thank you for letting me take pictures of your dinners.
This book started as my commitment to write every day. The type of commitment to the creative process that Twyla Tharp or Stephen King talks about. I love to tell a good story. I have been known to dramatically embellish only to be called on the carpet by my family for ‘lying’. I am not lying, I retort, I am embellishing, I am taking poetic license. I am a writer. To write, to advance my skills, to become better at writing, I knew that I needed to find a way to write every single day. The question on my mind was … what to write about?
As 2013 was limping to its torturous close I wanted the madness, the scrabbling in the dirt for a bit of gold, and the histrionics to be over. I was newly divorced, underemployed, and living with my kids in a janky rental. I felt that the act of writing every day would be a way to creatively refill my vessel. I wanted to produce something of value instead of just getting by through the endless, repetitive litany of chores; laundry, dishes, kids, pets. It is said that sixty days of repetition will embed a new habit. I wanted to write and to write for a living. Not to say I have this job or that job and that I write on the side. Rather, I wanted to be able to hold my head high and say, loudly and with conviction, “I am a writer”!
But, what the hell could I possibly write about every single day?
I pondered this question as I chopped the vegetables, mixed the multi-ingredient Asian sauce, and steamed the rice for my family’s dinner. I thought about the everydayness of this goal. Would I begin to babble about the benign? Would I write about what I picked up at the pharmacy that day?
I heated the wok, poured in some peanut oil, swirling grandly to spread the simmering oil to the worn steel edges of the pan. I grabbed my darkened bamboo wok spoon, the one I bought for two dollars from the old Chinese woman sitting on her mat on the sidewalk in Singapore, lightly tapping the overworked edge on the counter while I stared out the window waiting for the oil to almost come to a smoke.
Would I fail my goal, and thereby fail myself, if I couldn’t think of something to write every day? I have snippets written on random papers and blurbs saved in my iPhone’s notes app. I have an outline for a political novel, a crime novel and also a children’s book, all in their infancy and sitting, waiting for me to come back to them. I add the thinly sliced chicken to the hot wok, quickly stir frying it in batches before I remove it to the waiting bowl so I could cook some more.
Maybe, I thought, if I make my goal public, my friends and strangers – the joys of social media – would hold me accountable and see me through 365 days of writing. Would the fear of public shaming keep me moving forward?
I worked through the rest of the meat followed by the vegetables. I add all the cooked pieces back to the wok, finally pouring the sauce over as I flip and stir fry while the rice steamer beeps that the cooking is complete. I called the kids to dinner. We ate, discussed our days, and lamented the cold Midwestern weather. They cleared the plates as I started the dishes, when it dawned on me.
Dinner. Dinner is the one consistent in our days, the one routine that binds our little family together. The one thing that my Ozzie and Harriet upbringing ensures I will feel guilty about if my kids don’t have something proper, nutritious, warm and filling to eat at least once a day. I will write each and every day about what I, and by extension my family, has for dinner.