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How we do what we do

I’ve been out of town for the past week, helping with preparations for my cousin’s wedding in Oakland, and the whole time I was gone, I had the strangest feeling. It took me a long time to figure out what it was, because I’d never felt it before. Turns out, I missed writing.

No offense to my cousin and her new husband. Those people know how to throw a party, the kind that blows out an amp and a subwoofer. But I missed writing. I missed writing! I know that probably seems like a perfectly normal thing to feel, given that writing is what I do. But the truth is, most of the time, I will do anything to avoid it.

I understand that some people wake up itching to write. They feel as though they somehow aren’t complete unless they’re writing. I have never been one of those people. I have wondered what it’s like to be one of those people. Sometimes I have wondered what it would be like to punch those people. I had coffee with a writer friend a couple of weeks ago, a friend who is working on a cookbook, and she confided that she was feeling a little envious of the process that lies ahead of me with my next book. You get to do that whole immersion thing, she explained. You get to go headfirst into the cave, the cave where the story is, and there’s nothing else that feels like what that feels like: intense and exhausting, but also electric sometimes, as though you weren’t really alive until you got in there. I knew she was right, and I have occasionally felt that way, but the thing is, getting into the cave is very, very uncomfortable. It’s almost painful. I will do anything to avoid it. I’ve been sitting by the mouth of the cave for four months. I’ve been sweeping my flashlight around on the walls inside, checking for bats, worrying about bats, wondering if I’m going to die from whatever that virus is that’s transmitted in bat guano, wondering if maybe I already have that virus, wondering if that’s why my skin is acting up, and yes, obviously, why didn’t I see it before, that’s why I’ve been feeling bloated! I will do anything to avoid going inside. I will make myself miserable, just to avoid it.

I remember feeling this way when I wrote my first book, and I remember not wanting anyone to know, because I thought I was the only one who feels this way about her work. I have wondered many times if I’m maybe not supposed to be a writer, because I will go to such lengths to avoid writing. I thought it was a sign. When we opened Delancey, even though it was the hardest work I had ever done, physically and otherwise, I thought, AH HA! I KNEW IT! I wasn’t supposed to be a writer! I’m supposed to run this restaurant! Ding ding ding! But that feeling passed. And though I wasn’t ready to put it into words then, I knew that something wasn’t right, and it was that I wasn’t writing. So here I am, at the cave again.

Brandon and I have been talking a lot about my next book, trying to remember all the details from the earliest days of Delancey, almost two years ago now. Really, the book is as much his as it is mine. A couple of weekends ago, the day after my conversation with my writer friend, Brandon and I went to the farmers’ market to buy a bunch of stuff for the restaurant, and then we went out for a quick lunch before Brandon went to work. I was trying to jog my memory about a particular moment during the opening of the restaurant, a story that I planned to write down that afternoon, and we sat there over our plates of fried rice, hashing out the chronology. I was feeling weird. I felt itchy to get home and start writing, but I also felt like maybe I needed the afternoon off, and maybe tomorrow afternoon, and maybe, you know, maybe I would never write this book at all. And I wondered yet again if this procrastination is a sign that I am in the wrong profession. I suggested this to Brandon. And then he told me something that blew my brain out of my head. Remember how, when I met Brandon, he was studying to be a composer? Apparently, he is an even more accomplished procrastinator than I am: he opened Delancey, he now confesses, to avoid having to write music. World, we have a new Procrastination Champion! I have never felt more thoroughly understood in my entire life.

And that, that feeling, changed something for me. It made me feel less alone. It made me feel ready to write. And it made me feel ready to go into the cave. Even though it’s still very, very dark in there. Make no mistake.

So I wanted to write this down, this way-too-long post. I remember when Heidi was working on Super Natural Every Day, and she would put up a post every now and then to chronicle her process, and how it made me think about my own process and feel more brave about it. Most of us spend our days in some process or other, and I want to share what that process has looked like for me lately. Actually, what I really want is for us to sit around - you, me, all of us who write or draw or design or compose or do any kind of remotely creative work for a living - and talk about how we work, how we do what we do. Creative work means making something where there was nothing before, making something out of ourselves. I have a feeling that I’m not only one who spends a lot of time pacing at the mouth of the cave, wringing her hands, worrying about the bats.

I’ve been reading Bird by Bird again. It’s my third time. Brandon has taken to calling it Third by Third. He thinks he’s very clever. In any case, my writing for the next book is currently in what Anne Lamott might call the Shitty First Draft stage, and owwww, is it awkward. So far, the book is very... workmanlike. But I’m enjoying the process anyway, for the first time. I want to remember that. Anne Lamott says this thing on page xxxi that really resonates with me: ". . . [S]ometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out."

I saw my friend Sam the other night, after a long afternoon of writing, and we were talking and laughing, and he said, "Wow! You’re really happy when you’ve been writing, aren’t you?" I didn’t know that about myself. I’m glad I’m learning now.

P.S. If you haven’t heard Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk on genius and creativity, do yourself a favor and listen. That’ll light a fire under you.


Anonymous Kellie said...

Molly, I love this post. I love Anne Lamott and Bird by Bird and all her honesty and truths about writing that are in there. I think your honesty about writing (and all of life, in general) resonates for me in the same way. Can't wait for your next book.

9:12 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger abrownfield said...

New camera?

9:15 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Sarah said...

What an excellent post to read...when I should be writing! But am using blogs to procrastinate.

My favorite writing-related quote is "The enemy is not the bad page. It is the empty page." It helps me.

9:15 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous lifediving said...

I adore Bird by Bird, and I'm totally with you when it comes to writing: love it, love to hate it. Good luck in that cave!

9:21 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Cindy said...

Thank you for this! I feel it too, though not just when I have something to write but also in my work as a scientist. New projects are big and daunting as well as exciting and fascinating. I procrastinate and read and run small errands a lot. It's difficult to accept that one's 'first draft' won't be neat and precise with well-composed results.

This week I stepped into the cave. :-)

9:25 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

Kellie and lifediving, I'm glad you know Bird by Bird! Saved my life, that thing...

abrownfield, nope, not a new camera! It's a Hasselblad 500c/m that I got for my birthday a couple of years ago. (Best birthday present EVER.) I don't use it often for blog photos because the film is expensive, and the development is expensive, and it requires advance planning. But it's my favorite camera, by far.

Sarah, that quote is so true. Thank you for sharing it!

9:25 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Emily M. said...

love this post. hits very close to home. have only read bird by bird once, and it was a long time ago. maybe it's time to read it again. at any rate, i am glad you have ventured back into the cave!

9:32 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Jen S. said...

I think a lot of writers hate the process. Just *starting* - sitting down, making sure you have your special pen, all that stuff - is part of coming to your work. I am reading "The Happiness Project" and the author hates writing ... and, yet, is a writer. Funny, we humans, we procrastinators.

9:39 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous M.K. said...

So maybe procrastination is just a part of your process. You've finished a book successfully, after all.

9:48 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Val Curtis said...

Oh, so many truths. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about why I blog. A sense of completion. Funny thing is my little babe sent a post out for me today that wasn't ready and then my mouse broke. So now it just out there. Unrefined. Just a skeleton of a finished product and I was shocked how vulnerable it left me feeling. My new mouse will arrive on Monday and then I too will head back to writing. Thank you for sharing your passion. You excel, just like Annie.

9:57 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Danielle said...

Oh my goodness, I've been sitting outside for my own cave the past few days and I thought it was just the hormones! ;) When it comes to writing, especially the Shitty First Draft stage, it's a little like wrestling with your inner editor/ego, trying to shut it up so that the good stuff can flow and give you something to work from. That wrestling is the hardest, and is probably why I procrastinate so much on writing. Because I want to avoid the battle. Sometimes wine helps, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, deal with the discomfort and go for it. Works like Bird by Bird certainly help. Go Molly, we're all rooting for you!

9:59 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for this. I also avoid writing, even though I know in my heart it's the only thing I want to do, that it's the only thing that makes me feel myself (when I get around to doing it). I didn't know other people felt this way too. I feel less alone, and braver, now, after reading this post. Best of luck with your book!

10:03 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger JacquelineC said...

I have also found that Ted talk moving: posted here on it: <a href="http://jacquelinechurch.com/ldg/1717-ole-ole-ole-toro-restaurant-food-and-the-presence-of-the-divine> Ole, Ole, Ole - Toro, food and the presence of the divine.</a>

I have such a different feeling about the writing process, I feel like I could do it all the time, and all the other stuff I <i>have</i> to do gets in the way.

Glad to see your success! Long may it continue!

10:15 PM, August 03, 2011  
OpenID svasti said...

There are several books I've been meaning to write and one in particular that is banging loudly at the door right now... if only I'd make the time to go in to the dang cave! ;)

This struck a chord for me specifically:
...creative work means making something where there was nothing before, making something out of ourselves. I have a feeling that I’m not only one who spends a lot of time pacing the mouth of the cave, wringing her hands, worrying about the bats.

I hadn't really thought about it like that before - creating something out of nothing, but it's very true. So of course it takes time and rumination and many false starts before we get there.

Sometimes the words come pouring out of me and other times they do not. Like you, I'm way too busy worrying about the bats.

10:17 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Story said...

Lovely post. The writing process for me always has a faithful hum, sometimes an itching, to it. Even with the workman-like quality we fall into, it still produces and helps mold the final picture you want to create. May the writing gods be with you!

10:19 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger lexi said...

Thank you so much for this post, Molly.

Excessive loitering around the entrance to that cave often tricks me into thinking that perhaps I'm not a writer, after all - and then, I wonder: what the *!@# am I going to do about these signed contracts and looming deadlines, now that I've realised I'm not a writer at all, but just some phony who happens to be good at writing proposals and convincing people that she is a writer? And, you know, I go through this nearly every day. Often there's nothing but this, and I go to bed knowing that I. AM. NOT. A. WRITER. But sometimes I write something and the earth closes up again and the sun comes out and I understand again that this is what writing is for me - and that this is my life and I wouldn't change it if I could.

Reading about writing often helps me too - and Bird by Bird is a book that you led me to, a long time ago, through this blog. I've been meaning to thank you for that for the longest time. Thanks again for reminding me. x

10:20 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Andra said...

Too often I have these exact feelings. There is something intrinsically prone to procrastination in writers but think of the time you now consider wasted as preparation. I construct the pieces of the puzzle of a writing piece in my head and they move about until they fit. Only when they fit, I can give them life in writing and tinker until ...well, until I stop tinkering- because as you probably know, it is never perfect.

10:22 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cute shoes! Where DID you get them?? I love them.

10:27 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous Allison said...

Ah...the cave analogy totally works for me. All I do is avoid the cave these days, too. I'm not exactly sure what part of the cave I'm scared of -- if I were I could overcome it. And when I finally do get immersed in writing it usually feels good. But, it takes every bit of focus and energy for me to get myself going. I write and read blogs to distract myself from my real, academic writing...and I feel like that's a pretty encompassing distraction. A restaurant, though! That's impressive.

Good luck with your new book. Fantastic you've learned you love writing, despite it all.

10:38 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Peg said...

thank you! A dissertation is NOT a work by Gilbert, nor Lamott, nor you...but you've inspired me.

10:49 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Anne said...

I can absolutely relate. I'm skulking around the entrance to my own cave at the moment.

Can't wait to see the final product - but you just stay right there with the shitty first draft. Only way out is through.

10:55 PM, August 03, 2011  
Anonymous rachelino said...

Tolkien said he felt he had put his heart up to be shot at after submitting a manuscript. The things we truly love are scary. I often wonder about why I continue along a path when I am so quick to sit down in the middle of it and cover my eyes. Moving forward is risky. Your heart is on the line. Maybe it wouldn't feel that way if we didn't care.

10:56 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger shutterbean said...

Been reading bird by bird for the past year now...procrastinating on my me time alone with a good book. I suppose having a kid doesn't help much either.

Love this post and your pictures are just absolutely stunning and quiet at the same time. That tomatoes pic floors me.

11:32 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Adrien said...

This is an amazing post. It reminds me of a book by Stephen Pressfield called the War of Art, in which he talks about how that which we most resist often tends to be what our true calling is. There are a lot of reasons to avoid writing or composing or painting or whatever, but the greater the friction we feel when we come up against that thing means that that it is what has gotten the most under our skin.

I can't wait to read your next book.

11:37 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Jesse said...

Wonderful post! I know that feeling so well. I'm starting to make peace with it, starting to understand that it's also part of the process. It's as if I need to get myself into such an uncomfortable place that the dreaded drawing/writing becomes a release. I'm also realising that the stress I create for myself by procrastinating is necessary; creating isn't easy, and I need a bit of adrenalin, unpleasant as it is, to leap in.

11:42 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Adrien said...

And an apt quote from that book, "There's a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don't and the secret is this: it's not the writing part that's hard. What's hard is sitting down to write."

Too true.

11:45 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger angesinclair said...

Molly, I'm a designer, not a writer, but I feel this way all the time too. It's the tyranny of the blank page, the fear that you won't be able to do anything good, so you don't do anything at all. Every time I sit down to start a new project I think, what if nothing comes to me this time? It's never not come to me, and every time, I just need to learn a little more, turn a few more corners, and I find myself in front of something that might actually work. Getting to know your own personal process is magic, I'm excited that you're doing it.

11:49 PM, August 03, 2011  
Blogger Georgia said...

Such an honest and inspiring post Molly and one that I really needed to read and absorb, having just recently gotten a new full-time job as a way of avoiding finishing my novel. A friend recently shared some wisdom from Picasso -'inspiration finds you working'. Thanks for inspiring me to get back in the cave and all the best for your new book, can't wait to read it!

12:03 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Kimberley said...

Reading that first paragraph, I thought that you were going to tell us how you were one of those people, one of those crazy people who Looks Forward to going into the cave. But no, instead you are gracious and honest, talking about that thing that plagues any of us who are forging our own creative path. I'm not sure what my routine is, but I battle procrastination every day. The things that help the most are having awesome people in my life who see me at my best and support that - like your buddy Sam here. And taking breaks and making my mind think about other things, so that I can come back refreshed.

12:04 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Chris said...

Oh, my heavenly stars. I never knew there were other creative people who did this. I thought it was something broken in me, something inside that couldn't be more of a finisher and less of a stutter-starter. WOW. I also procrastinate. One of my favorite ways to not write was to cook creatively. When that became uncomfortable, I wrote a cookbook about the way I cooked. When I became unwilling to cook anymore, I began to knit. When I came up with my own patterns, I wrote the knitting patterns. Obviously, I need to write. But I need to overcome a higher level of frustration with the process than I am usually willing to surmount. Hence the long dry writing spells. When the need becomes greater than the frustration with the process, the writing flows and I love the word flow, like a dolphin swimming. Thank you for writing this blog post. I hope you continue writing your process, and helping other writers see their lives through your eyes.

12:08 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger tori said...

Such a beautiful post. I can't wait to read the next book. Have just ordered a copy of Bird by Bird. I too, read your blog when I need some procrastination/inspiration. Like you, I'm sure my blog isn't so much a cave, it's more a comfy little tent. But the big writing, the stuff that scares me, that's a cave. And that one I normally can only enter at dusk, in my special chair, with the comfort of a campari on ice to my left, just in case it all gets too much.

12:39 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Wendy said...

Thanks Molly. This is such a helpful, honest and inspiring post. I remember a quote from Joyce Carol Oates which relates to the "shitty first draft stage":

The most empowering right you can give yourself is the entitlement to write roughly, uncertainly, even badly.

Your next book is sure to be a success. I can't wait!

12:53 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous clotilde said...

"Sometimes I have wondered what it would be like to punch those people." Priceless. :)

1:18 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Amy (frugan) said...

I am shopping for dresses online when I should be working. Working in a career that is basically one big procrastination from what I should probably be doing.

So the next question is, should you make peace with the "procrastination career" that you discovered or should Brandon really be a composer and me really be the thing I'm avoiding? That's where my head is right now.

Great post.

1:21 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Irene said...

Thank you for this inspiring post, it's always so helpful to read about writers and their writing habits. Have you read The New New Journalism? Great book, very reassuring to see that even the greatest writers procrastinate.

1:31 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous emily said...

I loved reading this. I write, usually at night. Late evening, 10pm onward. Sometimes in the early morning, but always when I am alone or can convince there to be silence from the other side of the table. I just won't let anyone see it, read it, or know what it's about yet.

I haven't re-read Bird by Bird in a long while. I am halfway through the Forest for the Trees though, which has helped with stopping my self doubt.

1:33 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger quinn said...

Thanks for expressing this so beautifully, Molly! I live in a tent at the mouth of the cave, and each evening at dusk I watch the bats fly out in a vast, fluttering cloud. And I think to myself, "Well, no point in going in now. The bats are gone." In the daytime I think, "Can't go in now - the bats are back and I don't want to disturb them by stumbling around in their cave, waving a flashlight. With all that white-nose stuff going on, they don't need any more stress." Then I spend a lot of time thinking about pollination and spelunking, neither of which is in any way relevant to the two projects - one writing, one design - that have been sharing space on the back burner for a long, long time.
Life is not comfortable in the tent at the mouth of the cave, but it certainly has become familiar.

1:35 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Olga said...

Thank you for sharing this, oh my, of course you are not alone. I feel like that way too often, yet I know I'm doing what I was meant to do! (well, at least I believe so). I'm not a writer, but I remember spending the whole month avoiding looking at all the photographs for my first book and actually starting to put it together. For the next two month I had to almost chain myself to the desk to keep working. It's getting easier with each new project though, don't you think?

1:42 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Victoria said...

Molly, I cannot tell you the number of times while facing a daunting task , I have taken a deep breath and muttered "Bird by Bird."

I read a lot - what I soft-of-jokingly call "a rude amount." Reading the well-written word gives me a pleasure that nothing else does. I love to curl up in a corner with any Jane Austen; I am always happy to re-read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. I even enjoy sitting down once again with Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. But there are three books I always want handy to get my hands on, to peruse, and to re-read whenever I feel like it. They are

With Bold Knife and Fork by M.F.K. Fisher,

Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin, and

A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg,

The world is definitely a better place for your writing.

2:18 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Skye said...

Thank you so much for writing so honestly about writing.
I spend a lot of extra time working on photography in order to avoid writing, even though I consider myself a writer first and a photographer second. It's comforting to know that other writers dread the cave just as much as I do. It's so comforting to know that that I think it will make it easier to take a small step inside.
Thank you.

3:36 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous nithya at hungrydesi said...

This a great post - AND I love how you write. You are clearly doing something right.

I have a similar feeling when I haven't been cooking. It's like a little itch of something missing. Sometimes it results in me in the kitchen cooking at 11 pm (aka my bedtime) or up at 6 am (aka too early). I never really realized the sentiment that makes me do that until I read your post.

3:45 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Jennifer Jo said...

Molly, Thank you for sharing this. Writing is such hard work, but I feel like it's selfish play, too, because I love it so much. It's an indulgence. It's hard to balance the feeling of play and work, especially when there is no money involved...because all work yields money, right?

I think I do most of my writing in the form of a blog because it's only on a certain level. Writing something for (paper) publication is deeper and scarier and much, much harder. I don't know if I have the stuff it takes to write that deep, or, as you say, go into the cave. So, until I work up the courage and confidence, I'll blog.

(And, oh yes, I love Bird by Bird. It's on my shelf.)

3:55 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous A Plum By Any Other Name said...

We've missed you writing too! I am not kidding when I say I bring Bird by Bird to the pool with me EVERY WEEK to read. The stories never get old and they're always inspiring. I no longer have a cover to it now, but that's okay; it's guts are still very much intact.

4:07 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Susan B. said...

Molly, Wonderful post! I am not a writer but I find myself "outside the cave" with regard to other areas of my life and responsibilities I have. Also, I was in Seattle two weeks ago and I told the friend I was visiting I had only one request: to eat at Delancey. Turns out she lives relatively close so it was easy to do. We both loved it and I know she's been back at least once since then. I'm looking forward to reading your next book! Good luck with the bats.

4:10 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Jess said...

No words, Molly.

4:12 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

YES. I feel this way about my research (I'm a PhD student in mathematics). It's hard for me to come to terms with the fact that my first idea (and my second, and my third, etc) will almost certainly not pan out -- and then to persevere, to keep searching for the right idea, having faith that it will show up eventually.

Sometimes it can be very tempting to say "Well, even if I work on research today, odds are I won't get any results, so I might as well spend hours wandering around the internet." I have to keep reminding myself that the time and energy invested in those first fruitless ideas isn't time wasted.

4:15 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Val said...

It's refreshing to read such a brave post that reveals your creative doubts. We all have them and to see that makes it so much more acceptable to feel them. I am currently going through a phase where I'm not sure where my cave is at all. But perhaps that's my creative doubt speaking and really I'm at the mouth of the cave looking into the darkness while backing off. Either way, your post has made me stop backing off and turn the flashflight on.

4:56 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Audrey Hindes DiPalma said...

Molly, have you ever read "If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit"? It's by Brenda Ueland, first published in 1938, and reads like it was published yesterday. I don't even know how many times I've read it, but it never fails to inspire me to be my truest self -- the most important attribute for a writer to possess.

5:07 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel best when I am writing. I feel like I've done something—created a text for understanding what I'm thinking—I struggle verbally. Like now, trying to collect thoughts for a comment, to create something worth more than a glance over, is particularly grueling and I want to delete and walk away. Actually, right now I'm putting off the inevitable, getting into my car and going to work. To work. To not write, even though I'll try to sneak some in, if I can.

5:27 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger tara said...

Is it weird to print this out and tuck in in my copy of Bird by Bird? Because that's the plan, I think.

So validating, inspiring and helpful, Molly. Thank you.

5:27 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Hannah said...

I'm blow away by how succinct your post was, and how much it resonated with me. People have always looked at me like a madwoman whenever I admit that I hate writing... Because really, I write cookbooks for a living! But what I mean is that I hate the process of writing when it involves going into that cave, isolated from the world and trapped within your own head. Wow, this makes so much more sense now. Thank you for making it out of that cave time and again to share this.

5:29 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger shayma said...

i loved your book, Molly, and i am looking forward to reading your second one. all the best, x shayma

5:32 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Kathryn | Dramatic Pancake said...

Molly, thank for for writing about something that people don't often talk about, but so often go through. Part of the reason I recently began my blog was because I no longer have an outlet for writing in my "real"job, and it definitely feels good to be writing again. But there are still days when it makes me very, very uncomfortable, even anxious. For me, part of it is that I feel I have to recreate in my mind whatever it is I'm writing about, and to do that, I have to get to that same place emotionally... which isn't always fun. Thanks for the reminder that I'm not alone :)

5:38 AM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID highplainsdrifters said...

glad you missed writing, 'cuz few do it better than you. cheers!

5:57 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger andrea despot said...

I love this post because, honestly, I have long felt the exact same way. Deep down I consider myself a writer... who doesn't write. I've never done much writing other than for school, but my teachers always told me how good I was and I was always so proud of myself after finishing a piece. But the thing was: I was such a procrastinator and it would take me FOREVER to even start. I'm a perfectionist and I wanted what I was writing to be perfect and I would end up driving myself crazy. I love to write, and yet... I hate it!

So it feels great to know that I'm not alone in this and that I guess I can still consider myself a writer without feeling guilty. And you've given me hope that maybe someday I will write more...

Thank you :)

6:00 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous zephyr said...

Yes, standing at the cave, wringing hands, doing anything to avoid it even exists. Love that game my niece got me hooked into on Facebook. For this very reason. Thank you, it does feel better, knowing it isn't just me.

6:04 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Teramis said...

Hey. Looks like you have a lot of company outside the mouth of that cave.
Thank you for sharing about the same thing I wrestle with too. And good energy to you in your process.

6:09 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Ciao Chow Linda said...

I'm with you on this one. Except for my blog, most of the time I honestly dread writing - but I love "having written." So I keep at it, and I'm glad you are too.

6:10 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Kristina Strain said...

Thank you, SO MUCH, for this post. My goodness. I'm a freelancer. I spend *hours* pacing at the cave-- and yes, those bats are freaking terrifying. I spent the whole month of June making myself miserable and worrying about them. I'm just starting out, and, yes, I think about what it would feel like to punch one of those "I just wake up and need to start writing" people. Reading this is hugely inspiring and motivating and... my goodness... I think I'm going to take a walk into the cave now.

6:17 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Lia said...

Hi Molly, I've always been so curious about your writing process and have to admit I loved hearing that you sometimes struggle like this. Your writing is so beautiful and it's hard to not assume it's effortless for you, and that these words just fall into place easily. I consider myself a writer and feel like I have so much I want to write about, but with two little boys, I never have adequate time to really focus on my writing and coax the right words out, so for the most part, I just put it off altogether. I hope that changes some day. For now, I'm going to order Bird by Bird since this is the second time I've heard about it this week. And I can't wait to read your second book since your first was so fabulous.

6:18 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Leslie said...

What an inspirational post! I have to say I LOVE the photos you take. May I ask what kind of camera you own? My current one's really old and I was curious what kind yours was. Thank you! and please keep writing!

6:27 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Lindsay said...

I write for a living and have felt that self-doubt so many times, I can't even count. Every time I have a big article to write, I inevitably kick myself for taking the job and vow that I will change professions. What keeps me going is knowing that I have done it before. If I can do it once, I can do it again. And so can you! Thank you for your post. I am so looking forward to your next book.

6:32 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous kimberly said...

Miss Molly, you have no idea how much I needed this post right now. I feel like the queen of ADD as the moment I have a deadline fast-approaching, I find a million other things that "must" be done. And, as writing is not my "thing" - photography is - it is a stretch on a good day. And yet, I know I can do it, and actually enjoy it, a little. So this post inspires me to be a little more gentle with myself and just enjoy the process, with all of it's ups and downs.
Thank you.

6:37 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Ann said...

Beautiful. Thank you for your honesty. I often avoid my own cave for fear of finding inside the Horrible Truth that I'm just no good, not a cavern of wonders, but a dead end after a belly slog through suffocating fissures. It's good to know that even the successful(that's you!)have to override their demon resistance. The only secret seems to be to just do what you're led to do anyway. I need to remember that when I start pretending to be a culinary school baking instructor in two weeks. That's a scary cave, too.

6:49 AM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID katieleigh said...

I've been avoiding the cave, too - even though I'm also really happy when I've been writing, and really cranky when I'm not. I totally get it.

(And I love Bird by Bird. Always a great kick in the pants.)

Thanks for posting this - so honest and helpful and true.

6:53 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Bekah said...

What a beautiful post Molly! I adore Anne Lamott because she gives you a kick in the rear when you feel like stopping and the grace to say whatever this attempt ends up looking like, it's OK.

Your post got me back to my pen and paper after a week of standing outside the cave, ignoring the entrance by making myself busy with other things. So thank you!

But being honest, when I don't write I become kind of irritable--because I know I am putting off what I need to do, even though I hate sitting down to do it. Why is it always the things that do the most good are the hardest?

6:54 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Bev Weidner said...

You're so awesome. I totally feel you, on the writing thing. and the not writing thing. I MAKE SUCH SENSE.

Looking forward to your next cook book! Enjoy the ride. xo!

7:02 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Shaun said...

Speaking of writing, I haven't seen your column in the last couple issues of Bon Appetit. Do you still write for them?

7:04 AM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID thatklickitat said...

My favorite quote from Bird by Bird , one I think of often while in the midst of my own work is the one about the car driving at night. Even though it's dark, and the headlight beams only reach so far, bit by bit, you'll make it home. Seems apropos of your cave metaphor.

7:05 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger fanny said...

Thanks for sharing! Now, where the heck is my flashlight...

7:05 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger ssm said...

Oh yes, I feel the same way. I had an English professor who once told me, "Anyone who tells you she likes to write is lying to you. We like to be FINISHED writing."

7:33 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Stephanie said...

thank you molly, for feeling vulnerable and sharing your struggles. i know it can be hard at times. i'll be thinking about this throughout the day: "Creative work means making something where there was nothing before, making something out of ourselves."

just what i needed to be reminded of.

7:40 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous crotchetymama said...

Oh man. No, never feel abnormal for that. I am the writer other writers want to punch in the face, but believe me, going by my writer friends - and I have many - you are in the majority! :)

7:45 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a too-long post. It lasts for as long as it goes, like everything else anyone writes. Best to you!

7:46 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Krysta said...

How inspiring. Sometimes, just hearing how another comes to the conclusions they come to and how that process and reveal takes place can really help someone else understand his circumstance, even if it isn't the same thing. I have not commented in a while, (I'm sure you noticed, ha! :) But I read every post and am a huge fan your your book. You are a very thoughtful writer and a subtle, brilliant storyteller. You make me want to make whatever it is you are talking about even if it's something initially unappealing to me like braised cabbage. You will talk about the how the delicate leaves wilt and marry with the cream and turn into something completely different, all it's own and I am somehow itching to get to the store and buy me some cabbage! You do it all without pushing it, as I tend to do, and it's really very nice and beautiful. Keep writing Molly. Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to get comfortable. Go kick some bat-ass!

7:48 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Megan said...

You. Don't you ever stop writing.

7:52 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Brenda Sloan Stevens said...

I loooooove to write. You may punch me now. BUT I don't like saying, "This is now good enough for people to read." And I don't like taking the time for the internal, unstructured simmering time that I need to bring what I need to say to the surface.

Having said that, Molly, yes, you are a writer. (AND a cook and a restaurant owner and a wonderful photographer.) Your words are your children and your legacy. They touch a lot of people. Sorry, but we need you to do it!

There. I said it.

7:56 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Amber said...

I read about Bill Nighy (the British actor) the other day. Apparently he started out as a writer. My favorite quote: "I am a world-class procrastinator. I'm only an actor because I've been putting off being a writer for 35 years." Made me think of you guys!

7:59 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger RevMcC said...

So true! I love Bird by Bird and often find myself referencing the 'shitty first draft' when I am struggling to put words on the page.
I can also recommend Annie Dillard's, The Writing Life, for moments of procrastination.

A dear friend recently told me that procrastination is actually a very fruitful process. Even when the words aren't finding themselves on the page, ideas and images are working themselves out in your subconscious.

8:12 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Cameron said...

Molly, thank you so much for your bravery in sharing this. I am trying to finish my dissertation in the next few months, and I cannot tell you how many times in the last seven years I have felt just what you are feeling, have employed all the same miserable methods of procrastination, have wondered endlessly if I am in the wrong profession. You have no idea how much it has helped me, and, doubtless, so many others, just to see this daily struggle verbalized by someone as honest and talented as you are. I am in the dark cave with you, believing that the light will come.

8:21 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Sivani said...

Dear Molly,
I love reading your blog and I especially love your long posts. Apart from giving me a reputation of being a good cook, you give me a sense of peace with your beautiful sentences in your blog and book.
My books will most probably always stay a collection of notes and pages but I am very happy you are heading into your cave.

8:22 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Amy Divine said...

Molly, find your blog earlier this year led me to your book, which together inspired me to start photographing and writing about my adventures in the kitchen. I'm getting ready to launch my own project (pending distractions!) and have you to thank! Thanks for sharing your process and frustration, it's really encouraging for me, personally.

8:25 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Elissa said...

You know what happens in New England when you're exposed to bats? They give you shots. A lot of shots. For reasons that I don't quite understand. They don't even have to touch you, and --- tough luck --- you gotta get the shots. Plural.

Right now, the bats are stuck in my hair, the way my grandmother always promised me they'd be if I ever saw some and harassed them. Which means, since I live in New England, I'm lining up for the shots.

Your post was brilliant, Molly.....I'm so glad I'm not in the cave by myself.

8:29 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Lisa in KS said...

Thank you so much for this post! Procrastinators unite! I have actually taken on an entire career, which is nothing more than daily tedium and attention to details that I care nothing about, in order to put off doing what I'm really meant to do. I'm a certified yoga instructor, and I taught some classes, but its been several years ago. I live in a small town, so demand for yoga classes is not high. I took my current job to make ends meet, and its slowly managed to "eat up" every other aspect of my life. I don't even practice my own yoga any more! Why do we do this? Everytime I do yoga, it feels like just exactly what I need. I think its maybe some kind of protection mode. A wanting to protect that part of me which is most authentic and beautiful. Not wanting to risk having that part of me rejected. So instead, I just pretend to be something that I absolutely am not. It is not a good strategy. Thanks for your willingness to put your true self out there. I think I'll go sit by the cave for a while, and if I don't break out in hives, I'll consider going in.

Much love to you.

8:53 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous The Recipe Grinder said...

Your writing is always so inspiring — about food, and about writing. As someone who has found crossing even one foot into that cave almost unbearable I really appreciate your words. Here's to tossing the flashing light and jumping in!

9:03 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger margie said...

Hey, I have a cave, too. I don't think about bats too often (my best friend is a bat biologist - maybe that's why?). However, the entrance to my cave is very, very small; the kind of cave that is left undiscovered until someone's dog falls into a little teeny hole or some hiker twists his ankle stepping into it through the brush.

It doesn't help that I'm pulled three ways. I have my academic writing, my food writing, and my fiction writing; each one makes the others better, I think, but I also have a job.

That damned job is the problem, I think. If I could just figure out a way to get rid of it, I'd be golden!

Right? ... Right?

9:22 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous anya said...

Great, brave post, Molly! It's insides-twisting to be in that cave, but there is no other way for us creatives than in.

Once I, at the moment of the extreme misery, confided to my dear boyfriend that although I can't imagine myself not writing, it terrifies me. To which he said that if it makes such an impact on me, this is "where you belong then". I remind this to myself every time wading through the mud becomes unbearable.

Me too, I love "Bird by Bird". I'd also recommend Nathalie Goldberg's "Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life". Both are priceless!

9:26 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Annemarie said...

Molly, I draw. And I sometimes feel like there's a whole street lined up with caves around me. I still battle the feeling that apparently i should find another profession. Your words strengthen my resolve to give it my all.

9:29 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger The Carnivorous Vegan said...

Oh my gosh, I love this post. I aspire to be an aspiring writer, and I want to be outside of a cave too. It's amazing to me that you are concerned about that bats, when your writing is so beautiful and lyrical.

9:49 AM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID marge said...

The best best best book to read while writing (closely followed by Bird by Bird) is Stephen King's On Writing. It is a prereq for living. I think you'd quite enjoy it. Selah.

9:55 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Jen @ My Morning Chocolate said...

Thank you for sharing this! I think a lot of writers feel the same way when starting new pieces. I love that feeling when there are words on the page, when I can get in a writing groove and move sentences and paragraphs around, when the whole story starts to come together. But I absolutely hate the blank page and that moment of starting. I'd rather eat a whole hot pepper. Or at least a bite - and I don't have a high tolerance for spice.

Your post makes me think of Ann Patchett's Truth & Beauty. Have you read it? It's a story about friendship, really, but Ann mentions that her friend Lucy does everything possible to avoid starting her second book. It was the first time I read that someone else struggles with starting a piece, and it made me feel so much better.

Anyway, good luck with the book!

10:04 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Roberta said...

Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk is so f***ing inspirational! I love it. As I do this post. It is also inspirational and makes me feel less alone. I only write my blog but have bigger writing dreams that I have no idea how to bring to fruition. Your writing is extraordinary. I like your cave analogy. You may want to think about writing an inspirational writing book yourself!

10:07 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Frances said...

Molly! I definitely look back at every blog post I and article I have written and think: "Welp, that's my last one. That's it, that's all I have." It makes me feel so nice to know know that others feel this way too! (I also feel something similar to "The Tyranny of The Blank Page every time I decide to go to the gym." But interestingly, I NEVER feel that way about cooking, baking, eating, or trying a new restaurant. That's where i get my mojo back.

10:24 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous frances said...

So funny to read this as I ate my second breakfast this morning (oatmeal with walnuts and dried cherries), as I ate my first breakfast (pb&j sandwich) while writing about how hard I have been working over the past few weeks to procrastinate about writing! You have captured it exactly - the amount of time and huge effort we put into avoiding the thing we're afraid of doing.
Congrats on recognizing this in yourself. I think it's one of those lessons we (I, anyway) have to learn over and over and over.

10:25 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Keri said...

Bird by Bird is sitting on top of the pile of books on my desk. I took it off the shelf again yesterday, thinking I needed some way to kickstart my own writing. I've been wandering around outside of that cave for ages -- years actually. I'm so good at procrastinating that I started a family and then had another child... right when I was finally starting to take steps into that cave! Thank you for understanding and describing that black cold discomfort so vividly!

10:30 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Brenda said...

What an inspiring thing to read right now, thanks.
It's amazing how vulnerable the thought of entering that cave can make me feel, yet how liberating the experience of freeing my words can be. It's encouraging to be reminded that I'm not alone.

10:33 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger riye said...

Great post! I feel like that about making sculpture--I love it and loathe it at the same time. I'm afraid to get started yet I'm grouchy because I'm not working. I have a friend who confided in me that he loves ceramics so much that he has to restrain himself from running as fast as he can into his studio. I really hate him sometimes.

10:59 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger AlloLune said...

Yes! I was going to comment and recommend that Elizabeth Gilbert TED talk, which I adore and in which I find great comfort, but there it is waiting for us in your post script!

I, too, am glad to know I'm not the only one pacing the mouth of the cave. My great dread and greatest achievement arrives in lesson planning--creative, academic, thoughtful, careful. It demands my full attention. When I'm in it and it's going well, I'm alive like at no other time. But ohhhh, the pain of getting there sometimes!

Thanks for this call to the community of us who create something of ourselves, whether we like it or not.

11:01 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous DanaB said...

Exactly! I have always been one of those that loves to write, however when I have a fantastic idea that's when I get all bothered n procrastinate--you've nailed it!


11:02 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Jen said...

Thank you for telling me about Bird by Bird. I just ordered it and hope it will help me find the words inside of me.

11:08 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, I just got back from a psych appointment where I spent the whole 45 minutes talking about my anxiety around my writing, and then I read the blog "Fear of Writing," and then I read your blog, and then I watched the TED speech you recommend ... and now I think I might start writing. Thanks!

11:23 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Susan said...

What a poignant post. I am an instructional designer and currently designing a training curriculum, instructor guide, and workbook and I feel the same exact way.

That feeling of you are alone and needing to keep it to yourself rings so true. I have to create deadlines for myself and stick to them or the procrastination takes over. That knot in the stomach feeling lasts longer the longer the procrastination is there.

Thank you for your openness and sharing your amazing talent.

11:24 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I am a CHAMPION writer. I write 3 or 4 blog posts a day! In my head. When it comes to actually putting finger to keyboard, I get awfully itchy.

11:43 AM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Camera Idiot said...

Man, I needed that post. I've returned to my daily writing after a seven-year absence and it's been a difficult process, but I'm loving it. Have you read What It Is by Lynda Barry? It encourages you to link the image and the story and it's incredible.

11:57 AM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Danielle said...

This is one of the best posts I have ever read by you. Loved the honesty and realality expressed from your situation. Honestly, I just loved it and related with it entirely in relation to your feelings towards writing. I hope the book is going well and please know that you write very well - always invitingly and filled with intrigue.

12:17 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anne Hale said...

This is a lovely way to describe the balance between the writing and not. Can't have one without the other and there's no purpose in feeling guilt (or anything else) when engaged in either! I love to think of my non-writing time as research because that's when everything experienced and observed can be drawn from the next time I'm BICHOK :)

12:41 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Denise | Chez Danisse said...

I really like this. Thank you for sharing a bit about your process. Okay, back to my cave.

12:45 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Alicia said...

Dear Molly,
Your post makes me feel much less alone in the world! I am a cellist, and will wash dishes or clean the cat litter to avoid practicing. So glad to see I'm not a complete freak and a half! Thank you for putting this creative guilt into words. Now then, I have to go practice... right after I vacuum and take out the garbage.


Ps. I gave A Homemade Life to at least five people for Xmas last year. One of my most favorite books ever!

1:45 PM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID curlygirlpress said...

Amen sistah! I'm currently procrastinating the heck out of projects right and left, only my cave is actually my studio at home. I frequently stop at the door, push aside the curtain, throw something in to feed the beast, and walk away. It's sad, really. Also heard Elizabeth Gilbert talking about creativity on a RadioLab show - fascinating. Also also feel more alive when I am being creative (maybe that's why I'm feeling bloated, too!) Hang in there, I'm confident you'll manage to find the right words at the right time. = )

1:54 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Daughter Fish said...

I love that you're brave enough to share that you get scared at the mouth of the cave. Pacing around in front of that yawning, black hole could make you (or, me) want to do just about anything else. But I find that once I dive in, and am persistent (even when I don't feel like it), it tends to get easier. Shitty first drafts, telling the story in inch-wide picture frames, and turning the KFKD radio station off are my favorite chapters of Bird by Bird. Bonne chance! You're going to rock it.

1:57 PM, August 04, 2011  
OpenID alittlelunch.com said...

I just finished reading your post, Molly -- kudos -- and I enjoyed the tremendous sense of "connection" generated in the comments.

Perhaps it's because your title contains a subliminal message? Cave-dread aside, we inevitably dive in and write -- it's what we DO.

Here's a quote to consider:

"Composition is for the most part, an effort of slow diligence and steady perseverence, to which the mind is dragged by necessity or resolution." ~ Samuel Johnson

DO writing, even if you have to drag your mind (and/or cave) with you. If all else fails, watch "Finding Forrester." :)

2:55 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Liz Maruska said...

Molly, Your comments about writing sound just like my painting process. I am never happier than when I've been working on a painting that is going well. Conversely when it's not, I feel like destroying it.Fortunately, I haven't actually put a hole through one! Best wishes, Liz

3:19 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Renee said...

This doesn't just happen to writers! I own a women's clothing store, and although my cave is probably somewhat smaller, every time I re-merchandise the store, it's a slog beforehand. Think baby steps; this helps me anyway (sometimes!).

3:25 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Claudia said...

I'm a writer. I love having written. I love it when I lose myself. It takes a lot of work to lose oneself. It's not instant - sit down and you're lost (well... maybe I am lost but without losing myself!) Maybe 'tis time to crack open Bird by Bird again. Congrats on the NY Times Delancey review - that's a lovely coup! Will be in Seattle next week - just the days when Delancey is closed! But will still dream of that white pizza.

3:34 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Emily said...

man, I am pacing at the mouth of my own cave, too. I have lots of plans...one of which is visiting Delancy when we're in Seattle in October. :-)

4:02 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I swear I am not making this up. I wouldn't do that. But it was procrastinating writing that found me reading this post. Not only do I feel the way you do, but I feel that way right at this very moment. I've always been terrified of this thing Rilke said- that you must search the depths of your soul, and if you do not truly, honestly NEED to write, then you are not meant to. That is what has always made me think that I'm doing the wrong thing. I thought I wasn't worthy because I'm so lousy at actually following through with it. But I think we're both on the right track. Thanks for reminding me, and good luck with the cave!

5:09 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous danielle said...

i've had this post open all afternoon as a treat for after work and boy was it the perfect thing for me. as an artist (oils) i know this feeling precisely, sharply, intimately. thank you for putting it into words and voicing that sense that so many of us creative have and fear.

and yes, i completely concur on the elizabeth gilbert TED talk. so inspiring and liberating.


6:07 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Monica said...

Molly, it's interesting to read about your "struggle" when your writing seems to flow so naturally, giving us a real picture of what you're thinking and often capturing a lot of what we have felt ourselves. I loved your book and you are an awesome writer. : ). My husband is very thankful to you for the chocolate banana bread recipe, btw!

6:20 PM, August 04, 2011  
Anonymous Beth said...

I've been standing at the edge of the cave for over three years now. I have a photo project I love and know is good, but I can't bring myself to do anything with it or create more work. The fear of what's on the other end of the cave can be paralyzing. But I do think everyone goes through it, and all you can do is move through it as you've done, knowing that the other end of the cave is nothing scary; just a more complete view.

Keep up the good work! You can do it!

7:00 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Oana said...

I love that you wrote about this. I sometimes feel the same way. About the avoiding and the feeling as if something is missing when I have not written for a while. It happened to me recently and when I got back to it, it was wonderful. I felt as if something that was missing in me was back. I felt right. Again, brave of you and well appreciated.

7:01 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger mummydinosaur said...

Molly - I love this post. And coincidentally just picked up Bird by Bird to reread last night. (My other fav is Stephen King - on Writing).

Thanks for taking us to the mouth of the cave with you. In my own experience my house is never so clean, garden so tended, freezer so full as when I'm trying to avoid something.

In the meantime I'll keep rereading your first book which I love.

Enjoy the process with this one and good luck in the cave.

7:35 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger maryannjanecka said...

What camera do you use to take these pictures?

7:44 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

YOU WONDERFUL PEOPLE! I love the conversation that's happening here, and all the books and ideas and quotes you've shared! Thank you. So, so much. I'm going to come back and read these comments over and over, I think, whenever I'm stuck.

And to those who asked about the camera I used, photos 1, 2, and 4 were taken with a Hasselblad 500c/m. It's a medium-format film camera, and it's an incredible piece of machinery. Fanciest camera I will probably ever own. I'm in love with it. And the third photo was taken with a Polaroid 600, using Fuji instant film.

8:03 PM, August 04, 2011  
Blogger Anna said...

I loved reading this and it is so inspiring to hear about your process, however difficult, and more so your discovery of the importance of writing in your life.

I wish that creative endeavors could go quickly from point a to point b, but I am learning that sometimes the things that sneak up on you, that you didn't know you cared so much about, end up being the best and most important.

Thanks for sharing!

6:10 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Lisa said...

Molly, thank you for this. Thank you, thank you, thank you. And yay for using your Hassy! You just convinced me not to sell mine.

8:06 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Christina said...

i am very intrigued by the creative process. thanks for sharing your own. i love bird by bird. its so helpful to know that others feel the same way. i can't wait to read your new book!

8:33 AM, August 05, 2011  
Blogger Melissa said...

Molly...THANK YOU! I mean it. Sometimes, I'll read a blog post and its almost like it was written for me. I completely understand what you are talking about with the procrastination and the avoidance, I've been gearing up for a very big challenge that I will face tomorrow and even though the training has been so very gratifying each time I have to push myself I avoid it like the plague. But your post is so INSPIRING! I have no other word, inspiring is it. Good luck with the writing, I can't wait to get my hands on your next book. Thanks again. M&M

9:20 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Elizabeth @ Saffron Lane said...

You have absolutely NO idea how much I needed to read this today. I had a major breakdown myself about my creative path last night and, while I wish it were easier for both of us, I take such comfort in knowing I'm not alone. Exhale. Thank you so much.

9:40 AM, August 05, 2011  
Blogger Rocky Mountain Woman said...

So, I just clicked on here to read for a little while to avoid working on my long suffering novel....

hmmmm...maybe a cup of coffee and a roll will help get me in the mood? Wonder how long it will take me to get to Starbucks?

9:57 AM, August 05, 2011  
Blogger shirenesBEAN said...

It is really comforting when you realize you're not the only one who feels a certain way...in which case I felt relieved myself when you talked about how you sometimes avoided writing, because I've done that recently as well! :P
But I as well as many others (obviously, by the 100 or so comments already posted here lol) have enjoyed your writing, so definitely keep it up! ;D

10:16 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


10:59 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Judy Lenzin said...

Oh Sweetie, You are NOT alone! I'm a quiltmaker and I bubble over constantly with ideas and sometimes I do the mouth-of-the-cave number you were writing about over one of these fantastic ideas. It's blue fear, basically. But I can assure you that once I start cutting up fabric and putting different colors together, the cave doesn't seem like a frightful place anymore. I get swept along into the idea that was fantastic to begin with and I forget about the walls of the cave altogether. Be well, Sweetie, your writing is wonderful!

11:31 AM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Melinda said...

Hang in there, Molly! We're rooting for you. On the topic of Liz Gilbert, you might also want to revisit her Radiolab segment: http://www.radiolab.org/people/elizabeth-gilbert/

I found this podcast very inspiring.

12:48 PM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Teri said...

Love this post, Bird by Bird, the idea of your next book, all of it.

When I'm writing, I like to drink out of my Dear Sugar Write Like a Motherfucker mug. This column never fails to get me going: http://therumpus.net/2010/08/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-48-write-like-a-motherfucker/

1:33 PM, August 05, 2011  
Blogger Amish Stories said...

Wow look at the amount of comments, i see someone is loved by her readers. Richard from Amish Stories.

3:46 PM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a textile designer and sometimes I feel like my job is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat everyday and it can be exhausting. When I am starting a new project I will work out the color palettes or look at other designs to jump start my creativity. That helps me get to work and into that "place" where I create.

7:08 PM, August 05, 2011  
Blogger Judi said...

Hi Molly, I loved your first book and look forward to your next con mucha anticipacion... In the meantime, if you haven't seen Susan Cain's website, Quiet: The Power of Introverts, you might enjoy it! I send you good wishes and thanks for all the good thoughts you send out to the rest of us. Happy August, from Judi in Washington DC

7:54 PM, August 05, 2011  
OpenID Carmella said...

Gracious. It's okay to be afraid of it? To not like it. Yet like it as you've never liked anything else? And this thing that I've just said that doesn't make any sense, actually makes perfect sense? And you and so many other writers are nodding your heads in agreement? Its a wonderful day!

Priceless words, Molly! Thanks for shining your light around OUR caves!!

8:13 PM, August 05, 2011  
Anonymous the good soup said...

For me, starting to write again feels like waking up from a very deep sleep, just outside the cave. The glare's insane and there's too much stuff going on around me. I don't want to talk, I don't want to hear anyone talking. I just want it to be me, my brain, and whatever I was dreaming about. Forever. I attempt to write but I'm in a very bad mood and I'm waiting for the cave to find me. If it does, there's no one to see my bad mood anymore, and it transforms into joy and writing.

1:55 AM, August 06, 2011  
Blogger JanG said...

Wonderful post for all of us who sit outside caves waiting until that random perfect moment comes, and then we create! I am often afraid the creative fire is lost, but have learned it will always reappear if I wait and watch.

6:25 AM, August 06, 2011  
Anonymous CharlotteauChocolat said...

Molly, thank you so much for this post. Not only was it beautifully written (like virtually everything you write), but it really struck a cord with me. I'm just finishing my master's degree and have been battling with the idea of pursuing a Phd in literature, and the reason I'm not running headlong into it is because it's so hard for me to write my academic papers. To paraphrase what one of the commenters quoted: it's not the writing that's hard, it's the sitting down to write. When I'm in the middle of a paper, completely in "the cave," to borrow your gorgeous metaphor, it's downright exhilarating. But when I'm at the edge of the cave, not yet in, it's so damn frightening. In fact, I get so scared that I doubt my ability to even be able to write a paper at all. And lord, do I procrastinate. Sometimes, when I'm at this stage, I'll read a paper I've written in the past, and be shocked that I could possibly have written it, and start feeling like I could never write anything like that again. Getting into the cave is so difficult, that it's made me doubt that an academic career is for me. And yet, there's no greater satisfaction for me then when I've finished a paper... This post, and all of the comments here, have made me feel like maybe it's ok that I feel this way, maybe it doesn't mean that I shouldn't go down this career path, that maybe I should, after all, follow my heart.

7:35 PM, August 06, 2011  
Anonymous Aria said...

Can't wait to see what kind of magic you are crafting, Molly!

8:31 PM, August 06, 2011  
Anonymous Ilke said...

You will come out of the cave stronger, might have a few scratches from the bat fights but you'll be ok :)
I am looking forward to the book!

6:12 AM, August 07, 2011  
Anonymous Jen Erwin said...

I love the Elizabeth Gilbert talk on TED; also check out Alain de Botton's talk on using your own definition of success. They're both brilliant.

7:48 AM, August 07, 2011  
Anonymous ruthie@thetwicebitten said...

Dear Molly,

What a brave and important post. It has taken me a few days to really think about what I wanted to write.

As someone who has only been writing for a few months and as someone who is totally inspired by your writing it was interesting to hear how you were feeling. I would love to be where you are now and it is tough knowing that I may never be good enough. I guess it just shows that whatever level you are at in the creative process you will always have that feeling of self doubt.

My boyfriend is an artist and he always talks to me about "climbing mount improbable". It's like being at the bottom of a cliff face looking up at the summit. It looks scary and impossible but it's much easier to go round the back and take little, gradual steps and eventually you will get to the top. Well that is the idea anyways.

Also, when I am doing drawings I am always worried about mucking it up. When I think about it rationally it is only a piece of paper that is wasted, it is really no dramas. With writing it is just the same.

Having just read a homemade life a few weeks ago I know you have it in you to do an amazing second book.

Best wishes
Ruthie x

11:35 AM, August 07, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Journalism is not exactly art -- not usually, at least -- but two journalists spoke to your feelings long ago:

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith

2:01 PM, August 07, 2011  
OpenID T. Crockett said...

Thanks you,
thank you,
thank you for putting it in words and making us all feel less alone.

2:14 PM, August 07, 2011  
Blogger Ellen said...

I've only recently come to the realization that I'm going to have to write, or I won't be happy. I've been putting it off for so long, I don't even know where to begin. It makes me feel incredibly vulnerable, and rather fearful too.
Thank you for posting. Your writing style is beautiful. I always feel calmer after I've read something you've written.

2:50 PM, August 07, 2011  
Anonymous Robin said...

I always love writing once I'm in the thick of it, but I also always put off starting for days...months...YEARS. I need to tattoo "WRITE TODAY" across my fingers. So thank you for this post. I never thought I was the only one, but it gives me heart to hear from a procrastinator who has managed to write her way through time and again.

5:23 PM, August 07, 2011  
Anonymous Mindy Anders said...

Wow, I am so glad you wrote this. I (and I see from all the comments - so many other people, amazingly) feel the same way! I thought it meant I shouldn't be a writer, too - but then I'm miserable if I don't write. I'm not really happy WHEN I'm writing, but soooo happy when I've finally finished writing something. Thanks for being brave enough to be so honest. I think you helped a lot of people just now - you definitely helped me!

6:17 PM, August 07, 2011  
OpenID fiveandspice said...

Such an apt description, Molly. Thanks for sharing! It's funny, but I've been muttering, "you'll do it bird by bird," a lot to myself lately, trying to do my work, to do at least some work. I've been having to admit to myself that through all these years where I've described myself as a "process-oriented person," I've been describing myself aspirationally. Most of the time I don't like process at all! It is itchy and anxiety producing - and you start to think your genius really is totally lame - just as you describe. But, on the days when you do embrace the process, oh how lovely those days are. Living is a process. Thanks for sharing this with all of the rest of us who find ourselves in similar surroundings.

7:07 PM, August 07, 2011  
Blogger Miss Kate said...

Oh my. I was sitting here at my computer tonight, procrastinating about writing a new article for my cooking blog, and I thought "I hope Molly has a new post at Orangette. Reading her blog always makes me feel good."

So I did and I loved it and I totally empathize about sitting at the mouth of the cave - that's where I am now, too - and when I got to the part about Bird By Bird, I laughed out loud! That's the book I read when I'm having a tough time writing. It must be a security blanket for authors. If I had to tally up the times I've read Bird by Bird, it would be in the dozens; usually, I read a chapter or two until I'm out of my funk and ready to write again.

Keep your chin up, and thanks for fessing up to your procrastination.


A fellow procrastinator.

8:38 PM, August 07, 2011  
Blogger Jane said...

Dear Molly,

You are an excellent writer. I cried reading you first book, the chapter about your heartbreak in Paris sang to me. I feel the same about writing sometimes, I'm a dietitian and I often doubt that I'm a good writer, I'm better off counseling people and teaching others. But I find such joy in writing, it's amazing when the words just flow seamlessly though. I can't wait for your next book! Don't be afraid of the cave!

9:30 AM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous molly said...

Move over, Jungle Drums -- there's bat guano in town.

Seriously, that cave is as spot-on as Plato's.

I love this idea, of outing the process. It's due for a little fresh air, methinks.

(Also, if you haven't already, do listen to Bird by Bird. It is just as wonderful, in a brand new way.)

9:37 AM, August 08, 2011  
Blogger Maureen Abood said...

Here here. You were my Brandon today, and I feel better, understood, about the red herrings that are my writing bed fellows.

12:20 PM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous Amy from She Wears Many Hats said...

Phew. I thought I was losing my mind and that I must be the most lazy, immature, irresponsible person ever. To find myself avoiding writing or creating pictures to clean out under my bathroom counter? What's wrong with me? So thanks for sharing. And I too am in the middle of reading Bird by Bird. It makes me feel sane. I think I'll read it each year for therapy of sorts.

Thanks again. Wishing you much luck in the cave.

12:20 PM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous erin @ from city to farm said...

Ha! Looks like this resonated with quite a few people. :) I'm a graphic designer and wow, I'm right there with you on the cave. And that there is no better feeling than when you're fully immersed and producing. But oh man, getting there. Hard.

I've found it's A LOT easier to brave the cave for clients. When I'm doing my own work, whew, it languishes for weeks/months/years(ouch!). Until I feel like perhaps I'm not really a designer...

But, all it takes is one really good afternoon and I realize designing brings me more satisfaction and happiness than anything I've ever done before.

Glimpses of brilliance! And enjoying those languishing moments, without drowning in them. These are my goals. Great post!!!

1:45 PM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous Michael Procopio said...

The mouth of the cave-- small wonder I avoid writing, too, since I'm claustrophobic. It's a wonderful simile.

I've always thought of writing as climbing up into an overloaded attic-- dark, musty, disorganized, and full of half-forgotten things. Objects worth keeping, but that I've never known what to do with until I finally give in and decide to write about and make sense of them.

I look forward to your future spelunking. Just please remember to pack extra batteries and water.

2:14 PM, August 08, 2011  
Blogger Lainey Seyler said...

I know I'm message like 500 or something, but thanks for such an encouraging post. I have a love-hate relationship with writing. It's really an addiction

3:36 PM, August 08, 2011  
Blogger Emilie Keim said...


Thanks for sharing your feelings about writing, the ups and downs. Thanks for your honesty! As a painter, I can relate to you far too well.
I feel like I'm usually fighting myself in the studio, or avoiding the studio altogether- but it always calls me back, a language I can't forsake because it is the best way I can say what I have to say. It's my best form communication in a sense, because it gets the deepest inside of me.
Anyway, not to get all mushy, but thanks for sharing with others the truths of what it is like for you as a writer.

5:20 PM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous Fork Your Consideration said...

Hello! I love this post. Such a lovely introduction for a new Orangette reader like me.

6:42 PM, August 08, 2011  
Blogger Faun said...


I waited until today to post, hoping to have some profound comment. I have nothing - except extreme gratitude for you posting your experience with the writing process. I really thought I was the only one and that I couldn't really consider myself a 'writer' if I felt this way.

Thank you for sharing....

7:14 PM, August 08, 2011  
Blogger Leah said...

I felt such relief when I read that post, but reading all the comments made me feel even better! Just blogged about my own writer's block today and my adventure with a rogue pizza dough last month.
I love to cook but it doesn't love me, but I still enjoy it. My husband, who has to eat my "creations" is the real victim here. I do love your blog and my husband and I are addicted to the red cabbage salad with lemon and black pepper (that I can make). Loved your book, can't wait for the next one!

8:52 PM, August 08, 2011  
Anonymous MOMENT2SMILE said...

Molly, Thank you for writing this. I have been working on my thesis for what seems like ages now and reading your post helped me to feel less freakish for not wanting to enter the cave. So helpful for me. Bring on the bats! (o:

3:28 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Melissa said...

thanks, molly! i'm currently mapping out the plot of what i hope will become my first book, and this post was such a pleasure to read. hooray for us non-kerouac types! (i've had bird by bird on my library hold list for ages, now i'm extra excited to read it.)

8:43 AM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Return to Sunday Supper℠ said...

Thank you for this post....it's just what I needed to read right now.

9:29 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Barbara said...

Love the photography with this post. It's easy to be inspired by breath taking scenery and majesty. But the gifts of the ordinary days in our life - the fresh tomato, the view out the window, a clean sink for goodness sake! To find the pleasure and inspiration in those moments is the real ticket. Thanks for the reminder.

9:44 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Holly said...

i am pretty sure i could have written this post - Anne Lamott, Liz Gilbert and bat caves all included :)

9:46 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Elizabeth said...

Ahhhh! It's like you stole the thoughts out of my head. My husband kept saying, "People who love to write do it all the time, whenever they can, not just when they're 'ready' to," and I was beginning to believe him. It's encouraging to read that others have felt this way and I feel less alone in my love/hate relationship with writing!

10:28 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous emma said...

Molly, reading your thoughts shifted something inside me. thank you. i never realized other creators feel the way you describe. all my life ive been throwing myself from one thing to the next in an effort to avoid those things i love doing (the more love there is, the greater the velocity). my path has included loss of identity (needed, i see now), addiction, public humiliation, and a large amount of nerve-splitting, body-shaking fear. all because i couldnt face my desires, and the work it takes to actualize them, squarely.

thank you for sharing your thoughts and the TED video. both continue to resound in my head as they rearrange my perspective.

p.s. a book ive found extremely helpful in getting the writing going is _Writing Down the Bones_ by Natalie Goldberg.

11:53 AM, August 09, 2011  
Anonymous Darina said...

This blog post was the perfect read for me at the perfect time. I have a Master's degree in Creative Writing and still struggle with how much I hate and love writing in equal measure. I think Kurt Vonnegut said it best; "When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in my mouth".

12:25 PM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Junsui said...

I love this, I can relate to it and it's just plain nice to know that others--published authors, bloggers, and maybe the world--feels like this, too.

I'm currently writing a dissertation, so I feel like I spend most of my days if not *in* the cave, then hovering around it. Can I write when my allergies are acting up? Should I bake something so that I'll have a good homemade snack for when I get hungry? Do I really know what I'm writing about...?

Good luck, Molly! I'm yours in writing solidarity!

1:45 PM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger Brittaney said...

Thank you so much for this. It was just what I needed to hear.

5:42 PM, August 09, 2011  
OpenID stuffurface said...

Love this post! So comforting! I am reading Bird by Bird and when I read that quote you mention I had to write it down immediately to keep close, because it resonates with me deeply!

6:26 PM, August 09, 2011  
Blogger michy said...

every time i come here i leave happy, but sometimes i come here and i remember the time i was sobbing in my chair reading about berg and then i think of the other time i was sobbing in a completely different way reading of your wedding day and then i remember why i keep coming back here and why i'll always come back here forever and ever amen.

2:15 AM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Lori said...

Thank you for this...you could have plucked it out of my brain, but you did so much more beautifully than I could have.

3:41 AM, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous Ollie said...

Love this blog, beautiful photos. Check out my blog www.weeklymeals.wordpress.com :o)

7:10 AM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Maggie said...

One of the reasons I blog at all is to document my creative journey -- the bumps in the road as well as the triumphs -- partly in the hope that when I hit a rough patch I can get some perspective. And it's also in the vague hope that others may find it reassuring or helpful. There's shockingly little information out there about the actual nuts and bolts of being an illustrator, so I felt the field could be a bit more candid.

7:13 AM, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous Kathryn at Good Life Road said...

I certainly relate to this post and your process and both your and Brandon's procrastination. I guess the important thing is to hang on. To not let our desire to run away or sweep the front of the cave make us think we are doing that because we have nothing inside us to give. Maybe that procrastination in and of itself is a key part of our own idiosyncratic process and all we can do is keep moving toward it, and hope we outlast it.

Your writing Molly is well worth the effort.

8:03 AM, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this post, I recently realized something similiar about myself. I'm a singer who started teaching fitness so that I could avoid the challenges of singing and being a musician. I'm back on track now and very happy about it, but it's hard to be brave and put yourself out there. If I might suggest some reading that has inspired me lately-- Untitled: Thoughts on the Creative Process by Blaine Hogan . . . it's only available electronically, but it's a great little nugget of creative inspiration.

8:59 AM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger vikki said...

it'll take me all week to read the comments that precede my own, although i suspect i'll derive a lot of benefit from reading them, so for now i'll just go ahead and say this: i had KIDS so i could avoid finishing my novel. THREE OF THEM. now it's eight years later, my novel is a tiny bit closer to done, and the cave is beckoning me but i'm having trouble moving ahead. somebody (h.l. mencken? e.f. forester? hell if i know) said "writing a book is like driving in the dark. you can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole journey that way."

i love that.

10:32 AM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Story Teller said...

I am so thankful that you wrote this post, Molly! I feel EXACTLY the same way. I loved where you said, "I wonder what it would feel like to punch those people". The people who tell you that you aren't really a writer if you aren't writing every day. Grr....

I love writing...once I get into it. But when life has intervened, and it's been a while, it's excruciating to get back to it. Even though I miss it. Even though I feel guilty about not writing every single day. If my day job was writing novels, I know I could write everyday, but trying to balance my fiction writing with my PR writing and my journalism can be hell on earth.

Good to know someone else has the same struggles.

1:23 PM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Kelsey said...

What a fantastic post! Love your analogy to a cave. I think sometimes the things we are best at/enjoy the most are the hardest to get started at because we a) either know we will become so wrapped up everything else goes on the backburner or b) have such daunting high expectations. Either way, looking forward to your work :)

4:29 PM, August 10, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you!! Has anyone said that yet? LOL This was absolutely fantastic. And thank you for the link to Elizabeth Gilbert's speech.

9:54 PM, August 10, 2011  
Blogger Jo Waterhouse said...

just found your blog,
really like it.
Thank you.

6:32 AM, August 11, 2011  
Anonymous Carolyn said...

This might be my favorite post of yours ever, and that is really saying something. I've felt everything you describe. Sometimes all at once, sometimes over the course of years. There are times when a particularly miserable part of the writing process makes me very happy, and times when a good day of writing makes me miserable.

And I wholeheartedly agree that everyone should watch Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk. And then go read her short story collection, Pilgrims. And then, you know, get back to writing.

7:17 AM, August 11, 2011  
Blogger Lianne said...

oh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh. I thought I was the ONLY writer in the world that feels this way...maybe this is why the 600 pages of my first novel have been sitting unfinished in my computer for years. The CAVE!

I am stepping into my cave TONIGHT.

Thanks Molly - wow.

8:38 AM, August 11, 2011  
Blogger Lia said...

Dear Molly

I discovered you and your blog by some strange coincidence a few months ago. I read your blog just now again after some well timed coincidence. Sometimes people speak or write our feeling and our own experiences. I thank you for that and I thank you for explaining to me some of my reservations.

The man I love prefers to see me writing to the early hours of the morning even if this means I am tired the next day because I shine and glow with happiness. And today I just writing again and added to a blog I had almost abandoned.

I would be honoured if you read my post but equally I can't wait to read your old and new books in the future.

thanks Molly


5:35 PM, August 11, 2011  
Blogger Amy said...

1) First, I really love this bit: “Creative work means making something where there was nothing before, making something out of ourselves.”

2) Yes, Anne Lamott is awesome, and about the time you were quoting the bit about helping the words get out, I thought, “Oh my God! Molly really needs to listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk!” ;-)

3) Here’s the thing--and forgive me, I’m about to link to an old blog post of my own, which I really wouldn’t normally do, but I promise it’s relevant: I think creative folks of all types spend a lot of time feeling guilty, and as if they’re procrastinating, and as if they’re somehow misbehaving (blatantly disregarding the Puritan work ethic!) by doing so. But what if all that “procrastination” is really a very purposeful part of the process? http://halfassedmama.blogspot.com/2010/10/im-guaranteed-to-write-more-about-this.html

10:58 PM, August 11, 2011  
Blogger London Still said...

re: brandon "avoiding music" - one might argue that Delancy is his greatest composition yet. :)

10:02 AM, August 12, 2011  
Blogger The Sun Is Always Shining said...

Hello Molly,
I've been reading your blog for a while now, (I also loved your 1st book and am quite psyched for the 2nd one). I just moved to Seattle this year and am also a writer, or trying to be in my free time as a pre-school teacher down in West Seattle. Anyway, I just wanted to say how much this post helped me to understand my own writing process and put a visual to how I feel at the moment. I too am stuck standing in front of the cave fighting going in, despite how much I want to be inside. The fear is winning right now, but I know it won't be for long.

My issue is that I'm standing just in the entrance where about three or four caves splinter off in their own direction and I cannot decide which one to dive into. They might all lead to the same center, but I'm still not sure which path to take. Thank you for providing the visual to a feeling that I have felt far too often, and like you worried I was the only writer who often dreaded doing the one thing I know brings me to life: being dead center in the middle of the cave with my laptop, my books, and my notes. I miss being in the middle of the dark. Good luck to you taking that first step inside! Oh, and I just watched that same TED talk last week with EG, she is wonderful :)


1:27 PM, August 13, 2011  
Anonymous Brenna said...

This. This is exactly how I feel about drawing. I had no idea how to put it into words, but you did it here. Thank you. It's so nice to know I'm not the only one.

6:28 PM, August 13, 2011  
Blogger Queue said...

I wondered why I'd signed up for a writing workshop in ... wow, less than less than a month.

Now I know.

Thank you.

5:07 PM, August 14, 2011  
Blogger dig this chick said...

I love this post. Thanks so much for sharing yourself here. Every single time I visit I leave with a smile and exhale. Good stuff.

5:10 PM, August 14, 2011  
Anonymous Ana Sofia said...

I can't believe I actually procrastinated on commenting on a post about procrastination. It's procrastination squared. Anyway, thank you so much for getting out what so many feel because the thing about that cave is it makes you feel very alone.

5:43 AM, August 15, 2011  
Anonymous jenny said...

hi molly,
i can't tell you how much your post inspired me today. seriously, pulled me out of a downward spiraling monday funk this morning. you are a constant source of inspiration, integrity, honest & personal writing and so delicious to look at photography and food making. i got such a giggle by "third by third", i can so relate. mine would say, "re-read for the third or fourth time & finally finish bird by bird" thank you for inspiring me today and yesterday and tomorrow!

2:45 PM, August 15, 2011  
Anonymous Jannie said...

Your post here resonated, oh yes, it did. I envy all of you folks who are able to go into the cave, or even shine the flashlight in and look around. I'm still living on the outside, way down here in the valley...but I'd like to go up there and go inside and see what's there. But you think you're scared?...man, I'm just alookin' at the cave from way off in the distance sorta sideways like. Too nervous or unsure of myself to get any closer. But thanks for you post. It's got me thinkin'. Say, do you write with a pen or with a computer?

4:19 PM, August 15, 2011  
Blogger GirlSavorsLife said...

A lot of comments,not sure I have anything new to say, but coincidentally, I just reread Bird by Bird for the third time too. And I read "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard recently and just finished Stephen King's "On Writing" and.. well you get the picture. Now I just need to, well, write. Thanks for sharing your struggles too!

6:30 AM, August 16, 2011  
Blogger Katie said...

Molly, I feel for you. Maybe calling philosophy papers "creative writing" is a bit of a stretch, but it still requires imagination and a lot of searching for the right words, the right way to approach something. So there. It's what I'm supposed to be doing as a grad student, and like you, it's what I often avoid doing...to the point where I wonder whether philosophy and I are meant to be. I think we writers all go through periods like this. I wish I had more to say about how to get through them, but really, I think it's just a matter of patience, friends, and continued confidence in yourself.

9:05 AM, August 16, 2011  
Blogger Lindsey @ FRESH AIR + FRESH FOOD said...

Thank you.

1:09 PM, August 16, 2011  

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