I Feel Like a Blob of Dough, and It’s Not Just From Eating Too Many Cookies

I have spent yesterday and today working on my book, which feels great because I haven’t written anything in something like a month. December is the worst for creativity, I’ve decided. It’s all gobbled up by the Christmas monster. (And if you try to tell me that Christmas is not a monster, then I say to you in a high-pitched, strained voice that YES IT MOST DEFINITELY IS AND DO YOU HAVE THREE KIDS? BECAUSE THEN YOU WOULD UNDERSTAND. If you say that yes, you do have three kids or twenty in fact then I hang my head. Well done, well done.)

For several years in a row, I’ve noticed this creative- and sexual-energy-sapping trend once December comes round (just another reason to hate Christmas, my husband says). It’s all those logistics and executables, making the list and checking it twice, it just sucks all the good stuff right out of me. I told my husband that he’s lucky I don’t have some job as a project manager or event planner. It would ruin our marriage. Another reason why it’s best I’m unemployed! I’m not sure I convinced him, but I swear it’s true.

My family is spit in three directions right now, which technically is a sad thing, but this is a perfect example of one of my favorite lessons from the last several years: everything has its plusses and minuses. Christmas happens and our perfect little family’s cracks are exposed when everyone jets to their various family camps that don’t involve me, but the silver lining in all of this is that I get to be alone! Alone, alone, alone.

So I’ve been writing. I am still a complete mess in that department. I can’t decide on anything, no matter how many times I make loud assertions to the contrary. One moment I’m writing a novel, the next it’s a screenplay. One moment it’s an epic, spanning several generations, the next it’s a wisp of a tale entirely driven by dialogue. I can’t even decide the tense. I find that I usually start writing in present tense but then end up using the past tense. So I decided that past is the way to go, but then I keep accidently slipping into present.

My parents got me the two-volume Julia Child cookbook for Christmas, which is really exciting. Yesterday, in a flagrant display of procrastination to delay writing after everyone left, I read the section on baking French bread, which apparently no regular person in France does, since France’s ubiquitous bakeries do such a fantastic job. Julia’s kneading technique is way different than the one I’ve always used. While my dough has always had enough flour in it when you dump it out on your kneading surface that you can manipulate it with two hands and not get all stuck up in it, Julia’s dough is still super sticky. So much so, in fact, that she recommends you knead with one hand, while your other scrapes the gooey mess off the counter with a pastry scraper, this flat metal tool/weapon thingy. I do not have a pastry scraper but can see its allure.

Anyway, I can’t help but compare my writing right now with that glop of dough in Julia’s book: a sprawling disaster on the counter, way too sticky and unsubstantial to resemble the finished product. So I’m trying to tell myself that all this jerking about with my thinking and writing is probably how this initial phase goes, at least for a novice like me. I probably need to cast about before I can settle down on one particular path. Sigh. A sticky and gooey mess. I need a pastry scraper. What do you suppose is the writing equivalent? Prosecco and bread and cheese? That’s my strategy for tonight. If that magic trio doesn’t help my writing, at least it will have other benefits. See, there’s always a plus!

© Amy Daniewicz

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