Writing as cleaning up a mess.
The phrase that keeps going through my head when reading about your process is, “Mise en place.” Once you’ve got the technique internalized and the ingredients prepared, you have the freedom to let go and cook.
I recently put in time at a culinary tools store that also offers cooking classes. It was fascinating to prepare for wildly different cuisines - some would take only a few minutes to assemble the ingredients, but would take forever to process into food - things like croissants, for instance. Others, especially Asian stir fry courses, would have what felt like hours of prep, only for the food to come together in seconds. Either way, it was vital for all the tools to be assembled and at arm’s reach for the classes to run on time.
I love your perspective on social media as NOT a commercial or obvious self-promo tool. Seeing it almost as form of installation art makes it a bit more palatable. (Sprinkled in a little cooking metaphor there; I couldn’t help myself)
Loved this - research! something I have spent so many years trying/needing to do, your thinking and description (the detail!) is quite wonderful
‘starting from a place of curiosity, of unknowing, on one subject and following all the places it leads. I mean not trying to organize an approach from above, but leading with intuition toward any route that opens up and not worrying about what happens in the interim.’
Don't know if you're familiar with it, but I recently picked up Stephen Marche's "On Writing and Failure" ... you may find a few things that resonate in there. It's basically a pamphlet, you can plow through it in a day. (Long live short books!)
I'm just this week listening to Rick Rubin's new book "The Creative Act." He also mentions that the creative is always working in some sense, very similar to what you describe. I feel validated by both of you as I absolutely work when not "working" though had been brainwashed to think that if I were not actually writing, cooking, photographing, etc, that I was not in the process of creation. The input, output, and the in-between, are all super important for the curious critter. Look forward to your essay on creativity.
Thank you for a fabulous little window into your process! Your “mess” instantly reminds me of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of “rhizomatic learning”
I especially love that it recalls your beloved mushrooms!
Thank you for letting us tag along in your ever-unfolding work
While we're riffing on food metaphors... As the old adage says, you need to break eggs to make an omelet. And broken eggs are by their nature messy. You're very fortunate that your writing takes wing on the thoughts and research of others (does not get bogged down in it) and that you make the transition from intake (research) to outtake (the writing) on deadline! Not only good fortune; that takes discipline and craft. Thanks for the thought-provoking essay, Alicia.
This newsletter was really helpful for me personally as I try to piece together my process and calling to write more. I'm beginning to get a better sense of my compulsion to research, understand, and document the world around me. Its a creative life that is endless work. Its just starting to come into focus for me. Thank you for sharing, Alicia!