Retro Post: My Thoughts on Why I Write

The following is a post I made on an earlier iteration of the CrushedMuffin site. Below the post, I will toss in my current-state two-cents; what the “now” me thinks about what the “then” me wrote.

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My Thoughts On Why I Write

POSTED  10-AUGUST-2002
I think I’m a writer at heart, or rather, soul. As my current project I was was going through my filing cabinets, purging things I’ve had tucked away for who-knows-how-long, and I have found a lot (several folders full) of my creative writing. I also have, elsewhere (another project to go through) a box of journals. I think I started keeping them off and on around the fifth grade. I began to wonder why I write so much. I think it is in order to explain me to myself.Skimming my poetry, and setting it aside to type and save on a CD ROM disc (another new project) I see some creative imagery, but also a lot of introspection. I have, in the past, tried meditating, feeling it was important to try to find the inner me, what I mean to myself, my beliefs…my core. It never seemed to work. It has just occurred to me, 25 years into my life, that perhaps I don’t need the candles, the quiet music the lying still on the bed trying to relax my entire body and clear my mind. Perhaps I just need a pen and paper. I write to release my soul, to discover who I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not closing my eyes and doing that automatic writing exercise, where you let the pen do what it will, calling on whatever may be present in you. Rather, I figure things out on paper. I go through my thoughts, my mind, my soul, step by step I pick up the pieces, turn them over in my hands as I examining them in words, and place these pieces in a (hopefully) logical place in myself where I can find it again later. I write to get to know me.

Well, I’ve decided, once I begin that monumental task of typing all my handwritten prose, I’m going to select bits of my soul that I don’t mind sharing, and placing them on my writings page. And this writing- it started out as a write for myself, but I decided to invite an audience. Welcome to a little piece of my soul.

I think I’m going to try to write something, anything, for my website and change it out every week or two. It may be soul-searching, it may be a strong statement of my beliefs, it may be silly prose I come up with on a bad afternoon, but I have decided to invite you to join me in my life-long quest to understand myself.

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Current status: Well, I now have a two-drawer file cabinet full of folders of fiction, no fewer than eight three ring binders of novels and one of poetry (those are the ones correctly shelved, though I’m convinced I have at least one more novel somewhere). Additionally, I have electronic versions of the same stories, and of stories I’ve not yet had reason to print – on my computer, in the cloud, on flash drives and CDs.

I still journal, though for a while I was concentrating on the Morning Pages model from The Artists Way. I still have all these journals – stored away in my office in tubs and boxes and sitting on shelves.

I don’t recall how far I got typing in the handwritten pages, though I’ve had that thought (or scanning them) enough times since then that I think I didn’t get very far. At least not with the straight up journaling – A review of the old contents of crushedmuffin.com tells me I did manage to type up a significant portion of the fiction and poetry.

And I have considered traditional meditation again and again in the 13 years since this post (honestly, I was surprised to find that I had been trying it, or at least considering it, for so long – it feels like a more current development in my life). I think in some regards the younger me had more insight into how my brain works, or at least, more self awareness.

The idea that writing is how I explore my self, and come to know myself better feels both foreign (like it wasn’t my idea), and right. I wonder what has happened in the intervening years that made me lose sight of this – what convinced me that I need to seek other forms of meditation? I’m not discounting the fact that people change over the years, and how they interact with the world can subsequently change, but am opening myself up to the idea that maybe the younger me had some wisdom worth re-examining.

Biscotti Recipe(s)

At a recent writer retreat and workshop on Writing the Other (more on this later), I spent some time in the kitchen making treats for the writers and instructors.  A popular one was the biscotti, and I was asked to share the recipe, hence this post.  What follows is original recipe, from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and then, below the photo, a variation on ingredients that I used (with the same steps to bake) to make a chocolate almond biscotti.

I hope you enjoy.

Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti –

from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar pg 211

  • 1/3 cup almond milk (I used soymilk)
  • 2 TBSP ground flax seeds
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP arrowroot powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the almond milk and flax seeds, beating for about 20 seconds.

3. Mix in the orange zest, sugar, oil, and vanilla.

4. Sift in the flour, arrowroot powder, baking powder, all-spice and salt.

5. Stir to combine, and just before the dough comes together knead in the chocolate chips and cranberries. If cranberries and chips pop out,  just press them back in as well as you can.

6. On the parchment, form the dough into a log and press it into a rectangle about 12 inches long and 4 inches wide. Bake for 26 to 28 minutes until lightly puffed and browned.

7. Let the log cool on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes.

8. Preheat oven to 325F. Carefully transfer the baked log to a cutting board. With a heavy, very sharp knife, cut 1/2-inch-thick slices. The best way to do this is one motion, pushing down – don’t “saw” the slices off or they can crumble.

9. Stand slices, curved side up, 1/2 inch apart on baking sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until biscotti appear dry and toasted. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

biscotti-platter

Pictured – Chocolate Almond Biscotti (fancy style), Cranberry White Chocolate Biscotti, and Green Tea Walnut Biscotti – from my days running Sweet Thursdays, a vegan bakery. (photo credit Lila Sadkin (c) 2012)

 

Chocolate Almond Biscotti – a variation
  • 1/3 cup almond milk
  • 2 TBSP ground flax seeds
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP arrowroot powder
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

Follow the same baking directions as above. For fancier biscotti, have an additional 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and almond slivers set aside for the recipe. Chop the almonds. Melt the chocolate, and drizzle it over the top of the cooled biscotti, and sprinkle the almond pieces over top.

Daruma Doll

A while back a friend of mine gave me a Daruma doll he picked up on his most recent trip to Japan. When I received it, the eyes were blank.

Following what my friend told me, I set a wish/goal that I wanted to achieve as I filled in one of the eyes. The doll sits on my desk as a reminder to me, and he earns the other eye when I’ve met my goal/ when my wish has been fulfilled.

DarumaSmaller

(You can read more about Daruma Doll eyes at wikipedia)

Now, this is very much a borrowed cultural item, and I am applying my use of it based on my (quite limited) understanding of the doll, and the tradition that drives it. I do so with respect to the culture from which I’ve taken it, trying to honor the spirit behind it, as I understand it.

As for the wish? Well, here is hoping it’s not like a birthday wish that is nullified when shared. My Daruma doll will get it’s left eye when I have sold and published 2 works of fiction.

I have one short story on the verge of going out, a second in the works, and ideas for a third. In the meantime, my one-eyed observer sits on the desk above me, reminding me of the goals I am striving to achieve.

Points System

I have been struggling lately to use my time to do the things that I aspire to do with my time.  Instead I squander my time on the enjoyable activities (e.g. binge watching Veronica Mars) because, dang it, I deserve to pamper myself.

But if you do it all the time, it’s no longer pampering. It’s avoidance, and the excuse to not get things done. So instead at the end of the day I feel lazy and guilty, rather than pampered. I’ve the sneaky feeling the depression I’ve recently begun treatment for is encouraging me in the desire to not do much, but also then jumping in with the guilt when I listen to it.

So, in an effort to get things done, I sat down with my sister, and came up with a list of small goals, and awarded each goal a point level. Some items are worth 1 point, and are daily – like brushing my teeth in the morning, and putting the dirty clothes in the hamper before bed. Some are worth more points, and are done less frequently, such as 5 points for cooking dinner (with the goal of 3 times a week), or the weekly “Seek out quiet time” for 15 points.

The final kind of points are the stacking ones. One example is “30 minutes writing related activity – daily” – the first time in a week (Monday – Sunday) that I do this, I get 3 points.  The second time I get 6 points, and the third, 9, and so on.

RewardsTable

The other side of that is the rewards. Once I earn a certain number of points, I get to trade them in for rewards. I have started a list of what the rewards look like, from the “$1 store item” level when I need a quick boost, to a trip to the spa. My sister has even offered to have “mystery” prizes, where she tells me the point value, and if I want, I can spend my points on what she feels is an appropriate level reward – great for the times when I feel the system is getting dull / when I convince myself I’m no longer in the rewards I’d set because, let’s face it, lazy is easier.

So that is my current plan to do the things that I think will, ultimately, make me a happier person, and figure out how to make the time for the things that I feel are important, rather than seeking the easy way out.

Starting my third week as of this past Monday, and I am already going to spend the first 100 points I earned to get some temporary tattoos I found on eBay.

http://tinyurl.com/dragonflytemtats