Monday, October 1, 2012

Baking A Book

The last twenty minutes of my Monday morning writing time were spent in the kitchen, mixing up a batch of banana bread, rather than at my desk in my studio. This sort of procrastination or avoidance tactic is not uncommon for me. I like to bake, and everyone needs to eat, so I think of cooking as productive procrastination. As I buttered the loaf pan this morning and then poured the bread batter into it, though, I noticed something else going on.

As some of you know, I am back in school, pursuing an MFA in creative writing from Queens University of Charlotte. Queens is a low-residency program, so I’m still living and working in Durham, juggling several jobs along with school, which makes my morning writing hours precious. I have to safeguard this time. Thus, when I find myself baking bread instead of editing my next manuscript submission or staring at a blank page trying to pound out a shitty first draft, I can feel like a bit of a failure. I said “No!” to other things so that I would have this time to write, so why am I not writing?

The simple, true answer is that this work I am doing is slow. I do show up -- most days -- and do some work. It’s difficult, life-giving work. I see bits of progress here and there. Every once in awhile I write a sentence that makes me think, yes, I can do this. Rarely I get a whole paragraph like that, and maybe just maybe an entire essay from time to time. This is fine. This is how it is supposed to work, I think. Good art doesn’t happen overnight. So, I will continue to take the long view.

Still. Sometime a person needs to see some results.

In those moments, into the kitchen I go. Flour, sugar, butter, eggs, mashed bananas, vanilla, baking soda, a pinch of salt. Stir. Bake. Write a few words or read some poems while the apartment is filled with delicious smells. In just over an hour from bowl to belly, I have made something. And I can promise you I am more than capable of eating the whole loaf in under 24 hours.

Maybe my productive procrastination isn’t actually procrastination after all. Maybe it represents the knowledge that there are many kinds of sustenance, that simple, practical tasks give my mind time to moodle, and that after a cup of tea and a slice of something sweet I really will feel encouraged to continue going about the work of creating.