It happens to the best of us — and the worst of us, for that matter. That horrible time when you’re just stymied for an idea … or just a spark of an idea … or just anything at all to write about.
- Stare at the screen for an indescribable period of time, focusing on the little blinking icon that indicates where you begin typing, only you’re not typing. You’re not doing anything but staring at the little blinking icon. It’s taunting you, that little blinking icon. It’s laughing at you. You hate that stupid blinking icon.
- Water your plants. When you look away from the stupid blinking icon, you notice your plants and immediately feel bad for neglecting them for so long. Mist the fern while you’re at it. You know, that fern was really pretty when you first brought it home. What kind of monster are you, mistreating ferns?
- Read a writer’s prompt from a textbook from one of the many writing classes you took in college. Reading it reminds you of the time the teacher really, really liked one of your stories and praised it a great deal, but said she didn’t like the name you gave to one of the characters. You completely forgot everything positive she said about your story and instead focused on how much she disliked your character’s name. God, you were one messed up 19-year-old.
- Eat a pickle. There’s a school of thought (of which I am the sole pupil) that believes eating a pickle — a good pickle — does wonders for your creativity. Or not. It certainly doesn’t hurt and at least you get to eat a good pickle. You go to the fridge and discover Daughter ate the last pickle. You wonder where you went wrong as a parent.
- Take Dog for a walk. Physical exercise has been proven very effective in sparking creativity, more so than pickles. Walking Dog gives the added possibility of catching neighbors doing something interesting or funny for you to write about. Once you wake up Dog, you take a quick little jaunt around the neighborhood, only to discover your neighbors are completely refusing to cooperate by either staying inside or being away from home. Selfish bastards.
- Think about John Steinbeck. I once heard a story about the first time Steinbeck was in Hollywood to discuss turning The Grapes of Wrath into a movie. I could tell you the name of the movie guy he was talking to, but right now I’m too lazy to google it. Anyway, he was in the movie guy’s office when the movie guy received an emergency phone call and had to leave immediately to address the issue. Shirley Temple just lost her front tooth! Consider this for a moment: John Steinbeck, Pulitzer prize winner, best-selling novelist, arguably America’s finest novelist, destined to be read in every high school literature class for time eternal, forever causing teenage boys everywhere to gape in wonder at the final scene (Whoa! She did what? Cool!), and in spite of everything, this great writer is pushed aside for a child actor’s front tooth. Keep this in mind, writer friends. However low you may be feeling, however down you might be about your creativity, remember John Steinbeck sitting in that movie office with his poodle. (Yes, he had a poodle. He drove an old pickup truck and took his poodle with him everywhere. No, I’m not obsessed with him. Why do you ask? The poodle’s name was Charley.)
- If none of the above works, start writing about not being able to write. According to WordPress, I just wrote 612 words on the subject. That’s a decent length for a blog post, that’s what that is.
Seared Pork Chops with Roasted Grapes of Wrath Sauce
- 2 cups seedless red or black grapes
- 2 boneless, thick-cut pork chops
- olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/2 cup red wine (I used Shiraz, but any full-bodied wine will do)
- 1/2 cup chicken broth or water
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary (thyme or sage will work too)
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch mixed with 2 teaspoons water
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place grapes on a baking sheet and roast on the middle rack, shaking the pan occasionally to turn them, until they are shriveled and smelling super good — about 20 minutes.
Salt and pepper the pork chops. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet to medium (if you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, go buy one already!), add the pork and cook for about 5 minutes per side, covered. Check to see if they are done, they should be cooked through but still juicy. Move to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Add garlic and wine to pan, scraping the bottom to loosen the yummy parts, keep stirring until wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the broth or water, herbs and mustard, stir in cornstarch mixture. Cook until thickened, about a minute, then add the roasted grapes.
Serve pork chops with sauce, enjoy the melding of sweet and savory flavors, and let your creative juices run amok. You’ve got a novel in you, kid! A great one!
Life is good.