by Caren Crane
I've noticed I blog about food a lot. I hope you will bear with me as I trip down this well-won path again, since we're supposed to write about what we know. *g* I love to cook, which is a tremendously creative occupation. I know I'm not alone, either. Among the Banditas and Bandita Buddies there is a powerful store of culinary talent.
It struck me recently that my husband, while enthusiastic at times, is...well...not very creative in the kitchen. He has invented a couple of great recipes. As in, two. One is his Chicken a la Ronnie. It features soy sauce, seasoned salt and lots of ginger and it is absolutely DIVINE.
His other culinary masterpiece is a mashed sweet potato concoction that is wonderful as well (though he tends to get carried away with the cinnamon). When faced with the contents of the kitchen cabinets and refrigerator and 30 minutes until the teenagers begin to self-digest, he tends either tell them to eat cereal or call Papa John's.
I, on the other hand, can whip up something tasty with only a few minutes of planning and aome creative thinking. I explained to my husband that to me, the contents of the cabinets and fridge sort of float in a cloud over my head and I mentally sift through them until a semblance of a meal begins to emerge. Once I make some important connection (like, leftover turkey + chicken broth + half and half + spices = curried turkey), I am off and running. I can improvise around things I don't have and brainstorm side dishes from leftovers, canned goods and vegetable drawer rejects. He gave me and my cloud idea an odd look.
Then I realized it is the same way with my writing. I usually get an idea for a character or a scene first, then I let it marinate a while. I start to get a sense for who the main character is and the kinds of problems she has. Then I think about what kind of family she comes from, what kind of work she does, what her ambitions are. If I have an idea for a scene, I may play with different ways she got into the scene and what could happen afterward.
All those possibilities hover in a cloud in my head and I wait, patiently, until something connects and things start to make sense to me. I have no idea how those connections are made or where they come from. They simply emerge from the mist and I try to grab them and get them on screen or paper or a scrap of a napkin or my hand before they evaporate.
Fiction is challenging because there are an endless number of things that could happen. Choosing the best ones, narrowing all those choices down to one great one, is the hard work of writing.
Maybe cooking is like that for my husband. Maybe he gets overwhelmed with the endless possibilities of all those ingredients staring at him from the shelves. Perhaps the cavalcade of dinner options leaves him stymied and unable to launch into action. Sort of a cook's block, rather like writer's block.
Then again, maybe he just lacks imagination. Except there IS that delectable Chicken a la Ronnie...
What about you? Does your kitchen seem like an endless sea of variety and wonder? Does the potential in a box of beads or a basket of yarn send your creative wheels spinning? What gets your creative juices flowing and feeds your creative mind?