Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Of bread, writing and lounging moose

Yesterday I tried to write and nothing came. No words, no images. I sat there like a dumb lump. I sat there for over an hour waiting for something, anything to come.

But alas, my mind was a silent and dark space (I imagine it as a closet, slightly musty, with the faint smell of mothballs).

So I made bread.

I highly recommend this to anyone stuck in a creative project. There's something soothing yet familiar about kneading dough, how it both works with and against you and how easy it is to lose yourself to the simple motion of your hands.

I used a basic recipe with few ingredients (after all, who needs complications, eh?) and measured as best as I could; I've never been a very precise person. Probably this is why I'm a writer. But here's the thing: Baking bread is a lot like writing. No matter how closely you follow the recipe, you're venturing into the unknown. Sometimes the dough refuses to rise. Sometimes you don't knead enough or knead too roughly or add too little salt or forget the pinch of sugar or honey to activate the yeast. Sometimes you do everything right and still come out with a flat, dense loaf that even the dog refuses to eat (trust me, it happens).

My brain while writing: An obstinate lump of dough.

I don't think I'd enjoy baking bread if the results were predictable, if every loaf came out perfectly, if I didn't hold my breath before peering into the oven.

Yesterday my characters weren't predictable. They wouldn't cooperate. They scattered across in the page in a mad heap of useless dialogue and small actions that did nothing to move the plot forward.

Finally I pushed my computer aside and took the dog for a walk. So there I was, walking around muttering to myself about my lack of a productive writing day, when I looked up and found myself staring straight at this dude:

Looks like this guy was stuck in his novel too, so I didn't linger. I'd like to say that this moosey meeting caused a great epiphany and I ran home and wrote like crazy but that didn't happen. I ate bread instead. Stuffing one's mouth with hot, buttered bread does little to alleviate a writing block but a lot to soothe the belly. Plus, face it, eating is often much more fun than writing.

Cinthia's Writing Block Bread:

-Cup warm milk or water (I used almond milk)
-Packet of active yeast
-2 tablespoons honey
-Large pinch of sugar
-2 tablespoons oil (I used olive but coconut adds a nice flavor)
-Teaspoon salt
-2 cups whole wheat flour
-1 cup white flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine warm milk/water with yeast, honey and oil. In a separate bowl mix salt and flours. Fold into yeast mixture, mix and then knead. I coat my hands with margarine while kneading to add a subtle buttery flavor to the bread.

Knead for a good 10 minutes.

Place dough into a bowl, cover with a dishtowel and let sit in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.

Punch it down (this is the fun part!), knead for a couple more minutes, place in a greased bread pan, cover and let rise for another 30 minutes or so. You'll know it's ready when it's expanded to double in size.

Slide in oven and bake for 30-35 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes, remove the bread from the pan, slice, slater on the margarine or butter, and enjoy.


What I'm reading today:
"Pretty is What Changes" by Jessica Queller, a memoir of family, breast cancer and difficult choices.

No comments:

Post a Comment