I came across a snippet from an interview with the playwright Tracy Letts this week. In it, Letts shared a candid account of what his life as a writer has looked like in quarantine. It’s candid, a little sad, and very relatable.
The quote is part of a larger interview that with 75 artists, which was published this week in the New York Times. The artists were asked the following questions:
Some of the responses are really funny. When asked, “what art have you turned to in this time?” the photographer Nan Goldin replied “I’ve tried to cook and bake with no great success.”
Karen Russell has apparently gotten into makeup tutorials.
Letts isn’t the only artist who struggled with the usual cadence of creative output. When asked “what’s one thing you made this year?” novelist Ali Smith responded, “a compost heap.”
If you were to replace theater with cooking, Letts’ response would sum up a lot of my creative experience in the pandemic year. At a moment when I wanted so very badly to turn inward and create, I found it completely impossible to do that. I can’t remember the last time I had such a hard time with cooking and photography. (Writing, at least, hasn’t been a struggle.)
I can relate to Letts’ sentiment of “the theater is my lifeblood and I don’t know who I am without it.” 2020 and early 2021 did help to clarify my sense of what matters most. Like many people, I developed a deeper appreciation of family and friends.
But I’m feeling a little lost, too. Recipe creation is part of my professional identity, and its my lifeblood, just as theater is to Letts. It’s weird to find myself avoiding it, reaching for the next sandwich or frozen thing so that I don’t have to face how few recipe ideas I have.
Right after I read Letts’ comment, I came across a series of illustrations and words by Morgan Harper Nichols on creativity. Nichols declares, “Taking time to process is just as much a part of the creative process as anything else.”
Seeing those words at the moment I did felt almost serendipitous. Every period of creative abundance in my life has been preceded by a long period of struggle or stillness. I need to remember that each time I feel frustrated: we’re experiencing the creative process even when we’re not activity producing anything.
Perhaps my favorite answer in the Times interview was that of Tiwa Savage. In response to the question of what one thing she made this year, she said, “I’ve made peace with myself. I chose to no longer stress over the things I have no control over.”
I can’t exactly claim to have made peace with myself this year, but I did learn how to tap into a new reserve of gentleness and self-compassion, one that wasn’t there before. And I’m getting better at not worrying about the things I can’t control.
Maybe the interview or MHN’s words will give you a little comfort today, help you to make peace with a creative pause, or remind you that we’ve all done the best we could this year. They helped me a lot.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
I love the shape of Constanze’s Franzbrötchen (Northern German cinnamon buns).
I’m always collecting recipes for air fryer staples, and Brita’s tofu cubes are calling to me this week.
Ania’s roasted leek and cauliflower pasta looks excellent.
A great looking vegan bolognese from Shanika.
It’s PI Day! Here’s a bright, beautiful slice of vegan blueberry pie from the Baked blog.
1. The psychological toll of the pandemic has been on my mind this week. It’s saddening to read about how this has affected kids.
2. Similarly, reporting on what the pandemic year has cost teens.
3. Intimate partner violence and other types of domestic violence have increased around the world. Time magazine reports on this pandemic-within-the-pandemic.
4. There are a lot of misconceptions about OCD, a lot of stereotyping about the disorder that happens in pop culture. This essay is clarifying.
5. A little good news: Ford Motor Co. has been working on clear N95 masks, so that people with hearing loss can read lips while protecting themselves from Covid-19.
It’s now been more than a year since the WHO declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, and I need to say how grateful I am for the presence of this community in the last twelve months.
So grateful. Thanks for getting me through it!
Those of you who’ve been reading for a while might remember that 2017 was the year of bread baking around here. It all started when my friend Ali published her (wonderful) cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs. I’d wanted to get serious about homemade bread baking for a long time, but everything I’d read until that point made my eyes glaze over: it was all so technical and intimidating. Ali’s peasant bread technique—which involves no kneading and almost no dirtying of hands at all, in…
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For a long time, I thought of myself as someone who thrived off of being busy, very busy. At the least, I knew that I tended toward being hyper-productive, which felt sort of like the same thing. When I look back now on my post-bacc years, or my last two years at FSG, when I was working full days, taking pre-req classes at night, and blogging into the wee hours, I’m not sure how I got it all done. Surely being busy must have come…