Changing Gears

The last time I wrote about my writing process, it was to tell you that I was stuck in the middle of painful restructuring. I have now finished that stage and am on to the final rewrite of my novel. Hallelujah! Followed by, Oh sh*t! as I realize how many weeks since the restructure have already disappeared in the rearview. The writing was to be the no-worries piece of this project because putting words on the page has always come easy to me.

My problem is that I always think I’ve got more time than I actually do. I tend to overschedule until I burn out and then I go into a sort of vegetative state to recover. If my overscheduling included getting tons of writing done, I could work with that. But I de-prioritize my creative work, thinking I can “fit it in” sometime. I focus on seeing family and friends, cooking, working, and at least for this past half year or so, taking full advantage of my open schedule to spend lots of time with horses. That is pretty spectacular and complaining would not be gentlemanlike. All the same this is not getting me any closer to my goal: to dedicate myself to writing. My brain is stuck in “Vacation” gear. What I need is several shifts up and clearly labeled “Writing is Actually Your Job Now, Go Do It.”*

20160701-DSC_0394Author Elizabeth Gilbert gave a TED Talk on this topic that sums the issue up pretty well. Whatever one’s particular problem is–lack of motivation or inspiration, or feeling overwhelmed–ultimately there is only one solution, and that is showing up to work. Saying you will solve the problem another day means the problem will not get solved. Not settling your hands onto the keyboard means no inspiration can speak through them. Any step you can make towards managing a seemingly un-manageable project can only be made by working on it, not by worrying about it. If you don’t show up for the work, the work does not get done. If you do show up for the work–well, some days you end up writing 5,000 words when you sat down to write 500. Mostly not. But those are the days that redeem the rest.

Changing gears is, like most actions in life, something that simply must be done. There’s no game plan for it. It’s not a multi-step process. It’s deciding to do it and just doing it. The only way I will sit down and show up for work every day is by sitting down and showing up for work every day.

As I write this, in itself a procrastination from the novel which is open in Scrivener a simple click away, it occurs to me I can decide to do it right now. I was tempted to pick September as a start point, only a few days away, but this is the failed “someday” approach. I wrote today and felt the rust flake off the gears as they started to turn.

I’m shifting up tomorrow.


  • Of course, I’m pretty good at getting writing done (or anything else, for that matter) when someone else is the boss. Getting paid sure helps, too.

Smoked Salmon, Potato, and Dill Tart

20160508-DSC_0264It is hot outside. Like, so hot. I am barely tossing together salads these days, let alone turning my oven to 450 for a nice golden tart crust. However, looking through photos recently, I realized I never did anything with the ones I took of a pretty decent smoked salmon tart I made for Mother’s Day this spring. Consider this a #latergram.

20160508-DSC_0256If you have a thoroughly air-conditioned kitchen, this would be an excellent dish to make ahead and have for cold summer lunches, or serve with mixed greens and chilled rosé for a perfect summer dinner.

For the base of my recipe, I used this one from the BBC. I liked two things about it. (1) It called for a quite easy custard mix of egg and cream, no separate heating or complicated multi-step whisking, and (2) it added thin slices of potato to the usual combo of salmon and dill. Potatoes are such a natural pairing with both dill and cream bases, and I felt they would provide a nice textural dimension in a tart that would otherwise melt in your mouth.

salmon tart with dill potatoesSteam the potatoes rather than boil them as the BBC suggests–it takes less time overall, and it’s easier to keep the potato slices intact with the gentler cooking method.

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I threw in much more dill than strictly called for, and used lemon instead of lime as that’s what I had around. Otherwise I stuck close to the recipe in an attempt to overcome my naturally relaxed approach to cooking–custard-filled pastry does not take kindly to anarchy.

This was a successful smoked salmon tart. Lovely, if not perfect: well-set custard, not too rich but rich enough to complement the fish and potatoes, and against which the dill and lemon popped.

(The shortcrust was gorgeous, if I do say so myself. Sparing you the photos because really, how many pictures of crust can a person look at in his lifetime, but I did a much better job with this one than my delicious Thomas Keller failure of recent memory.)

Friday Fave: Kate McKinnon

I wasn’t originally planning on seeing the new Ghostbusters, but when a friend wanted to get together one afternoon this was the only thing that appealed to both of us–everything else was too political or too heavy, and the films I really wanted to see weren’t out at the time. I was definitely looking forward to seeing something that pissed off Milo Yiannopoulos so badly; that alone made it worth it to me. I had witnessed his campaign of racist and misogynist abuse of Leslie Jones on Twitter (if witnessed is the word? I was online at the time and following some of the threads, but I had decided several months before not to follow Yiannopoulos himself), as well as the general whining about remaking an action film with all female leads, which also made me want to see it. All that said, I have not found previous Melissa McCarthy films especially entertaining, and was not expecting this one to be either, even if it did have Kristin Wiig in it.

Rarely am I so happy to be wrong. Leslie Jones was awesome, as was–somewhat unexpectedly–Chris Hemsworth. I had already settled on him as definitely the most talented of the Hemsworth brothers by miles (possibly the only talented one, at that), going by what I had seen him in previously. The cameos by the original cast members were cleverly and seamlessly worked in. I was also pleased to find that they used the original Ray Parker Jr. recording of the theme tune throughout, in addition to the new and distinctly worse version.

My favourite part of the film, though, was Kate McKinnon. I haven’t liked a performance in a comedy film so much since Emma Stone in Easy A (which I only started watching because I didn’t know what it was–literary snob that I am, I had been studiously avoiding it). Aside from the occasional Stefan sketch or “commercial”, I hadn’t watched Saturday Night Live since Amy Poehler and Tina Fey left, so I only knew who she was by process of elimination. That scene where Holtzmann starts dancing to “The Rhythm of the Night”, though? I’ve never felt the slightest doubt about my identity as heterosexual woman, but that was hot. Throughout the film, she and Leslie Jones are the funniest things in it. I came home, pre-ordered the blu-ray, and started looking up old clips of SNL.

Turned out I had seen her in a couple of skits, but hadn’t noticed her because the skits as a whole are so funny. (If you didn’t see The Day Beyonce Turned Black when it came out, you can find it here, and it’s hilarious.) She has a well-earned reputation for impressions–her versions of Justin Bieber and CNN’s Kate Bolduan are brilliant. My favourite CNN skits are almost always the ones where the cast themselves can’t keep from cracking up, and she also seems to have a knack for giving her co-stars fits of the giggles, as she does in this skit about alien abductions. She also has a cat named Nino, and talks about him probably as much as I do about my animals, so I’m sold.

And she’s Holtzmann, who is all kinds of awesome. If you haven’t seen Ghostbusters, go check it out, it’s well worth it.