CREATIVE PROCESS

Amber&Rye – my second cookbook

Part 1 – Chaos

I often get asked about my “creative process” and I love talking about it. If you’re a creative person, then everything you do is part of a bigger picture called the “creative process”. Whilst my mind can get a bit chaotic at times, thinking through the “creative process” lens, I feel fine about that. The first step any creative process is always chaos. You have to sift through all the ideas in your head – before some kind of order begins to emerge. So at first, I let my imagination run wild, brainstorm and explore every idea that takes my fancy. Giving yourself the permission to do that is of utmost importance. However, you do not want to get stuck in the ideas phase.

Part 2 – Commitment

The second step is, therefore, commitment. I feel that commitment is an integral part of any process, be it creative, spiritual or otherwise. This is when you invest in an idea. In the book writing process, this means choosing one idea and writing a proposal. It may mean setbacks, as you send an idea out into the world. Before I received an offer for Amber&Rye, there were two other proposals that didn’t get anywhere. It’s disappointing when this happens, because you have already invested time and energy in an idea. This is to be expected – feedback helps you refine your idea or change direction completely. It also helps you become more resilient.

Part 3 – Research

The next step is research, which is unique to every writer. I always start by hitting the libraries first and delving into my subject indepth. When I was writing Polska, the research was long and meandering… Most of it didn’t even get into the book. Nowadays, my process is quicker and more focussed, because I start writing almost at the same time. At this point, it doesn’t matter what you write. I set up my chapters as individual documents and and I start writing notes in there. It keeps my research from going off on random tangents (as research tends to). As I write cookbooks, my research obviously has a practical side in the kitchen. This goes alongside reading and writing, but in casual way at this point.

Then, comes the field research (if you’re lucky). With Amber&Rye that meant a 5 week journey across the Baltic States- integral to writing this particular book, because it’s part cookery book- part travelogue. In Polska, I used family recipes or put my own twist on Polish classics, so the field research wasn’t necessary. As I spent every summer in Poland before Covid, I had been doing field research for years without even knowing it. I was hoping to go out to Poland and do some regional field research for the the book I am currently writing, however this has proved difficult with the Corona complications. I don’t worry about having enough recipes for the book – this isn’t a problem, I have enough ideas and contacts all over the country to write a lovely book, however, this will change the nature of the book.

An idea for a cover

Part 4 -Changes

This brings me to unexpected changes and the attitude I adopt in the face of them. In the world of publishing, changes have to be expected, however, we never know what they will be. I have learnt to be flexible and trust in the creative process. I choose not see the book as exclusively mine but rather as a tapestry that a group of us weaves together. For example, Amber&Rye did not start off as Amber&Rye. The proposal I wrote was for “Baltic”, then I learnt down the line, that there was already a book coming out by that name. It was an unpleasant shock at first, however, I couldn’t be happier with what this led to. Amber&Rye has become a warmer, more feminine and personal book than it could ever have been as “Baltic”.

Part 5 – Deadline

So I am beavering away, writing my book, when the deadline approaches. No matter how organised I’ve been, the last couple of weeks always feel like madness as I try to finish everything off. I am now writing and cooking manically, like some kind of mad professor with flour in my unbrushed hair, running between the kitchen and my computer. An amazing sigh of relief when I get that manuscript in on time, as if that’s it. Ha! This is the start of a whole other creative process, called editing, where you are no longer the lead. Time to account for everything you have written. This is hard, but if you have a good editor then they should be organised and concise and lead you on the right path. Of course, even editors are human and no matter how many times you both read through it, mistakes do slip through the net. It’s okay, it happens to everyone, without exception.

The end of the process – book signing

Part 6 – Acceptance

The final step is acceptance. I could keep reading, checking and changing my books forever, but then they would never be published. So finally, painfully, I just let go… whatever will be will be and I promise myself (and the book), that -as with my children – I will love it with it’s imperfections. As my partner, Yasin, once said to be when I was upset over some typo: “A master carpet maker always puts a mistake into his carpets, because it’s not for us to be perfect”.