Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cover and Let Simmer

Most of my favorite recipes have, as their last instruction, a line that reads like this: "Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes." Simmering lets the flavors really permeate the sauce or the meat. If you dump chili straight from a boil into the bowl it tastes like overdone hamburger, there's been no time for the chili powder, garlic, and peppers to work their magic. I've decided it's the same with my experience at the LA conference two weeks ago. I came home from the conference, was immediately covered with Life Shtuff and now hidden bits that I absorbed from the various seminars are starting to soak in. One nugget I've turned over and over in my brain is that a lot of the faculty had stories about what else they did with their life other than try to get published. Many worked around books - as librarians or teachers. Others went in a completely non book direction (Gary Paulsen ran the Iditarod.... twice.) But their experiences definitely came back to haunt their writing or art later. It made me wonder if I'm trying too hard to chase the projects I want. For years I've been laser focused on this goal, and a laser focus is great for getting steady work and making a living, don't get me wrong. But a laser focus hasn't made my perfect publishing project come true any faster. Small Fry started kindergarten this week, a huge milestone. Of course we paraded him proudly to his classroom and took pictures but the laser throbbed away in the back of my mind: I was scoping out the school and staff for potential school visits. Next week Jim Dear and I are getting away for a bit to celebrate ten years of married life. I could worry about what I'm not getting done while I'm gone, what art directors I'm not contacting, what letters I'm not sending to agents. Or I could go to sleep on a beach chair with a pink-alicious cocktail and a blank sketchbook next to me. Turn the laser off and tell myself that this moment will come back later to make my artwork better.

Maybe I need to quit boiling and let simmer.

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