Last year I made a New Year’s resolution to write more fiction and to get better at tennis. Despite my resolution, I’ve stayed as far away from fiction as I have in my entire life.
Right after the New Year, work sent me to Europe, where I worked for two weeks and rediscovered how much life there is beyond my own world. I met new people, ate new foods, commuted to work differently, tried new kinds of alcohol, learned new words and concepts and truly enjoyed myself, all while working harder than a pack of dogs.
More Unexpected Travel
After that trip I thought I’d settle back into my fiction. In fact, my last day in Amsterdam, while I was there, freezing and walking on frozen canals I visited a literary bookstore unlike any that I’d seen. I bought a literary magazine and read it from cover to cover before I even got on the plane home. All of my heroes had written personal accounts in this edition.
When I got home, I bought myself a new leather-bound journal and a book of writing exercises put together by an author I admire. I thought it would help me to write for fun without the pressure of publication in my head. Unbeknownst to me I had a year of travel ahead of me and didn’t really get to do much writing, except for emails. I did however, try many different foods and learned about many different traditions and cultures in different countries and cities and met so many interesting people.
Then I did this and the next week we went to Madrid, Segovia, Toledo, Valencia, Barcelona, Codoba, Sevilla and everywhere in between. We ate our way through a country that we had always deemed our true home, in a strange anachronistic way.
I fed my love of olives, indulged my weakness for churros and brought back Claudia Roden’s wonderful cookbook.
When we got home from Spain, we moved from the 425 sq foot apartment where we spent our last six years. The new apartment is slightly bigger, less affordable and closer to the center of the city and our jobs. This new apartment led to buying a dining table, the purchase of which is directly responsible for the creation of this website, my virtual home where I spend so much of my time.
The New Kitchen and Table
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the new kitchen is completely impractical, but the table. THE TABLE! Sitting at a table instead of tv trays changed the entire dining experience and the way we relate to each other. Though I’ve always loved to cook, I found myself cooking more and more just so we could sit at the table and eat on it. I rarely cry, but I may have shed a tear the first three times we sat at an actual table. I began experimenting with new recipes because we have a place big enough for family and friends to come over and share a meal. I have a proper place to serve the food where it can be the main focus and shine.
Being more aware of what I’m eating and cooking made physical activity more of a priority. I did end up taking those tennis lessons. I am playing competitively again, probably the best I’ve ever played.
The reason I write all of this is that my resolution last year was all wrong. While literature and fiction have always been a part of me, the focus was off. Since I’ve quit my fiction habit, I’ve been happy. My favorite writers say they have been the most miserable when they’re writing. Maybe quitting is the answer.
Doubt and Ridicule
One day recently I conducted a search for “Dear A” in my gmail, while looking for a formal email and it pulled up every rejection I’d ever received from the literary world. There were rejections for every version of every story and every magazine and the two evening MFA programs I had applied to last year (as if working full-time as an attorney wasn’t enough). It was horrifying to see how many rejections there were. I didn’t know whether to give myself a pat on the back for my blind and indifferent persistence or to really give up for good.
Ignoring Doubt and Ridicule
I decided that I would keep going because I cannot help but write. Quitting something that you love is never the answer. I’ve expanded my horizons and read everything that I felt like reading (including popular novels) and wrote when I felt like writing, rather than sticking to the rigid schedule and limiting myself to fiction. That runs contrary to everything I know about writing and being a writer. But, I somehow believed that this method might bring me to where I wanted to be. And it did. It’s just that I hadn’t realized that where I wanted to be was here with you. It led to the creation of this site, writing regularly and sharing the things I eat, experience, discover and create. I read many wonderful cookbooks, articles, poetry, essays and novels. I gained a new appreciation for photography and learned to look at things differently. I even wrote a name your own adventure story.
I put my preoccupations aside to live life for a minute and that life has exceeded my expectations and deepened my appreciation for the craft of not just writing, but living. Apparently, this is the recipe for which I had been searching all along.