Writer’s Procrastination

A Facebook friend of mine posted a comment yesterday about writer’s procrastination. It’s extremely common, if Google is any indicator.

The first article that pops up in a search is called “Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators.” Ouch.

I don’t think I’ve ever put off writing because I was afraid the end result wouldn’t be good enough, as the article suggests, but I can think of a few other reasons.

1. My deadline wasn’t imminent, and other tasks were more time-sensitive.

2. I wanted the material to be fresh, especially for speeches and blog posts.

3. Something else captured my attention, or needed to be done first, and I was distracted for longer than anticipated.

4. I hadn’t yet figured out where to begin.

Years ago, my editor asked me about an article I was working on. I hadn’t started writing it, but it was percolating in my head. Is that procrastination? Maybe. But I think it can also be part of the process.

How to counter procrastination? A few things that have worked for me:

1. Just start. I may end up changing what I’ve written, but at least there’s something to work with.

2. Work in small chunks. 100 words, then another 100 words. And another. Usually that builds enough momentum for me to keep going.

3. Alternating tasks. Switching focus may not work for everyone, but if I put in a certain number of minutes or write “x” number of words, then switch to a different task (even a different writing task), I find I get more done. At some point, momentum builds, and I don’t need – or want – to leave what I’m working on.

4. Um, chocolate? Or whatever else works as a “reward.” To be used as needed. In moderation.

Further suggestions are welcome. 🙂

 

 

Cheeseless Cheesecake with Green Door’s Gluten-Free Nut Crust

cheeseless cheesecakeIn the spirit of Shavuot (the Jewish holiday when it’s customary to eat dairy), I made a cheeseless cheesecake this week, using Tofutti cream cheese. The recipe, on Chabad’s website, has been circulating for the past few weeks, but it’s been around for a while.

It’s become my go-to cheesecake recipe for a number of reasons. I’m lactose-intolerant, and so are some of my family members. Also, the recipe is simple to prepare (always a bonus), and it tastes and looks good.

But a prepared crust? No. Well, once. But that was an exception.

Now, instead of a prepared crust, I use a great, easy recipe from The Green Door, a vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa that has fabulous, nourishing food.

The crust is part of a recipe for Cocoa-Banana Pie that I found in my Green Door Cookbook. It’s called Rice Crust, because it’s made with rice flour. But I find more people comment on (and like) the nuttiness of the crust, which provides a nice contrast to the cheesecake. Actually, I think it “makes” the cake. But arranging fruit on top in a pretty pattern also helps.

To make the cheeseless cheesecake, go to http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/435069/jewish/Cheeseless-Cheesecake.htm. But to make it extra-special, substitute the crust below for the ready-made one in the original recipe, and top the cake with cut fruit once it has started to cool, pressing the fruit into the cheesecake.

Gluten-Free Nut Crust (aka “Rice Crust”), Reprinted with permission from The Green Door Cookbook

¾ c. raw almonds

¾ c. brown rice flour

1/3 c. canola oil

1/3 c. maple syrup

Pinch of salt

¼ tsp. cinnamon

In a food processor, grind the almonds until they resemble bread crumbs. In a bowl, mix ground almonds, rice flour, salt and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix oil with maple syrup. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Press into an oiled and floured 9 ½ or 10-inch pie plate. Bake 5 minutes (10 max!) at 350. (The cookbook suggests a baking time of about 25 minutes, until lightly browned, for a recipe with a no-bake filling.)

Add filling, and proceed with recipe.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

Follow your passion, or be practical?

Yesterday, I had lunch with a freelance writing group I joined recently, and the conversation turned to young people entering journalism school. What kind of future will they have? Are there jobs for them? Do cutbacks in media mean that only those with a *passion* for journalism are pursuing it as a career?

Does it even make sense to pursue a career if the odds of success are iffy? Aspiring actors face the same question, someone noted. And yet, I think we all agreed that without pursuing the passion in the first place, there’s no chance of success at all.

By coincidence, this LinkedIn article (“Do What You Love” Is Horrible Advice) appeared in my inbox this morning.

The subject was on my mind because of yesterday, but the article also captured my attention because “Do What You Love” is the advice my parents gave me many years ago. Not to mention that, at the time, I didn’t think it was very good advice.

As a young adult trying to figure out my direction in life, I was envious of friends whose parents were more practical, steering them toward careers where jobs were abundant.

It wasn’t until a few years after graduating from university that I discovered I had an aptitude for writing and journalism, and a passion for it too. Lucky me!

I believe there’s satisfaction in a job well done, even if it’s not your passion. I also believe that what you’re passionate about should be part of your life, even if it’s not how you make your living.

But if there’s a chance to turn your passion into a career… why not dream big? Maybe things will work out. If not, then you can go to Plan B.

What do you think? Follow your passion, or be practical?

 

 

Chocolate Sunday – Sunshine!

juliette & chocolatLook what I found in Montreal last weekend! A little chocolate shop on St-Denis called Juliette & Chocolat, with a sign outside reading, “Parce qu’une journée sans chocolat est une journé sans soleil!”

A day without chocolate is like a day without sunshine! That means a double dose of sunshine for me today – it’s a sunny day in Toronto, and I just took a flourless chocolate cake out of the oven for dinner. (Easy dessert for company.)

Unfortunately, I only had time to take a picture last weekend at Juliette, not to sample anything. However, we did have chocolatines with breakfast that day – kind of like chocolate croissants (see pictures). Very decadent.

Bon appétit!

Simpler than Simple Brazilian Banana Bread

It’s hard to improve on the recipe for Ridiculously Simple Banana Bread, from Susan Mendelson’s Mama Never Cooked Like This.

But I decided to try – not to make it better tasting, just to make it one step easier.

photo(28)I actually wanted to resurrect a recipe that a friend from Brazil gave me many years ago, but I turned to my cookbooks when I couldn’t find it. My friend called her recipe “Lazy Banana Pie,” even though it was a banana bread baked in a loaf pan.

What made it different from Mendelson’s recipe, and any other banana bread I’ve tried, is that the bananas were cut up instead of mashed. Cutting the bananas simplifies an already-easy recipe, and provides an interesting contrast in texture.

Also, my friend’s recipe called for cinnamon, which I’ve been trying to incorporate into my diet lately. Cinnamon has all kinds of health benefits, according to numerous online articles like this one from Medical News Today.

I couldn’t find the recipe for Lazy Banana Pie, so I decided to play with Mendelson’s recipe. However, without the mashed bananas, the consistency was off. I ended up mashing part of one banana, and cutting up the rest. It turned out well… and my kitchen smelled delicious!

Simpler than Simple Brazilian Banana Bread (adapted from Susan Mendelson’s Ridiculously Simple Banana Bread)

1 1/4 c. flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. cinnamon, or more to taste

2 eggs

1/2 c. oil

1 c. sugar

2 large ripe bananas

extra cinnamon to taste

1. Sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon.

2. In separate bowl, mix eggs, oil, and sugar with fork. Add to dry ingredients.

3. Cut two bananas in pieces, and mash about 3/4 of one banana to add to mixture. Blend well, add more cinnamon to taste if desired, and stir in remaining pieces of banana.

4. Spoon batter into greased loaf pan. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon.

5. Bake at 350 for about an hour.

Enjoy!

 

 

A new take on being downsized?

By coincidence, I found this LinkedIn article (Laid Off? Congratulations!!) yesterday, shortly after hearing about another journalist colleague being laid off.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has congratulated her, and no one congratulated me when I lost my job last year.

It’s a tough thing to lose a job. That’s why the title of the article is so… attention-getting. The writer advises assessing what went wrong, reconnecting (i.e. networking), and having fun as you “write your future.” Not bad advice, even the fun part, which may take an extra dose of creativity, an emotional stretch, and time.

Some of the content, and especially the word “Congratulations,” proved offensive to a significant number of commenters, one of whom almost lost his home as a result of losing his job.

And yet… I believe, much as I hate to use a cliché, that when one door closes, another opens. There’s some truth in clichés.

I just read the article this morning, and while I didn’t relate to everything in it, I like the idea of moving forward.

Many of the comments that followed the article were instructive, like reminders to be prepared financially for the loss of a job, and that it’s possible to end up doing something that makes you happier.

So to my colleague who was downsized, and others, no congratulations. Just good wishes that the experience will ultimately lead to positive changes.

 

 

 

The urge to purge (clutter)

A post by Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, caught my eye this morning. It’s called “A Secret to Happiness? Don’t Get Organized.”

Huh?

I thought organizing was a good thing. Lately, I’ve been gearing up for some serious decluttering. There always seems to be more of it to do. Sigh. I’ve been feeling the urge to purge for weeks, but haven’t had time to tackle it except in a small way.

Spoiler alert – Rubin isn’t advising not to tackle the clutter at all.

Instead, she says to get rid of things, so you don’t have to organize them. We are on the same page after all.

 

 

 

 

Advice for young adults (and older ones too)

Even though I’ve been consistent about blogging on the same days each week, sometimes life gets in the way, which explains why I didn’t post anything on Tuesday.

This morning, when I was catching up on e-mails, I found one from LinkedIn Influencers, asking what career advice I would give my younger self. I have a lot to say on that topic, because my younger self took a long time to figure out what I wanted to do, career-wise.

But for now, I’ll provide a few links to advice from other sources:

1. The LinkedIn blog: “If I Were 22: 80+ Influencers Share Lessons from Their Youth.”

2. Judith Timson’s column in today’s Toronto Star: Words of wisdom for commencement season.

3. A commencement speech by Sandra Bullock at a New Orleans high school.

Advice to new grads seems to be the theme of the week. But I don’t think it’s just for them. 😉

 

 

 

Chocolate Sunday – Be choosy about chocolate!

This week, the news about chocolate was kind of disappointing. This article from The Globe and Mail says that health benefits are “unlikely,” because the amount of resveratrol is not high enough in a typical diet to create the kind of benefits that have been hyped. Resveratrol is a compound found in chocolate, which is thought to be linked to reduced inflammation and reduced risk of cancer and heart disease. Sigh.

But another article in Forbes ends on a more positive note, saying that a little bit of chocolate and red wine “may do you good.” It also says there may be other substances in chocolate that are beneficial.

The good news is that nobody is saying to avoid chocolate. Just have it in moderation. Which we knew, anyway.

But it got me thinking. If you’re going to consciously limit your chocolate intake – and maybe limit it further – what is the very best chocolate? The most decadent?

I think if you’re going to have just a small amount, it should be a chocolate you can savour. Something rich and maybe expensive, so you won’t be as tempted to overindulge.

The first two chocolates that come to my mind are Valrhona and any high-quality chocolate truffle, the kind you buy one-at-a-time because they are so rich. Like the truffles at Cocolat in San Francisco, circa 1984. But they were so big that I’m not sure they qualified as something to eat “in moderation,” unless you shared one with a friend.

What comes to your mind? Is one chocolate enough, if it’s perfection?

Hmmm.

 

Almond-Butter Cookies

I don’t usually buy prepared baked goods, aside from bread. But I succumbed to a craving this week, and ended up baking anyway.

photo(23)

Fresh from the oven, yesterday.

I’m a big label-reader, and when I saw peanut butter cookies in a local bakery made from peanut butter, sugar, eggs, and nothing else, I remembered that I’d made them that way myself once or twice.

Why not try the easy peanut butter cookie recipe with almond butter instead? I think of almond butter as a step up nutritionally, but each one has advantages, as long as the product is minimally processed and doesn’t contain additives, according to this Globe and Mail article.

Also, I had more almond butter than peanut butter at home, and wanted to use some of it up. I combined two kinds of almond butter – thick almond butter in the opened jar, and more liquidy almond butter in the new jar. I figured they’d balance each other out.

I decided to top each cookie with a whole almond, à la Bonnie Stern, circa 1978, the year her Food Processor Cuisine/La Cuisine Tourbillon was published. I used to enjoy making (and eating!) her buttery Almond Cookies, each garnished with a whole blanched almond.

But no need for butter or flour in this week’s recipe. I based my cookies on this three-ingredient recipe for Best Peanut Butter Cookies Ever on allrecipes.com, and a similar one on Kraft Canada’s website.

I used organic sugar, in part because I like the granular texture. It’s also less processed than regular white sugar, but I still try to consume it in moderation (most of the time!).

The cookies were delicious, especially after I let them cool!

Almond Butter Cookies

1 c. almond butter

3/4 c. organic sugar

1 egg, slightly beaten

whole almonds, 1 per cookie

1. Mix together almond butter, sugar and egg with wooden spoon.

2. Form batter into 1″ balls and place on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Leave space to allow them to spread.

3. Flatten each cookie with the palm of your hand, but leave them a little puffy.

4. Press whole almond into each cookie.

5. Bake 10 minutes at 350, or until baked through. Cookie will lift easily with a knife when done.

6. Cool briefly on cookie sheet, then transfer to wire rack to finish cooling.

Enjoy!