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!
“When you don’t know what to do or how to move forward, stand still.” This is a piece of advice that my mother gave me during my post-bacc years. That time in my life was marked by a lot of indecision and agonized choices–most often, the choice of whether or not to keep going with my program for another semester or not. I’d receive yet another poor score or a discouraging comment or simply be hit with a spell of burnout, and I’d doubt what…
I’ve been thinking a lot about change this week, how it creeps up unexpectedly and often without any help from us. For a while this past spring it was as if I was suspended in time, which at that moment didn’t feel like much of a good thing. The days were long and stifling, overpopulated by anxious thoughts. It’s different now; I don’t feel as if I’m dragging myself through time. The quality of my day-to-day experience is richer and fuller. There’s more…
As usual, I’m a little late getting this round up of recipes together, but hopefully there’s still time for my readers to make a few of these recipes for holiday gatherings, or perhaps a New Year’s dinner party! Here are some of my favorite holiday dishes, all of them vegan, some of them raw, most of them gluten free. There’s something for everyone in the 30 appetizers, soups, salads, sides, entrees, and desserts that follow. Though I’ll be blogging through the week (with…
I was at a kirtan at my home yoga studio last night, and while I always love being there, it was different this time, because the close friend and teacher whom I usually go with has moved to another city. A couple mantras in, it felt lovely but not the same without him. I texted him a photo, telling him I was thinking of him and missed him. It’s hard for anything to dampen my spirits during Kirtan, and soon enough I was…