Looking at this julienne on Wednesday morning, my first thought was, 'Joel Robuchon would kick my ass all the way back to Canada.' The idea made me smile. Remember Jamin? *sigh*
Probably in 2023, Joel Robuchon has a posh school in France that would charge me tens of thousands of dollars to learn to cut julienne his way. Wonder what it costs to do a stage in one of his restaurants?
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
When I worked in France, the executive chef said that when presented with anything below standard. The tone was incredulous, like he was being presented with a lunar rock. You could tell how far off course you were if you could see his tonsils. Humble pie is super tasty.
One of the joys of still standing in front of a cutting board is knowing I fell for the right profession. I still love chopping. Don't get me started on mis en place. Knife skills are the first and last lesson.
I'm writing a novel.
The process is interesting. I've had a lot of advice from writers and have a small group of readers.
One Canadian writer told me to write the first draft through to the end with little editing. That's Haruki Murakami's practice. The only problem is it doesn't suit me right now.
Another suggested I write a chapter as close to complete as possible. That's been golden. It got me thinking about character depth, the subtle ways it's expressed, the relationship between characters, and the world around them, including nature. The advice was freeing.
It's still a first draft. And it's also a fleshed-out chapter. There's a second chapter almost there and a third needing some work. It's barely a start. And it's real progress, given I work full-time.
The writing is still young and a bit stiff. I know from working with pro-editors that it will loosen up and become more of what it should be in time. I feel like I'm still finding my voice.
The way is full of surprises. I'll spend a two or three-hour period writing. And when I am away, things surface. I add highlighted notes to Scrivener, put them in my Notes app on my phone or record voice memos if I'm on the move or at work. The story is always with me. And time away is productive.
I've also been laying the foundation simultaneously. The structure is evolving — there are character sketches, chapter outlines, and a couple of years' worth of research starting during the pandemic. It needs more underpainting.
I learn new things about the process all the time. This week, I began tracking food for continuity's sake. There's a fair bit of cooking, which must make chronological sense.
I sometimes fantasize about having 12 to 24 months to devote to this in an MFA program. When I studied at the Humber School for Writers, most of my peers had novels in progress. I studied creative writing purposefully. This feels natural. I'm here for a reason.
I also fantasize about hiring a coach to help with organization, tracking progress, setting goals, and projecting milestones. But none of that is possible right now. And for many writers and artists since time immemorial, it's not a prerequisite for creating.
What I do have is a circle of support. The work is simultaneously engaging and unnerving. Making something from scratch is nourishing. It's a cocktail of hope and insecurity. I have dreams. Are they outrageous? Would a man ask that?
What becomes of it is not my concern today. Pressing on is.
I saw two stories this week about artists and their creative process that spoke to me. This on printmaker Jacob Samuel (watch the video). And this short reel of the late painter, Pierre Soulages.
I went to a wedding last night. Barely took a photo. I had a good time. Caught up with people, including a few from my years at Rundles.
Musically I had something lined up and then I heard this Greg Allman song and it fit the day and the mood. A musician of tremendous depth.
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