Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Writing with beans

Step 1: set up your writing mise en place. Open up the file(s) you will be working with, pull and arrange all of your notes and draft passages, get out your writing notebook and pens if that's how you work, your to-do list or list of questions you will be addressing for the section you are writing or revising. Reread enough to find your starting point and remember what you are doing.

Step 2: take a cup and a half of dry black beans and cover them with six cups cold water and put them on to boil. If you don't have these, substitute others, but you cannot make a grocery run while writing with beans, so no fair leaving.

Step 3: Reread and rewrite. Start working your way into the day's drafting or revising. Prewrite or do generative writing answering the question: what am I trying to do at this point in the writing project? or where am I going next, in the next subsection, paragraph, sentence? Soon you will hear the faint shh shhh of your beans boiling. Give them a stir and set a timer for ten minutes. Leave them at a hard boil. Return to your writing.

Step 4: You are in the middle of writing about your topic, without regard for editing or censoring your prose, when you are recalled to the present by the beep of the timer. Give the beans a stir and add an onion and a half a teaspoon of oregano, or even more if you like. Keep thinking about what you were writing. Put the heat down to a simmer and set the timer for about 30-40 minutes. Return to the writing.

Step 5: The timer goes off again. You are starting to get a bit tired or stuck on the writing. Give the beans a stir and add about a teaspoon salt, then let it continue to simmer. Or perhaps you are still going strong on your writing, whole sentences still coming to you. Keep writing them down as you add the salt and let the beans go. Beans are very forgiving, so don't worry about the cooking. Keep simmering away at the writing.

Step 6: You are thinking about how all those ideas should be re-organized, or perhaps you are pondering how to incorporate someone else's research into this passage. While you stew away at the writing passage, dice an onion and a tomato and cook the onion in some safflower oil until it gets soft. Ponder how this writing passage will connect to your larger writing project. Add the tomato and about a teaspoon of adobo powder. If the beans are nice and tender, add them and simmer the whole thing on low for another 15-20 minutes. Either type up your morning's writing or print out what you wrote on the computer. Continue to contemplate the writing.

Step 7: When the beans are simmered enough or you have exhausted your willpower for writing and revising this morning, slice up a couple bell peppers and cook them in some safflower oil. Get out tortillas, avocado, maybe some cheese or sour cream, and take the bean mix, sauteed bell peppers, and all the other ingredients to the table. If you haven't printed what you produced this morning, print it now. Stop and contemplate where you are and what you will need to do tomorrow. Make a little to do list. Eat your black bean burritos --- it is helpful to invite another person in at this point, or else you will be eating these black beans all week. You can also tell them about your writing project, if that does not distract you from the work.

Step 8: You are sleepy after a nice big lunch. Clean up the kitchen, but also clean up your writing space. Set out everything neatly in the mise en place and make sure everything is prepped. Put your to do list on top so you are set for the next morning. Move to pulling books and article for the next section, or, if you are awake enough, start reading them. Savor the spiciness of the beans, the tastiness of your writing.


Anonymous said...

LOVE it!

Dr. Koshary said...

I want more recipes in this vein! More, please!