blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

When baking isn’t Zen

but you still get to eat a cookie

home made oat and raisin cookies
actual cookies baked by me

I wrote a piece recently about overcoming writer’s block by immersing yourself in the Zen of simple things. In this case, baking cookies.

It was all there; soothing repetitive tasks, making something tangible, a dash of creativity in the ingredients (these are oat, mixed fruit and ginger cookies, in fact.)

I thought I had done a Good Thing.™

Then this dropped into my inbox from Austin Kleon. You know, the Steal like an Artist guy.

Screen Shot 2018-05-26 at 12.51.54

Procrastibaking is a thing?

My world tilted. Was it possible that I had procrastinated without knowing — I had in fact procrastibaked?

No, no, say it ain’t so.

Okay, it might be so, sometimes, but I stand by my original article. And I learned something after the cookies (and my story) were baked.

  • creativity is a remix, combining existing elements in a new way
  • procrastination+baking = procrastibaking — love that word
  • inspiration is everywhere
  • productive procrastination still produces something worthwhile
  • whatever, I got to eat cookies and they were delicious

Now, go read his article and the book, which is fabulous. I’m off to make tea and raid the cookie jar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog, Pat Aitcheson writes, writing process

Flour, butter, sugar

baking a solution to writer’s block

raisin-cookies_pixel1
pixel1 via pixabay

I’m stuck. Just forty minutes ago the words were flowing, full steam ahead. Now they’ve dried up. I stand, stretch, sit again. Still no words.

It’s time to follow my own advice.  I say that writer’s block can be overcome*, so this is my opportunity to walk the talk. I resist the temptation to fall into a social media vortex. The weather is too hideous for gardening or a walk, so I head to the kitchen.

Flour, butter, sugar. The basic elements for baking are all there, and it is truly amazing how many variations flow from them. Like Lego blocks, they can build many things. I grab my trusty recipe for oat and raisin cookies.

Not enough butter, so I make up the shortfall with avocado oil. It’s supposed to be super healthy, and it ought to be at that price. Must have been feeling well off that day.
The recipe says raisins. I substitute mixed fruit and chopped ginger.
Little changes make these cookies uniquely mine, raisin and oats and something else.

Creaming butter and sugar is repetitive and soothing. I can’t get this wrong and there’s no pressure of time. I sift the dry ingredients together and inhale the aroma of cinnamon, noting the random speckles of brown against white flour.

While I combine ingredients, the story problem simmers in the background. It’s meditative, this focus on a single thing. I lose the plot. I start clean up while the oven preheats. Blobs of dough sit unevenly on assorted baking trays. They’ll all taste great.

The aroma of baking is heavenly and I inhale deeply. The kitchen is quiet and tidy again. After hours of mental effort, turning the focus outwards and creating order restores calm. I feel more in control and the nagging voice of doubt recedes, because the cookies are a small but certain win.

And then the protagonist whispers, “I fell asleep on the train and now I’m waking up in Sheffield with a dead phone and no money. Help.”  Oh yes, I can work with this. The next steps light up in my brain and I return to work energised, with tea and a warm, delicious cookie.

*No more writers block

Simple repetitive tasks are calming, approached in the right mindset.
Step away from the keyboard.
Let your subconscious work on a problem while you occupy your brain elsewhere.
Engage all your senses and pay attention.
Limitations create problems. Solving those problems demands creativity.
Making something tangible is satisfying
in a way mental work is not.
Small wins help enormously on the way to the bigger goal.
Enjoy your cookie.