Getting Out Of The Kitchen

I once met Hisham Matar, as he lived upstairs from one of my fellow book group members. We read his amazing book In the Country of Men, and then he came to one of our meetings to discuss it with us. One thing he said about writing has really stuck with me.

He talked about how his friend was complaining that he wanted to write a book, but he didn't want to give up cooking. Apparently this friend loved making big meals, having people over. And Matar essentially told him: too bad. The message was this: if you want to be a writer, you've got to sacrifice some things.

It has definitely stuck with me. At the time, I knew I wasn't ready to give up enough to write. I was still in my phase of collecting hobbies like it was some measure of how interesting I could be. Even as recently as two years ago, I started singing lessons. Singing lessons? I did enjoy it, but when my teacher started talking about preparing for a recital, I knew it had gone too far. Was I serious about my writing or not? I don't do things by halves, and I knew preparing for a performance would be a real time suck, not to mention stressful, so I decided the singing had to go.

Now I'm not saying that I have given up everything to the exclusion of writing. It's all about balance. And if all you did was write, then what would you have to write about?

Lucky for me, spending time with the Hub also includes lots of things we both enjoy, like golf, playing table tennis, bike riding, going to the movies & theater, and most recently learning how to garden. And I also have to spend time with friends. That's non-negotiable.

I am determined, now that we have a house, to get a piano. What I will not be doing is taking lessons and trying to pass through to level 8 or something crazy like that. Instead, I am planning to just play (and maybe even sing), for my own enjoyment. As an aside, the Hub doesn't actually believe that I studied for 12 years as a kid, as he has never heard me play. But likewise, I don't really believe he knows how to show jump. (He does. His mom has showed me the photos.)

And of course there's meditation and exercise. But those are activities that if planned correctly, should help give me energy to write. (For more on my current perplexing exercise conundrum, read my New Year's Resolution post.)

All my weird overachiever lessons are out at the moment. No tap dancing, visits to the golf pro, scuba diving refresher courses or attempts to improve upon my basic cooking skills. That's another thing. Thank goodness the major supermarkets here all make very good, fresh, ready-to-cook meat dishes that you can just chuck into the oven. On weeknights that's all I can handle. Steaming some veg is also not too involved of a task.

Maybe someday I'll learn how to cook properly. But for now, I'll manage with cobbling together meals when friends come over (or making a fondue, which I'll modestly report the Hub and I are actually getting pretty good at). Matar was right. If you want to write, you've got to get out of the kitchen and get tapping at the keyboard.

Photo credit: Pumpkin bread plus flowers and ingredients via photopin (license)

Photo credit: Lower Richland Horse Show, ca. 1974 via photopin (license)

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