems And I love your salad concoction. So pretty, tasty with crunch, no doubt!
Readers here I’m sure can relate to your sad story dealing with bureaucracy.
Because I kept college insurance until I retired at 67, getting on Medicare was a nightmare too. (Why? I asked. knowing that I had saved the government two years of payouts on my behalf.) I remember flinging myself across the bed on hold with the rep, listening to a dopey loop of music playing over and over and over.
Yes, getting physical is immensely helpful: you get visible results and discharge some of that stress energy. Thanks for sharing this. I hope your troubles get resolved today, Melodie. 🙂
Good morning, Marian! Your salad looks delicious. I’m admiring your herb pots (on the bathroom windowsill!). I usually use balsamic (I have some great flavors from a special store), but with your middle eastern seasonings in this salad, I’d probably just add more lemon and a good olive oil.
Well, you know I often cook after–and while–writing. And stress-baking is definitely a thing. 🙂 (Though I don’t do it very often anymore.)
Yes, I am very familiar with the goodies you make as you work in the kitchen, Merril, and have admired your dishes for Pesach. I believe your kitty cats, calming companions, help balance the tasks too.
My earlier message seems to have disappeared…sorry if this is a duplicate. Derek is the chef in our house, so I do the clean up, which I find relaxing. When I need to relax my brain, I’ll either write a short story or work my jigsaw puzzle. That salad looks yummy!
Lately, I believe you said you like editing and revising, Jill, tasks which I find so tedious. Maybe your enjoying jigsaw puzzles is related to that. Whatever works, I say. Thanks for tuning in again today, Jill.
That is why I work at a library. My freelance writing and creative writing is always judged. Every person who reads it would do things differently. Change this word, add that thought, take out that sentence, move things around … Sometimes it’s exhausting. At the library at book has a place. One right place. No one judges that the book would be better three slots over or up one shelf. That solid feeling and lack of judgment keeps me sane.
So that’s the secret! The librarians I know all seem to be unruffled: a place for everything and everything in its place. I do know they don’t like patrons re-shelving books for that very reason. Thanks, Arlene.
I am a keen cook and baker, the latter especially in the winter as it helps keep the kitchen warm. I have just started to write short stories and I am soon to join a local writers club. I like the comparison of both tasks, but I can’t help wondering what professional chefs and patissiers do to relax. Surely not writing, unless it is a cookery book!
Your theory makes sense. My habit is just the reverse: I resist baking in the summer because it adds heat to the house.
I am proud of you for beginning with short stories. Good for you! Sharing your writing with a group will keep you energized, for sure. I wonder if you are familiar with Liesbet’s blog roamingabout.com. She writes about her travels with her husband in an RV.
You pose an interesting questions about what chefs do to relax. Maybe you’ll find some answers from other readers here. Thanks for your update, Fatima!
Love this post, Marian! Yay! Your salad looks delicious! I love a salad with fruit. I also like shrimp or chicken on a salad.
When I’m writing or editing, I often feel like a sous chef having to assemble a bunch of ingredients and chop everything to make a pleasing finished product. Yet my kitchen is left a mess and I have to clean up afterward.
Yesterday I added rotisserie chicken pieces to another salad, a good way to use leftovers and get protein in the bargain. As a writer, you can definitely relate to all this. Thanks, L. Marie!
I like my kitchen sink salads! Open the fridge, open the cupboards and see what creative combination comes up next. Like my meatloaf, each one is different, each salad is different. It’s a challenge and satisfying when my husband likes what I fixed. Some more popular than others no-doubt, but he knows the alternative which is he fixes them LOL
Very funny, Ginger. Sometimes if I’m tired, I pull out items from the crisper drawer and the pantry and put them on the counter. After a while, my husband may take the hint and become the sous-chef for the evening. No harm in that – right?
Gardening is my relief from stress related life situations. Open spaces seem to expand the heart, mind and soul and bring a soothing, tranquil state of mind in a coloful, green space. Great looking salad Marian.
I admire your bountiful blooms and immaculate garden path. Evidently you have a green thumb, Carolyn! I agree, green plants, blue skies . . . all soothing in this hectic world!
I like the analogy of cooking/baking to writing Marian. Sometimes just use what’s available and throw them altogether, sometimes follow a recipe. A thinly sliced juicy ripe pear into the lettuce and avocado and whatever else lifts a salad for me .. moist and sweet and unexpected.
Eat light at night – breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner/supper like a pauper – gives the body ample time to digest and to be not overworked at night .. (not that I follow that principle).
I think I’ll buy an avocado or two when I go to market the next time. Thanks for the reminder. It’s one of the “good” fats, I’m told, and so moist and tender. Thanks for the reminder about the eating pattern for morning, noon, and night. Recently I’ve been told that keeping the window for eating more narrow (not eating after 6:00 pm, let’s say) also helps with digestion and weight control.
Yes, I break the rules at times, too, Susan! 🙂
I meant a ripe juicy pear 🍐 in with the avo and lettuce 😀
I read it that way! 🙂
I too will take a break from writing to do some baking. I find it relaxing and hubby gets the benefits. I recently made lemon cupcakes with some fresh lemons our neighbour gave us from their yard. Yummy! Your salad looks very good. Love your quotes and may borrow a couple. xo
I remember the gigantic lemons growing on trees in Italy. Probably lemons in Spain are similar in size and flavor. I could eat a lemon cupcake right now, 11:00 a.m. in the our time zone. Thanks, Darlene!
Marian — yes, Yes, YES! Your salad looks SCRUMPTIOUS! Here’s a link to a salad staple in our home: https://tuesdayswithlaurie.com/2014/12/30/buddha-bowl/
I do remember reading and commenting on that post. At the time, I didn’t have spinach or kale in the fridge; otherwise, I would have included one of those – darker green and, thus, more nutritious!
Whenever I’m strongly convinced I should be writing, I end up cooking or baking! What’s that all about??!!
My take: It leads to a pleasurable post about your family’s treasures. I loved your blog post this week as I noted in comments. What a legacy you are passing on, both in words and artifacts. Your grandchildren love those boxes because they are beautiful – and because they have been passed down from YOU!
You made my day, Marian! No lecturing about should or would or could, just pure encouragement! Thank you!
You’re welcome, Elfrieda! Your posts often do the same for me. 🙂
When warm weather arrives I love salads and as it will be near 90 degrees here today that is what I’ll be eating. Cooking not only helps my mood it is also a way a nourishing other people which I enjoy doing!
It’s hard to believe that temps in Virginia are near 90 degrees so early in May. I like your upbeat take on the topic, food as nourishment for others. I’m sure Bill would agree.
This morning I was eyeballing the second set of memoir proofs. Remember that? As a change, I took a breather and made pots of pasta and semi-homemade spaghetti sauce. Thanks for visiting me here, Joan. 🙂
Good advice with a delicious outcome!
I don’t know about your take on cooking, but I do know your camera and computer are a great combo. Thanks, Fiona!
I find baking a great release from mind-sucking work. I’d like to lie (fib?) and say that often I make an amazing salad like yours here when I need to leave the computer…and my brain. But no. Yesterday I made a devil’s food cake for my devil of a guy who seems to LOSE weight when he eats my desserts (and he has a huge sweet tooth). So I comply by baking cookies/or a cake at least once a week. Ahhh, I feel better now. Back to the mind-sucking work now. 🙂
Love how you josh about your devilish guy losing weight eating your chocolate cake.
Hmmm . . . but maybe you’re not joshing!
I don’t make desserts but my guy buys them because he likes to maintain his barrel shape. Ha!
HaHa. Barrel shapes are good – he’ll never sink in a storm. In all honestly, no, I’m not joshing about my devilish guy. He has the metabolism of a hummingbird. I feed him twice what I feed myself and his pants get lose. I now pile three times more spaghetti on his plate than mine. Sigh. Life sometimes is just NOT fair.
For crying out LOUD!
I’ll have to remember that: metabolism of a hummingbird . . . hmmmm
My mom had the same kind of metabolism. The two of them ate tons more than me; I look at a piece of soft-centered chocolate and I gain a pound. Hmmm, I want to be a hummingbird in my next life. 🙂
Me too! %-)
Nice looking and sounding salad, Marian. I love salads and we usually eat an entree-sized one every week. And how did you know my brain was exhausted by all the writing and computer time these last weeks. 🙂
I usually get sick of writing if I’ve been doing it too long on my iPad and autocorrect or typos drive me crazy. This usually happens when I’m behind with diaries and an hour later, I’m still typing the second entry, having to correct half the words!
Also, sometimes I’m sick of English. There are days I can’t find my words and it drives me crazy. Especially if talking to my husband, who is no help despite being a native speaker. Then I yell: “I’m sick of speaking English!” Not that we could communicate in another tongue. Maybe it means it’s time for me to shut up for a moment. 🙂
Mark’s homemade honey mustard dressing isn’t bad either. He likes balsamic vinaigrette. Me not so much.
How to turn the brain off? Difficult. By going for a walk in nature (doesn’t always work as it still allows for thinking) or hanging out with friends or doing another fun activity.
No one could detect from your writing (and editing!) that you’re not a native English speaker. So take that as a compliment!
My iPhone drives me crazy too with the auto-correct feature. Who do they think they’re helping?? That’s why I like to work on my laptop most of the time.
It occurs to me that you are maintaining two parallel streams of words: your diary/travelogue and your WIP. You definitely don’t have time for mischief!
All the best today as you wrangle words and move forward with your projects. And don’t forget to take breaks! % – )
I’ve scribbled a lot of notes while cooking, as well as gardening. i do my best thinking on long road trips, singing along to my favourite cd du jour. Unfortunately I can’t scribble anything but that may be that’s why it’s a great place to write. My thoughts are my own and I can enjoy the act of writing without the pressure to pen to paper for an audience. Sometimes those thoughts last long enough for me to scribble down later. 🙂 Love your post!!
Every creative person has a different habit. Thanks for sharing yours, Jenn. Your stories stand out for me because they are witty or wry and always entertaining. 🙂
So utterly interesting. When I stop writing I do yoga or walk . I have always loved cooking in the past but lately I’ve found it a bit of a chore .
I have a great quickie for a salad ;
I buy a small bag ( no waste) of a variety of coloured salad leaves , cherry tomatoes, red onion. Put in bowl with a grind of black pepper, sea salt , a squirt of lemon and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil ….really works .
I’ve spent ages trying to find the right dressing . This ticks all the boxes .
So yummy! I can picture the pretty colours in your zesty salad. Yes, sometimes I find fixing food a chore. Then hubby steps in with hot dogs or grilled cheese, something simple. Or, we go out to eat.
You do yoga; I do pilates. We’re sort of a match. Thanks for paying us a visit today, Cherry!
I keep my salad simple with dark baby lettuces either from the grocery or my garden, thinly sliced red pepper and cucumbers, and whatever else. I like organic because it’s good for the earth, farm workers, and me. Last night I added thin strips of pan fried tofu. Sometimes it’s sunflower seeds or grated carrot or …. I almost always use a balsamic-olive oil dressing I made myself. I eat this most evenings and never get bored. It goes with every main dish. There’s always enough to share with friends or my son who lives nearby.
I tend to tend plants or walk outside to balance sitting. If the weather is impossible, I do a few yoga poses or a simple stretch or two. If the weather is truly impossible as when it’s below zero, I use the rowing machine I inherited from my husband. I practice hatha yoga with a young woman teacher who keeps me focused on strength and posture, plus balance lost from inner ear damage. My body is happier when I do yoga. I rarely eat out because of restaurant noise, but I often get a tofu wrap at the health food store for lunch.
You have healthy practices, inside and outdoors. A detect a healthy rhythm in observing the habits you have cultivated over the years. Contentment too. Thanks for sharing this, Elaine! (((:=)
(My emoticon has resulted from reading a book on punctuation today: Mary Norris’ The Comma Queen.)
Must add: This afternoon, I repotted a succulent, refreshed a sad basket of impatiens, and bought a rosemary plant. Rosemary, a good herb for taste — and for remembrance!