~ Julie Powell, Julie & Julia
Transforming leftovers and making the most out of nothing was Gramma’s specialty. She’d be proud.
You know what 30,000 words in two weeks feels like? It feels like fried ravioli, spur of the moment on a college kid’s craftiness and budget.
I’m not kidding you. But I’ll get to that in a moment. My dear friend D. Arlene
and I are rooming for the summer as she works on campus in their dining halls. I slave away at the local, classy, extravagant gas station (so much sarcasm
) just down the street. Both of us are WriMos. Both of us took on the enormous task of writing the shit draft of our novel in just one month. Our goal counters are set differently — mine is set to 50,000 words, but mentally I want a book of 80,000 words or more when this is over; a proper debut fantasy novel. Hers is set to 80,000. We both write like the wind and lament two rooms down from one another.
“Nowadays anyone with a crap laptop and an Internet connection can sound their barbaric yawp, whatever it may be.” ~ Julie Powell, Julie & Julia
Ya know, for the first week, things were fantastic. We were writing so fast and so much that our keyboards were on FIRE. (Oh no, I’m pretty sure the landlord would’ve had a fit if that were true, but it was close.) We consistently met or exceeded our goals, and kept chatting back and forth as we wrote, brainstorming and marveling at the ideas spewing forth from our fantastic brains. But then, week two flies by and guess what? We find out Camp NaNoWriMo is more an obstacle course than anything else. Before us, we faced a giant towering wall that blocked the path so far on each side that we’d waste too much time trying to find a way around it. It was made so that we’d have no choice but to climb the hell over this stinkin’ thing — no matter what. It was then that I figured out this: Even if writing drives me insane, it’s all I’ve got. I would have no choice but to climb up and over this roadblock and keep firing away at my keyboard.
“Without the Project I was nothing but a secretary on a road to nowhere, drifting toward frosted hair and menthol addiction.” ~ Julie Powell, Julie & Julia
The process of writing is sometimes so daunting. Sitting down and looking at the cursor flash was not something I was used to. I toted moleskine notebooks
the likes of which are hard to find these days. And some days the flashing of that cursor was torture. I would sit and stare at the blank screen for hours wondering where the hell I could even start to write. I would type and backspace, type and backspace. My goal of 80,000 words seemed so far away that it made me ill, like I wanted to die rather than write THAT FAST. But every single time I felt like I was about to give up, I’d end up wandering away to go shower or something and immediately, my mind would race with thoughts of what I could possibly write next. This project of mine — writing my entire book in a month — is something I’ve been leaning on. Summers tend to be huge stretches of time where I feel overworked and thus tend to be apathetic. I don’t tend to get anything done. This is the first year that I feel any sort of difference. This time, I have something to do when I get home. No matter how tired I am, I have a word goal on a tiny post it note stuck to my desk, telling me “Hey. We got this. We’re not wasting the summer away.”
“Maybe I needed to make like a potato, winnow myself down, be part of something that was not easy, just simple.” ~ Julie Powell, Julie & Julia
SO? How does the struggle up and over the roadblock that is this novel writing business? The perceived writer’s block — or as Lena Gluck writes, “Writer’s Crippling Self Doubt
” ? Well, like I said, it feels like Ravioli. Fried Ravioli coated in left over, crushed taco shells and spices. That’s what. It feels like saying if we can do this, we can do anything. I pondered at the freezer with D. Arlene and we figured out a crazy way to make left overs work. It felt like trying to make a NaNo wordsprint work. Kind of like — well we could have the expensive ergonomic keyboard, but instead voting for carpal’s tunnel to save a penny. Kind of like — what the hell. We’ve done enough thinking for a whole year in the last 24 hours, let’s do something stupid. Our brains were tired and our stomachs were hungry and it was all in the pursuit of creativity. My blog has never and will never be a cooking blog, but here’s the sample of our creativity:
1 bag of ravioli of your choice (mini squares worked best for me.)
1 box old taco shells / left over taco shells *
Your favorite zesty pasta sauce
Optional: parmesan shake cheese
* quick sub: small canister of Italian bread crumbs
Red lid adobo (sparingly)
*can sub for Italian seasoning with a little extra pepper.
1. Prepare ravioli by boiling. Drain and run under cold water until cool to the touch. Set aside.
2. Crush the taco shells while adding and mixing in spices. Add shake cheese if you want.
3. Beat the eggs together, adding just a pinch more salt and pepper.
4. Preheat your frying pan and add enough oil to cover raviolis half way up. An alternative would be to deep fry them instead, so prepare your oil for that at this step.
5. Dip raviolis in egg, then in crushed taco shells. Place on tray between layers of wax paper.
6. After oil is up to frying temperature, place raviolis in oil in a single layer. Let fry until deep golden brown and flip, repeating the process until all raviolis are a crispy, fantastic golden brown.
7. Place finished fried raviolis on a fresh tray between paper towels.
8. Serve with your favorite sauce and shake cheese. Pairs well with cranberry juice. A good idea for a side is fresh steamed broccoli or green beans.
Served best while crazy, cup of iced chai latte on the side.
My grandmother died on April 4th, 2014. This year. I remember her as fondly as I can, and you know what? Persevering through the shittiest times, with the toughest odds was her gig. For real. And she did, right up until the end. Some great spirit or the next has her bossing around the kitchen staff, I’m sure. The kitchen was her sacred space, and the stove was her altar. One of the greatest things she taught everyone, which eventually filtered down to me, was to make use of what you have. Be it Ravioli and taco shells, or the insane ability to plan, write and finish a novel — run with it, and be happy because there are folks in the world who have none of the above.
That’s what I told D. Arlene that day when we both had over 30,000 words towards our novel goal. Never stop writing, because we’re all in this together. The experience of Camp NaNoWriMo is gonna probably stick around forever. D and I walked home from my job one night, and in the street brainstormed about the back stories of our characters. If anyone had been on the sidewalks or at their windows during those few minutes, what they would have heard was two crazy chicks. But what was really going on was this: We had time to kill, and so we made use of it.
You have to be a special kind of crazy to sign up and write a novel in a month. That’s why D and I get along so well. Neither one of us is sure who is crazier than the other. (I still say it’s her on the basis of this recent Facebook status.
) But ya know? It’s okay. We’re making use of our lack of sanity. We’ll fight through until the end, and keep writing together. I think it was mostly my fault for signing us up in the first place! But, as we wave good bye to our ability to think straight, we wave hello to a body of work that we never thought we’d be able to complete. We’re two weeks or so from the finish line, and two seconds from losing our mind. But hey. That’s something, right?
, sanity …
“So the end may be a long time coming, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a way of sneaking up on you.” ~ Julie Powell, Julie & Julia