I’m celebrating the summer solstice in Denver, CO, today. I’m staying with my friend Ashley. Ashley took the beautiful photos in Power Plates. At the moment, she’s working on the photos for my next cookbook.
I’ve written a lot about creative roadblocks this year, and this cookbook is the main reason why. I first started working on it early in the pandemic. Perfect timing, I thought. If I was going to be indoors for an indeterminate period of time, I might as well have a juicy, creative project to sink my teeth into.
This isn’t how it worked at all. Instead of sinking my teeth into anything, I dawdled and dragged my feet. I tested recipes reluctantly and distractedly, and they were predictably awful. I thought about the book a lot, but for months and months it remained suspended in a state of of failure to launch.
I was really frustrated with myself, especially when I had to call my editor and ask for not one, but three extensions of my deadline. (The book will ultimately be published nearly a year after I thought it would be.) When I tried to explain to her why a grand total of zero recipes had been created, I didn’t know what to say.
I attributed a lot of my paralysis to the pandemic, of course. I know that I’m not the only person who had a hard time focusing in 2020 and early 2021, in spite of the fact that I had more empty time than usual.
Life wasn’t exactly stress-free when I wrote Power Plates. I was still in grad school and working for myself. I was absorbing the reality of a failed relationship, and then grieving after a difficult breakup. Even so, I created the recipes for that book steadily and confidently. Why was it so hard this time around?
I spent the summer and fall fantasizing about an imminent creative breakthrough. I can report that this never happened, not even a little.
Yet somehow, in a way so incremental and painstaking that I don’t even really remember how I started, I got to work. And while I’m still behind—nowhere near where I wanted to be by the time I got to Denver—I’ve managed to create a lot of recipes. Recipes that I hope are pretty good.
The creative process has remained, and is still, hard. This book is nothing like the last one. But it’s happening, little by little and in spite of my guilt and self-doubt.
This cookbook won’t be a reality for a good long time, so it feels a little weird to even write about it. But as I watched Ashley at work this week, fluidly shooting images that are even more lovely than I could have hoped, I felt a sort wonderment about creative work. It’s so strange, so unpredictable, and so worthwhile.
If there’s something you’re working on that’s baffling you, frustrating you, or making you feel completely unlike yourself, hang in there. There may not ever be a sudden break in the clouds or “aha” moment. But if you keep showing up for the thing, even if showing up means starting at a blank page or an empty cutting board, something will shift. And I can almost guarantee that you’ll come to see the long period of getting started as productive in its own way.
Happy Sunday, friends. Here are some recipes and reads.
Will this be the summer I finally get into Dalgona coffee?
No matter how hot it gets, I can always do with a hearty mushroom risotto.
Never made kale chips with lacinato kale before!
Tis the season for grilling. These barbecue tofu skewers look so good!
Finally, what an elegant vegan pastry this berry mille feuille napoleon is.
1. A troubling look at rare metal mining in the deep seas.
2. Covid-19 takeaways that changed medicine.
3. The connection between mitochondria and neurological health.
4. An important take on why the act of making Juneteenth a national holiday will lack meaning unless it’s accompanied by legislative progress.
5. These fireworks were pretty magical.
Wishing you a peaceful night, and—if it serves you—creative determination in the coming week.
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