A friend gave me some strawberries, sweet and delectable. Strawberries set my thoughts to dreaming–heart-shaped jewels of the vine crowned with Juliet caps of green–and remind me of fairytales and fantasies. In the days of medieval agriculture, strawberries grew wild and were small, fragile, so delicate when picked they were bedded amid straw–hence the name.
This morning while thinking over Trail of Shadows, strawberry cupcakes popped into mind as I considered what my characters would do next. But I didn’t have enough cupcake liners for the tin so I opted to use a loaf pan and bake a strawberry tea cake.
Frequently when wrestling with the muse, the urge to bake (or sometimes cook) comes over me. Perhaps it’s my desire for some tangible and immediate evidence of success during the act of creation–writing requires long patience. I chase after words to drag into sentences, and need to feel like I’ve accomplished something while my butt goes numb in the chair–right along with my brain–that’s a bothersome connection, but never mind.
I don’t aim to work out every detail of plot, particularly since I tend to write and plot at the same time. (I try to outline, but it never quite works for me.) A hard way to roll–yes, but can’t seem to help myself. I decided to outline only the first 5 chapters and could see I was over-thinking my plot–what little there is of it. Like changing from muffin tin to loaf pan, I only had to let go of what wasn’t working or what wasn’t going to work. An easy decision you’d think–unless you’ve got my brain which tends to run in circles and jump about nervously like a terrified mouse.
I think of plot details and get stuck on them. They embed themselves in my mind like ticks in the skin and suck the blood right out of my plot, leaving me wondering what to do and scratching the itch to no avail. So up I get, gather strawberries, flour, sugar, cinnamon, eggs, milk, a dash of salt, melt butter, dig out the loaf pan and my big glass bowl.
As I’ve done before, I let the mind dither and set the hands to work–making roasted tomatoes, pecan brittle, lemon muffins, tomato sauce, spice rubs, stuffed bell peppers, and today–strawberry tea cake. Mental flexibility is the key.
The kitchen has a sweet baking aroma and I can smell the cinnamon. And, I’ve got my five chapters of Trail of Shadows sketched out.