Trust Your Own Palate

After one long-ass drive, I am safely back on unmoving land and ready to get back to work.

I am holed up in a cottage in woods of the English countryside, with no one for miles around and one very happy dog. The cottage has a pot-belly stove, and a bookshelf filled by someone with excellent taste in books.

This morning, procrastinating before finally getting back to writing after a few days off, I was unable to resist pulling from the shelf How to Eat, by famed food writer Nigella Lawson.

(Nigella is my idea of a woman living just however the hell she likes. I love her.)

There, in the book’s opening pages, was an almost impossibly familiar hint of the book’s intent:

“Cooking is not just about joining the dots, following one recipe slavishly and then moving onto the next. It’s about developing an understanding of food, a sense of assurance in the kitchen, about the simple desire to make yourself something to eat. And in cooking, as in writing, you must please yourself to please others. Strangely it can take enormous confidence to trust your own palate, follow your own instincts.”

Oh my god could it be any more like what I’m trying to do with this book.

It might not be immediately obvious that a cookbook — albeit one of the bestselling cookbooks of all time — would be much source of inspiration for a book about how writing makes us better people.

But sitting in my leather swivel chair this morning, fire roaring in front of me and a beautiful apple tree filling the sky out the window, it was exactly that.

It was serendipity at its finest.

If you switch out the cooking words for writing words, it summed up exactly what I want this book to give to each of its readers.

I want to give each reader the permission and the confidence to try writing, even if they’ve written a million things before.

To let themselves dream about where writing might take them — personally or professionally — and then to actually pursue that dream.

Because even for professional writers, the thought of your writing meaning something, or really making a mark in the world, is very intimidating.

But while the thought of attempting, say, this galette, seems, just now, to be pretty daunting, I know that it’s a question of time and practice.

It’s a question of deciding that I want to be able to do it, and accepting that a few failures will likely be the heralds of a new and fabulous reality where I can whip up those tasty treats without even trying.

You see where I’m going with this, yes? It’s the same with writing.

Whether you want to write in order to record your life and mark your place in the universe…

To write beautiful poems that siphon off unwieldy emotions…

Or to make writing into a career that gives you that deeply satisfying sense of having made something tangible…

It takes time, and reps, and the belief that eventually you’ll get the hang of it.

And that’s exactly what Nigella’s cookbook intro did for me today. This book is my literary equivalent of that galette recipe. I’m finding it difficult. I’ve had to rework things a few times.

But I know, as I keep coming back to the process, that all the lumps and bumps and not-quite right bits will get smoothed out.

All the elements will start to work together, and in the end, I’ll be left with something delicious and ready to share.