It isn’t. It’s horrible. It’s awful. It’s so difficult. Not a single talented, published, critically acclaimed writer I know will say it’s easy to write a novel. And it doesn’t get easier with time or experience. Even if you win a Pulitzer, you just start over again when you sit down to write the novel-after-the-Pulitzer. It’s an uphill climb through swamp and rain and snow and rocky terrain, all around.
When my novel isn’t coming along, when the ideas don’t come, when the words for the ideas don’t come, it’s like the worst case of constipation, ever. You know what you have to do (push out that G*dawful brick of a turd), but knowing what to do, isn’t the same as having it happen. So you wait.
The ideas are swirling around in my subconscious, and they’re just not coming together just yet. They’re just stuck. I know what I’ve got to do –I’ve got to integrate a new character into my novel revision, and I’ve got to re-design another character, before I can really earnestly dive into this next revision. But. It’s not. Coming. Together.
So what do I do when my writing isn’t going well?
I go bookshopping. I read. I eat. I go to yoga (well, not nearly enough). Hell, I even bake.
I bake chocolate peanut butter cookies:
I had to give many of them away. I’m a weird animal; I bake for the sake of baking. I like making exact measurements, and throwing them together into a concoction that when exposed to heat, becomes something else entirely. I like giving people baked goods, watching their faces light up.
I like butter. I love sugar. I respect flour. What a triumvirate.
I make blueberry pancakes (flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, milk, egg) from scratch, with homemade blueberry maple syrup (blueberries, maple syrup). Liquid to fluffy solid.
And apple dutch bunnies. I love the names of these things, which are also known as German baked pancakes. Because they’re a a sort of pancake that is baked!
I bake lasagna. Drool.
And I make kimchi. My house is rarely without kimchi. And I like making the kimchi, too–I like prepping the radish, and making the fermenting sauce, and I like mixing it together, and I like watching it transform overnight and over the next couple of weeks into something I’ve known my entire life, something that’s part of who I am.
I go to Lit Crawl. And read my work aloud. If my writing isn’t going well, at least I’m reaping the benefits of what I’ve already written. Right?
I go to a Martha Stewart Show taping. That’s a nice distraction. And when I watch Martha, I think of how talented she is, and also what kind of controlling tyrant she can be. I love her. But I’m also afraid of her. And it reminds me not to be a tyrant to my characters. Let them be. Let them unfold. I’m stuck on my novel, but I’m going to let it unfold.
I socialize with friends to the point where my extrovert self is more than satiated. And I begin to wonder if perhaps I am introverted, after all. And then I feel physically ill, and realize I’m just wearing myself down.
I even apply to residencies. Pushing that submission button makes me feel like a crazy person–because I know the chances are that I’ll be rejected, but I push that button anyway, in hopes the results will be different than all the other 100 times previous.
I take a letterpress class. And love it.
And I organize my spices. I am verrry excited about organizing my spices.
Here is a before picture. See the jumble? See how you can’t see what spices are where? And how when I am cooking, I *might* have a difficult time figuring out where the oregano might be? How I might have to blindly lift jars one after another, until I find the right one? And also, how unsightly this all is?
After moving into our new place, we began cooking more. And gathering more spices (see above). With no organization method (see above). And then I remembered my friend Tea’s post on spice organization earlier this year. I clicked around, looked at the other spice organization methods to which she referred. And I liked her straight-sided, widish mouthed jars the most, even though Smitten Kitchen’s jars were beautiful and The Traveler’s Lunchbox’s system spoke to me, given my recent foray into letterpress.
And because I prefer a ribbed lid, I ordered a bunch of spice jars from Specialty Bottle. And got a label maker (oh, how I love label makers).
This is how my spices looked afterward, in uniform jars:
I did not put labels on the glass part of the jars. I put the labels on the lids, because I was going to put them in a drawer and view them from the tops of their lids. (Yes, I know there is the possibility of lid switching (and thus label switching) tragedy–hrm. Maybe I will put labels on the glass part of the jars).
And this is how they look, organized in a drawer. Yes, they’re in alphabetical order, at least for now.
There will be no hunting and guessing as oil spits in a pan or a stew bubbles or as I mix a cake batter, anymore!
For the record, a writer friend was staying at my place with me this week, and found my excitement over spice organization inordinately strange. She didn’t say so, but I could see it in her eyes watching my anticipation crescendo as my box of spice jars neared (yay for UPS tracking!). I opened up the box of jars, when they arrived, with as much glee as I would a box of
new shoes books. And when I showed her what I’d done with my spices she politely commended me. Like I do when my dogs are high as a kite about having eaten a fly (ahem good girl, *pats head* ahem). So, I don’t expect everyone to get too excited, but I.am.excited! About! My! Spice! Organization!
And yes, when my writing isn’t going well, I also sit down to write. Because sometimes the Muse visits, and if you’re not ready to greet her, then well, you’ve missed her. And that won’t do.
 Most impossible question to be asked, ever.