It’s hard to think that while this past Friday, November 2, was a day we’ll remember as the announcement of our little book, for many others, it’s part of the painful weeks of hurricane disaster recovery and rebuilding. This is always happening in life: pain and sorrow hand in hand, celebration smashed up against heartache, joy against grief.
Today, while I bring you sweet potato soup, for example, there’s someone else who doesn’t have a stove, or food, to cook with. While I nursed a cold this weekend, feeling pretty glum, someone else ran a marathon, feeling high on life. My friend’s baby girl was born two weeks before her grandma died. Even as I post these thoughts, on America’s Election Day, many of you have polls and campaigns on your minds, while, simultaneously, others of you don’t. The world is big.
We’re all dwelling in our own small worlds, inside this larger one, and we know it’s this way. It’s a hard thing to wrap your mind around, the enormity of so many people thinking so many things in so many places, and that’s why it’s often easier to focus on what’s in front of you. But there are times, I think, when we see a different reality, when someone reaches outside his or her immediate perspective and rejoices with someone else who’s rejoicing or weeps with someone else while he weeps.
We’ve seen it in the aftermath of the hurricane, as people send relief and donate to the Red Cross, Nashville Bloggers hold a bake sale and community dinners get organized by a ladies auxiliary in Pennsylvania.
I’ve seen it online in the food world, where bloggers regularly promote each others’ work and spread good content. Kristen at Dine & Dish and Sarah of The Vanilla Bean Blog are particularly good at this.
I’ve seen it with our release of the ebook, as you guys have rejoiced with us in our celebration. Every comment, every Facebook share or like, every purchase, has felt like a huge, undeserved gift, and we’ve cherished it. People I’ve never met have emailed to tell me they bought the book. My brother-in-law got it on his iPhone. A girl I haven’t seen since college eight years ago told me that she couldn’t put it down. My friend Jacqui, one of the most gracious people I’ve ever known, wrote an incredibly thoughtful post about it.
It’s all kind of overwhelming, like a room full of wedding gifts or the gift of a Hawaii honeymoon, and when I sit here trying to think of what to say, I almost lose my voice.
We broke even by Sunday, making back everything we put into the book, financially speaking. Thank you. I was so afraid to do this ebook, so afraid that no one would buy it (or, worse, that people would buy it and it would be bad). I don’t tell you that to get your pity but to give you the truth. If you’re out there reading this and wonder about your own visions or dreams or book ideas in your head, I hope this can be the nudge for you to go after them.
Sometime last month, I read an ebook called Create: Stop Making Excuses and Start Making Stuff by Stephen Altrogge. Like the book we would end up launching this past Friday, Create is a short, light read, the kind of thing you can breeze through in a dozen quick bursts of downtime or an hour or so of quiet. It’s just $2.99. And I mention it here because a few points Altrogge makes in it have been the kind of things to comfort my anxious mind before the book launched, when it launched, afterwards while we waited for some feedback, today while we consider what to do next.
Altrogge’s main point is that we are all creatives, every one of us; we were made this way. Some of us write and blog; others organize files or decorate houses or build houses or bake cakes; but we all create, somehow, something. You can sit on the sidelines because you’re afraid, or you can get out there on the court and do something. Sure, you might mess up, you might look ridiculous and you might completely fail. But, thing is, when you get out there and try, you are practicing and learning and getting better. You are developing your skill and you’re doing what you were made to do. You’re giving the other guys on the sidelines courage to mess up, too.
One of the biggest things I am learning about creative work is that while your work is yours, from a blog to a book to a mural, it is not you. That’s enormously freeing. We can make imperfect things and be willing to take chances and to get better over time, and we can let other people ignore or dislike what we’ve made while we do. What we make isn’t us; it’s a snapshot of where we’re at at a given moment. When we see this, when we stop being so afraid of what people will say about our work, we can start focusing on using our work to bless them—we can start looking outside our own small world and reaching into someone else’s.
That’s what I’ve hoped to do with the ebook, to get thinking outside my own insecurities and try writing what I know to be true.
What are you afraid to leap towards?*
Sweet Potato and Tatsoi Soup
Your area of the world may be all sunshine and blue skies in November, but in Nashville, November means soup. This version came out of sheer necessity, when a withering bunch of tatsoi (from our final CSA box this year!) kept calling my name. If you haven’t had tatsoi, it’s an Asian green with a deep color, and it could easily be swapped out for bok choy or even chard or collards, I imagine. Heady with spice and chock full of sweet potatoes, this comforting soup is perfect for these cool autumn nights.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound onions, diced (around 2 medium onions)
3 cloves garlic, minced
Pinch chili powder
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 celery stalks, diced
1 pound sweet potato, roughly chopped
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water
1/4 pound tatsoi, roughly chopped or torn
Pepper (and more salt), to taste
Additional chili powder & cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, chili powder and cayenne pepper. Sauté until the vegetables soften, about 3 minutes.
Add the celery, sweet potato, thyme and salt and sauté 3 minutes.
Add the water and increase the heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then return to a simmer and cook until the vegetables soften, about 30 minutes. Stir in the tatsoi and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the pepper and any additional salt, chili powder or cayenne pepper if necessary. Remove the thyme and serve.
*We’d love to cheer you on.