Should I Write A Cookbook?

I’ve been toying with the idea of releasing a cookbook. It wouldn’t be strictly recipes and pictures, however.

When I started university, I was shocked at how many of my peers didn’t know how to 1) do their own laundry; and 2) cook for themselves. I don’t know if it’s privilege to not learn how to cook (someone always did it for them, whether it was a cook or a relative) or a privilege to learn how to cook (having the means to prepare food at all). But I’m going to say learning to cook is one of the necessities in life, especially for someone who is on a budget, trying to eat more healthily, or suddenly living on their own—as most university students are. After all, there’s the “Freshman Fifteen” that comes with eating shit food on campus (or from the numerous takeout places inevitably nearby).

I’ve been cooking for myself since time immemorial. Or since I was, like, fourteen. Actually, I’ve been involved in helping prepare meals my whole life. My parents and grandparents were decent enough to teach me that helping to cook and helping to clean are part of the package of eating food in their houses. (Bonus: if you helped with food prep at my grandparents’ house, you didn’t have to help with food clean-up.) I consider this a privilege in this day and age—in the age of convenience and classism, that is. The “convenience” part is what I frown upon the most in the food industry. As much as I love hummus I can buy and eat immediately, my homemade hummus is infinitely tastier. Also, store-bought guacamole? No. Just no.

I’m still battling an eating disorder, and cooking is one of the few ways that I’ve been able to make progress toward having a normal and healthy relationship with food. I’m a hands-on kind of person. I like to make something and then use it—furniture, a website, stationery, and now food. Seeing that progress and success (or failure) helps me immensely with how I look at food.

I can’t exactly snub the people who dislike cooking, though. There are risks and inconveniences in every meal—am I going to burn myself? Is this meat cooked enough? Do I really have to wash all these dishes? Is there too much salt? Why are there so many dishes??

But, damn, the rewards are so much grander when you learn to cook.

So I want to compile a how-to, of sorts, for all the single ladies out there; for all the students out there; for all the people who lack the confidence to cook and feed theirself; for all the people who toss leftovers because they’re boring. Some of my friends and peers have commented that I eat well (which, I’ll be honest, 80% of the time I do! The other 20% of the time consists of Chinese takeout, liquor, and pizza). I’m a fiend for leftovers, whether it’s eating the same meal over and over, or using my leftovers for something else. I’m not sure why I’m hesitant to take on this project. Perhaps my fantasy WIP is eating at me and demanding my full writing attention—but that wouldn’t make sense, because I also maintain the blog. My mind is already aflutter with topics I can cover; with guides; with charts and diagrams I can make; with lists of the tools needed to start learning how to cook; with titles and chapters.

I guess what I’m trying to ask is this:

Do you think I can do it? Do you think it’d be useful?

Should I Write A Cookbook

Types of Writer’s Block: What Are Good Ideas??

What are good ideas?! I can’t do that. My ideas are all shit.

I’ve been there countless times. It’s not that I can’t think of what to write. Instead, I’m thinking:

  • This is cliche.
  • None of these ideas fit together.
  • This is terrible.
  • Who would want to read this crap?
  • This isn’t original enough.

I can deal with harsh feedback. I can deal with editing cringe-worthy writing. But I can’t deal with my own inner critique bashing my thoughts.

So I’ve taken a page from my cognitive behavioural therapy to work through it.

I want you to take a piece of paper and put a line horizontall across the middle. Divide the top section into two. At the top, write your idea. Label the two columns “Support” and “Opposition”; and name the bottom section “New Direction.”

I want you to distance yourself from the emotional association with your ideas. Adjectives like “stupid” or “brilliant” or “unique” or “overdone.” Thoughts like “Someone has done this better”; “Nobody would care about this”; and “This is cliche.”

Get back to the logistics and facts of your brainchild.

The spaces should be used to help you see the possibilities and the consequences of your literary idea. We all know what it’s like: one idea can lead to another, and another, and they multiply like a fungus. When we reject our ideas and still search for others, we have the drive to continue thinking. It’s your chance to seize that momentum and direct it somewhere useful. Instead of running blindly through a forest looking for a specific fungus, stop by the first tree and do a hard look at the fungus clinging to the bark.

Let’s work with an example.

My idea: In a world of vampires, a single human is born.

Support Opposition
  • Ability to explore vampiric life and society through worldbuilding.
  • Can work as a satire about eating meat.
  • Can also work as a satire about veganism.
  • Cannibalism?
  • Possibility for a thriller/suspense story.
  • Vampires have a slew of judgement attached to them in the literary world.
  • Romantic subplot would lead to “Twilight” comparisons.
  • Literary vampires have numerous cliches, such as being lusty, seductive, depressed.
New Direction
Here, consult the “Opposition” column and try to spin an opposing thought (or thoughts) into something else that might work. Focus on “What if?” to begin your contradictions to the seeming contradictions.

Romantic subplot would lead to “Twilight” comparisons:

  • What if the human is asexual and/or aromantic?
  • What if humans and vampires can’t crossbreed?
  • What if vampires and humans have different ways of attraction?
  • What if these vampires don’t reproduce sexually?
  • What if all vampires are aromantic?

Taking your idea and placing it in a non-emotional space is an excellent way to make yourself look at a different perspective, rather than a knee-jerk reaction to an initial thought. You’re challenging yourself to think about the idea. It stops your inner critic from being an asshole.

To make this work with multiple ideas, simply put them into the “Support” column and try to work through the Opposition, and then in a New Direction with the goal of finding a way to connect them. And hey. If you can’t, then you can’t. But you might be able to find something along the way.

Let me know if this helps you! I may even make a printable/downloadable template. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Some tips for brainstorming and working with your ideas to develop them into better ones, so you can continue writing!

Literary Tips: Metaphor

Metaphor: a word or expression that, without comparing, denotes one kind of thing is applied to a distinctly different kind of thing.

Examples:
He ran with cheetah speed.
Sunlight crept into the room.

Metaphors are generally made of two parts: the tenor and the vehicle. The tenor is what is being described. In the examples above, the tenors are “speed,” and “sunlight.” The vehicle carries the additional property. Vehicles can be nouns ( “He ran with cheetah speed”) or verbs ( “Sunlight crept into the room”) or any other part of speech if you can get clever enough. They can also be phrases instead of single words.

So that’s the technical part that I needed to know in order to analyse literature.

But what about what I need to know to write literature?

My thoughts on writing with metaphors: only use them when you have multiple things to say. Your metaphors should say more by association and contrast than with the words already there. Each of the vehicles for our example metaphors has additional association. Am I using this metaphor only to be A Literary Person Who Writes, or am I introducing something else?

Since I brought in the technicality, ask yourself: how much further can I drive the vehicle? Not only does this question remind me to be aware of additional meaning, it helps me remember which part of the metaphor does what. It feels nice to be able to look at your metaphor and have a word. #LitJargon—it’s a magical thingamajig to make the words stop being thingamajigs.

Let’s look at the examples I use~

“He ran with cheetah speed.”

A cheetah is a predatory cat, one of the fastest land animals in the world, and is animal rather than human. What does this say about the runner’s speed? Is he incredibly fast? Does he run as if he isn’t human? How does this affect the description—are we in awe of his speed, or a little bit terrified? Does it seem unnatural because it’s inhuman—or does it seem incredible, like a superpower?

Personally, I would consider this metaphor to be weak. The attributes shared between “cheetah” and “speed” lack a contrast. Cheetahs are fast. This is fact. The metaphor borders on cliche because the comparison and shared attributes are obvious.

“Sunlight crept into the room.”

Creeping, crawling, slithering—these verbs are reminiscent of, again, animal-like tendencies. There is hesitancy or even simple slowness associated with creeping. Is there caution? Is there fear? What does this say about the sun? What does this say about the narrator or focalising character?

And this is a metaphor I would consider technically better. Sunlight? An inanimate feature? If anything, it’s part of setting and not even an object. How can light-waves creep? There is a higher contrast between the vehicle and the tenor. The downside to this metaphor is that it’s almost a cliche. My love is a red, red rose. You are the light of my life. What would happen if “crept” were replaced with, oh, I dunno… Galumphed. Scampered. Breezed. Coughed. Waved.

Contrast. Contrast is good.

Depending on the voice and tone of your story (be it a novel, a novella, a short story, or even poetry), your metaphors can reflect on the narrator or character. If you have a third-person limited narrator with one character as the focaliser of your story, you can show the character’s thoughts, feelings, fears, and other reactions by way of metaphors. Here is a longer passage which includes our sunlight metaphor:

“Winona winced when her eyes peeled open. The sunlight crept into the room, slinking toward her face and the sable comfort under her head. A thunderous birdsong seeped through the windows and invaded Winona’s ears. The bed croaked as she rolled over and covered her head with the sheets.”

This is, I’ll admit, a bit overboard. Too many metaphors and similes and other literary devices can make your writing flowery (or “purple prose” as some say). This isn’t a bad thing, of course! Sometimes you need those hyperbolically literary passages, in first drafts or even in final drafts.

So what does this passage say about Winona?

A lot. And she didn’t do anything except open her eyes and roll over. But it is excruciatingly clear that this awakening is an unpleasant one.

Often when writers and other literary figures give advice about writing, they mention using strong verbs. Whether that means replacing, “Eduardo walked quickly down the hall” with “Eduardo sped down the hall,” or “Eduardo snaked down the hall,” you’re adding more information to your sentence. Anyone can walk. But what happens if that person instead starts snaking?

Metaphors give you a quick way to punch your readers’ brains with more information!

Summary (or, TL;DR)

– tenor + vehicle = metaphor
– tenor = “what is the thing?”
– vehicle = “what makes this a metaphor?”
– tenor + vehicle + contrast = good metaphor

A quick lesson on metaphors, what they are, and how they can strengthen your writing!

Writing Wednesday 02

dead end

checkerboard sign in dirt and metal
end of circle
top/side/edge of cul-de-sac
old butter yellow colour
halt before
the walking path forest clump

with large thick poles
not bars/fences/wires to
halt vehicles
larger than strollers
and dirt bikes
and bicycles
travelling in groups of family / children / friends

up into a mixed tree world
pine and birch and
maple maple pine maple
oak of fairytales

follow the path up and back
nowhere left/new to roam

A poem about nostalgia and a path.

Writing Wednesday 01

#WritingWednesday--01. A poem. Succulents. Abusive ex.

 

a grudge I can’t let go of

7 years / seven years
gone to a
South American
whose name I continue to forget.

toxic.
a different kind of
Internet Predator ™
whether he knew / intended / wanted
the title (or not).

I WAS SO SAD & HE GAVE
ME
ATTENTION
until I lived off
the words on the screen
from him ~~~~

and became even sadder
as my existence and
happiness
relied on HIM

The Genesis of My Creative Writing

My desire to be a novelist started when I took my first Spanish language class in high school. Prior to this class, I wrote poetry as an outlet for my emotions (#bullyingvictim) and didn’t think I could be a serious writer. I have vivid memories at age 8, when a teacher gave me one of those brightly coloured certificates for a story I wrote; and at age 10, when a story project took hold of me and my artistic ability and I went above-and-beyond the rubric. I don’t remember many good things of my past. But these flashes are important and filled with joy.

At the young age of 14, when I took that first Spanish language class, I wasn’t even thinking about careers, or life-long goals and dreams, or even what classes I would take the next year. I was thinking of my boyfriend at the time, romanticising his first language and everything about him.

Before studying Spanish, I had studied French since I was 10, as is the requirement in my school district. But since this studying was required and not voluntary, I felt it was a chore. Plus, after 4 years of studying it in elementary school, you just get bored of it.

But that Spanish class.

Oh, that Spanish class.

I felt like JRR Tolkien, the linguistic and literature nerd that he was. I was on fire. Grammar! Phonetics! More grammar! Etymology due to the Iberian Peninsula’s strategic placement between three different language families! (Okay, this I didn’t learn specifically in that class, but I did learn some tips about spelling that came directly from words coming from Arabic or Greek.)

Language opened up to me. Here I was, bright-eyed and getting straight A’s in all my Spanish courses, and all I thought about was the potential that language had.

I learned all of my English grammar when I studied French and Spanish. The two Romance languages have verb tenses, verb moods, and aspects that English doesn’t. But even now, as I enter my final year of study where Spanish Language is half of my major, I think back to French grammar rules. If you ask me to state the verb tense in “John had walked to school,” I would say “plus-que-parfait” because that’s what it is—in French, anyway. I have to remind myself of the English translation.

In the English classes I took during high school, we didn’t learn grammar. We analysed literature and media. I think in one Grade 9 class, we had a week of grammar worksheets, but nothing more. Now, my literature profs, the generation above me, question why the heck their students don’t know grammar. Because not all of us were taught it formally in school.

In my creative writing class in 2015, my professor asked me why I used a specific verb tense in contrast with the rest of the verbs in my poem. In my head, it made sense; I had the simple present and the present perfect (or present past) together, and to me (and in Spanish), those fit in the same world of past/present/future. My professor and I debated it for a bit, and, ultimately, he let me decide what I would do with the present perfect. Of course I kept it. It felt correct—and, grammatically, there was nothing wrong with it.

I wouldn’t have even known about different verb tenses if I hadn’t studied foreign languages. Where would I be in my writing journey if I hadn’t studied French for 9 years and Spanish for 5 years? Would I feel like a stranger in my own language? Would I have been inspired to start writing novels?

I don’t really know what prompted me to consider Novelist as a career in that Spanish course. I originally took the class to know more about my abusive boyfriend’s first language.

I suppose it was only a moment of inspiration. The language presented itself to me, deconstructed, and I was given the opportunity to put it back together. There, in the rebuilding, in the dissecting, in the analysing and reconstruction of the language, I think I found bliss—and power. I could create something. I could do things and hope to make other people feel what I felt—bliss, curiosity, awe, intrigue—if I could show them language used differently.

Sometimes my Spanish and French knowledge invade my English knowledge. I find myself pausing, seeking an English equivalent, but eventually settling for a near-translation. How do I translate a second person plural from Spanish to English without using slang? Y’all? You guys? Pronouns alone are troublesome in English, especially since English is so resistant to a singular “they” (which, I will state firmly now, is grammatically correct and even if it weren’t, who gives a damn? Seriously. Don’t be an ass about language “purity”).

If I had grown up bilingual, I don’t think I would have the same appreciation for language. I think I needed to study the languages and take them apart. I needed that linguistic awareness to really see the beauty behind writing.

The Genesis of Creative Writing: How I started writing creatively. It didn't start from a book; it started from language.

Types of Writer’s Block: I’m A Fake

I sit in my designated spot, with my designated writing tools, and think of the designated scene I want to create.

But I can’t write a single word without sighing and frowning. Sometimes I click and scroll through the Internet. Sometimes I sit with my face in my hands.

Why did I ever think I could be a writer? I should have tried being an accountant, or an engineer, or a brain surgeon. I’ve spent so much time and energy on these stories, and these poems, and these screenplays–and what do I get out of it? A few praising comments. Many lashing criticisms. It’s all wasted time.

I’m not a real writer, anyway. Despite the fact that I’ve written, it’s not like any of the material has been worthy. Those pieces that I managed to get published? That was all luck. The editors were having a good day, and maybe one of the Great Writers Of Old sprinkled some beautiful, magical ink onto my writing to bedazzle the readers. I label myself “writer” like a clown puts on facepaint.


This is, by far, the worst type of writer’s block I have encountered. It is debilitating and emotionally destructive. “I’m A Fake” writer’s block presents itself when Insecurity and Societal Pressure And Standards gang up on you. You don’t feel worthy, and there are thousands of writers you feel are more talented, more professional, more legitimate than you.

Whether you’ve been published before or are still trying to mash together something to show agents and publishers, you’re never going to be 100% confident in your writing.

So how do I get rid of this shitty feeling?

Option 1: Write shitty words.

I don’t mean fill a page with profanities; I get a journal or notebook or open a digital file where I allow myself to write utter nonsense. I write something I think is “lesser” compared to what I think is good writing.

And then challenge myself: how can I make this good writing? Can I feel proud of this writing? Is there a single gem in here–a metaphor? A verb? A sequence of meter that came out of nowhere?

Forcing myself to write, but not forcing myself to write something good, still feels like I’m working on writing… Because I am. Seeking something good in the crap is basically what all rewriting is, but by focusing first on the terrible quality and second on the possibility of brilliance in it, I acknowledge the fact that all writing starts somewhere. Part of my insecurity and imposter feelings come from the attention I pay to the end product.

Option 2: Find shitty writing by Really Good Legitimate Writers

This tip courtesy of Carrie Ann (who also blogs).

All those great writers I can never be like, because they’re so Writer and I’m so wannabe-writer? They had to start somewhere, too. They had to be shitty and terrible. At one point, their writing didn’t look like it was worth any attention.

But they continued trying and writing, and eventually got somewhere.

Option 3: Read a book I’ve already read and enjoyed.

Whenever I’m in doubt of my writing skills, I read a book (or book series if I’m really down in the dumps) that I already know. I’ve taken the time to read it at least once, so I know the story and can focus instead on the writing.

By re-reading something, I more easily pick up what made the writing good–but also where the writer could improve. I find solidarity with the author when I notice their skills can still be sharpened, or where they’ve deviated and tried something new.

In a sense, all writers are students and they study from each other, and there’s no textbook with answers at the back cover.


The key to defeating this form of writer’s block is to reconnect with what makes you a writer: the fact that writing is work, and you’re working to write something. It sucks, but the struggle is included (as with many, many things in life).

If writing were easy, everyone would be writing. Be steadfast. Persevere.

You are more than the shame, self-deprecation, and worthlessness you feel. I promise.

Types of Writer's Block: I'm A Fake--Blog post on one of the struggles of writing and being a writer.

The Fate of “Writing Magic” As A Lit Major

Writing Magic: The feeling I have when I’m writing and enjoying the process. This feeling can come even while I struggle, or when I’m frustrated at the inability to find the correct word, or even while reading material someone else wrote.

When I began my BA nearly four years ago, I didn’t go into it believing I would come out smarter. Perhaps that mindset is what lead me to losing the Writing Magic as I progressed further in school.

My degree has three core creative writing workshop courses, but these didn’t knock out the Magic.

Studying classical literature–from Shakespeare to Keats to contemporary Canadian novels–made me feel like a fake. There was no way I could consider myself a True Writer while these figures towered over me from beyond the grave and book awards ceremonies in Toronto and Vancouver. What was the point? I would never be as good as them.

Through the numerous short stories, poems, and novels I read for classes, I figured out how to analyse writing quickly. I wrote essays. Some of them took days and multiple drafts, and with nervous fingers I would present them to my professor or place them on the desk at the front of the room. Others were lightning-quick, hastily-formed essays constrained to 90-minute or 3-hour blocks of time for an exam, and I would lightly pencil in my thoughts in the margins so I could have structure, ultimately erasing these crude half phrases.

Dare I say it, I learned how to write a mean essay analysing a single point in a piece of writing. I’m not the best, but better when compared to my failures in first year (where I failed a course called “Writing About Literature” due to 1. my incompetence; and 2. my mental health). Somewhere along the way, a light went off; or, more realistically, a certain professor changed the way I looked at literature analysis and helped me figure out how to write a fucking university-level thesis.

So what happened to my love of reading fiction? fantasy? YA novels?

And my love of writing fiction?

Those loves died somewhere. I became a cold cut with no appetite for aesthetics. Sterile. Literature became a thing to criticise, rather than savour and create.

I want to find the Magic again.

As part of my goals for this year, I’ve resolved to wake up early and write. I haven’t specified what I’ll write–on Day 1, I wrote the bulk of this blog post–but I determined that I will write. I have also determined to read daily outside of school. I’ve been working my way through The Chronicles of Narnia again because they seem to kindle some small, precious glow that might be some of the leftover Magic.

No more sitting around lamenting I Don’t Have Time Or Energy Because I Read And Write So Much For School. I’m an adult and I have goals. I can’t possibly take myself seriously if I don’t put in as much effort as possible to achieve those goals. Perhaps that’s the difference between shyly saying, “I’m a writer,” and confidently saying, “I’m a writer.”

I hope that, somewhere in the pre-dawn scribbling and typing, and the frantic nightly page-turning, I can find the Magic again. That excitement; that rush of endorphins; that minuscule, encouraging spark–they still exist. Matter does not disappear; it merely transforms and moves. I will read and write until I come across those sparks of Magic again.

I hope I find something. Anything.

The Fate of "Writing Magic" As A Lit Major--Blog post on what happened when I went to study literature as a creative writer.

2016 Goals

As is custom at the start of January, I made goals for this year. They are similar to New Year’s Resolutions, but more specific and–dare I say it–loftier than a common resolution of “Be healthy” or “Be happy/happier.”

I believe in tangibility. I enjoy things that can exist in physical form, rather than things that exist solely in abstract, ethereal, and overwhelming headspaces. My goals for 2016 focus on the achievable; on things that can have progress; on small actions I can take to obtain a larger goal.

Baby steps.

If I work toward these goals and have successes along the way, I will find success elsewhere down the road. If I practice (writing, designing, self-love, healthy habits, etc.), then I will improve. Even if I don’t meet my end goal, I will at least better myself by trying.

2016 Goals:

  • Graduate from the University of Windsor.
  • Maintain a 75% average for my final two semesters.
  • Finish a novel manuscript for submission.
  • Have a poem published in a literary magazine.
  • Blog consistently within a routine.
  • Design a day planner.
  • Open an Etsy shop for digital art prints.
  • Tend to mental health (depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and whatever else pops up).
  • Here comes the cliché: Lose 25 pounds of fat.

Some of these goals are going to be more difficult (publish a poem), while other goals I’m 90% sure I will achieve (graduating university).

But it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t reach any of these goals.

What is one goal you’d like to accomplish in 2016?

2016 Goals--My 9 goals, or resolutions, for 2016, raging from health to writing to business!