The Benefits of Preparation

I made Panna Cotta* yesterday.  And potatoes for Easter breakfast.  But it was the Panna Cotta that taught PannaCotta me something about writing.

It is not a complicated recipe, and doesn't have a lot of ingredients, basically milk, cream, sugar and honey (it is not particularly good for you). Maybe for that precise reason, yesterday I decided to make like a Food Network star and have all the ingredients measured and prepared ahead of time.

And this turned out to be a revelation, making the cooking of the pudding go quickly and easily.  Which is not usually the case when I cook.

And that is because my blasted right-brain gets in the way.

Now don't get me wrong, I love my right-brain tendencies.  They are the source of my creativity, which I cherish.  But when it comes to logic and details, they can also get in the way.  When I cook, I'm usually all over the place–measuring sugar here, washing the dessert cups there, making space in the refrigerator as a last-minute after-thought.

Oh, and did I mention I'm lousy at following directions?  So sometimes I skip a step or skim the recipe and forget something crucial.  Not only that, my measuring skills are horrible and I usually end up estimating rather than measuring exactly.

And now I realize it is for all these reasons that I hate cooking.  Because yesterday, for some unknown reason, I actually followed the directions.  I carefully measured everything ahead of time, and then I simply followed the recipe step by step.

Um, revelation of gargantuan proportions.  I know.  Duh.  But work with me here, I'm the ultimate right-brain creative type.  And I think I've always thought that I should just sort of know how to cook things without following directions.

As I measured and stirred heavy cream yesterday, I thought about writing.  My next newsletter article (sign up to the right if you haven't already) is going to be about the steps it takes to write a book.  And guess what? Only one of them actually concerns writing.  The rest are all about the preparation.  Because I'm a huge believer in preparation when it comes to writing.  If you have some idea of the road ahead, you'll make much quicker progress.  Not knowing where you are going is the fastest route to writer's block.

Now excuse me, I've got to go put the Marinara sauce for tonight's pasta on.

*I actually used the recipe from Giada's first cookbook, but this particular link tells about the dessert and presents a good recipe, since Giada isn't giving up hers online.

Since I'm starting to like to cook, feel free to comment with ideas for favorite recipes.  Or if you want to stay on point, tell me how you prepare for writing projects.