Bi-weekly chatter about how looking closely at some of the most common expressions in everyday life can prompt new ways of thinking about our writing.
Okay, a heads-up: In case you’re wondering if I will be discussing actual vegetables here, the answer is yes. But I’ll keep that brief. Spinach. Carrots. Lettuce. Maybe even one of my all-time favorites, the artichoke. Rest assured, though, we will get to the page.
But first, leafy greens.
Remember those high school award ceremonies that went on a good ninety minutes longer than necessary and featured the same student (usually referred to as “such a wonderful all-around kid” by most of the teachers) being called to the stage one too many times? Highest GPA Award! Good Samaritan Award! Fastest Runner Award!
Leafy greens are kind of like that student. They are on top of almost every list out there, especially the ones designed to create a hierarchy of vegetables that doesn’t usually shine a positive light on potatoes and corn.
But most bodies do need them. Most bodies do better with them. Most bodies, with some creativity, may even find a way to enjoy them.
We know this. But sometimes what we know doesn’t necessarily drive our actions. Sometimes other things lead the way. Like confusions, cravings and chaos.
When this particular trifecta of c-words holds the reigns in our writing lives and we’ve tried the leafy greens approach–a clean desk, a detailed outline, a regular, same-time-every-day practice—why not order a plate of disco fries and move on? What’s more confused and chaotic than fried potatoes, gravy with melted cheese on top? That the origin of this dish involves disco, diners and last dances makes the metaphor even sexier. And, no, I am not suggesting that to get out of a writing rut you must eat fried potatoes, brown gravy and gooey cheese. (Though if it calls your name, and you’ve never tasted it, why not give it a try?)
I’m just saying a mess is not always bad, nor is chaos or confusion. Or giving into cravings on the page. (Obviously, it depends on the degree and who’s dishing things out.) Yes, to eating leafy greens as much as you can consistently but don’t worry if an order or two of disco fries makes its way to your diner booth or blank page. You just might stumble on something the spins and sparkles and shines way more than potatoes and corn.
This section is dedicated to two beautiful realities: art lovers who look out for other art lovers and the power of food and memory.
Sometime in 2011, a local friend here in my Hudson Valley town sent me a note letting me know about auditions coming up for the first NYC Listen to Your Mother show. She knew “I was writing again” and thought I’d be interested. Long story very, very short: I followed up, auditioned, was selected for the show, participated in the event, made long-lasting friends and then had the same essay I read at the show selected for the LTYM anthology.
The essay? It was about the day on or around 1998 or 1999 when I found myself in the produce section of my community grocery store, in tears. Standing in front of the artichokes, realizing my mother had really, truly and officially died. (Denial is a beast.) And I had never learned to make artichokes the way she did.
Takeaways? I’m on it.
- Let writers/friends/other art lovers know when something comes your way and you think they’d appreciate (A submission opportunity? A fellowship? A chance at something that could change their game?)
- Go to the grocery story. In my story, a vegetable served as a prompt. But whatever it is for you, just go and see where the visit takes you. Everyone has a grocery store story. Write it.
Eat Your Vegetables
So, when we say, “Eat your vegetables!” it’s multifold. And not just about spinach, carrots, lettuce. (And artichokes.)
Eat them because they are healthy.
Eat them because it’s the responsible, accountable and diligent thing to do.
Eat them because it keeps the foundation (our bodies, our pages) strong, study and resilient.
And know part of being all those things is knowing when to surrender, even just a little, to a craving. To a confusion, to a craving.
Open a blank page, let loose, do a dance.
Disco fries anyone?