Eating the Write Foods {Guest Post with Cari Kamm}

I met Cari Kamm at a wellness event in Soho about 3 years ago. Intuition told me I had to get to know this lovely lady…and I was right! Not only has she become a friend, but she’s also become a writing buddy and mentor to me as I embark upon my first novel. Cari knows a thing or two about those–she just published her second novel, For Internal Use Only, which made the list on my A Few of My Favorite Things post in February. Her writing is witty, entertaining, and just plain gorgeous, and her stories have meaning you can chew on. I highly recommend you get to know this future best-seller!

Now on to the guest post…

I finally got the message years ago that what I eat affects how my mind and body performs. Whether we realize it or not, the quality of food we take in permeates all aspects of our life. It either gives us the energy, attitude, and fortitude to help us get through the day…or it doesn’t. Cari’s post is a fantastic example of just how extreme a difference eating the right food makes.

Eating the Write Foods

by Cari Kamm

Tiffany & Co., New York City – 2011. Photo provided by Cari Kamm

Tiffany & Co., New York City – 2011. Photo provided by Cari Kamm.

When I’m not writing . . . I’m eating. Well, I’m thinking of eating or where I want to be eating.

I’m a self-proclaimed foodie and seriously enjoy every bite. My rule is “don’t pick before pics.”  I love to look at food. Take pictures of food. Dissect food. And of course eat food. A chef is an artist and unlike admiring a painting or absorbing words, you get to literally bite into their work and digest it.

So . . . how does this affect my creativity? The saying is you are what you eat. I find the same goes for my writing. My eating habits are different when it comes to the writing stage and editing process.

I begin writing first thing in the morning. Before anything can shift my mood or motivation, I make coffee and boost my body with breakfast before I hit the keys. Writing is my morning stretch. I write from home or head out to one of my spots in New York City. Sometimes, I just walk into random restaurants, bookstores, or coffee shops. I find inspiration in the unexpected. Not having a plan is sometimes the perfect plan for creativity. For eating…that’s not so productive.

My breakfast always includes a fresh pressed juice, scrambled eggs and oatmeal or wheat toast. My favorite morning juice includes apple, pear, pineapple, wheatgrass & mint or carrot, beet, apple, pear, lemon & ginger. Also, eggs contain Choline and that helps my memory and builds strong mental muscles. The benefit of this is keeping my characters and scenes straight!

There are foods I eat to nourish my mind. However, when emotions come into play during the creative process, I try to remember that I need to write my feelings…not eat them. Depending on which stage I’m in during creating my manuscript, food definitely contributes positively or negatively to my writing health. Knowing this allows me to be a better writer.

The creative process. My favorite part of the writing process is creating the outline of the story I have in mind. Then several months down the road realizing where the characters actually took me while reading the story they created. My creativity tends to crave carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this can lead to a food coma. Sugar becomes a big saboteur and doesn’t help my writing or my waistline! At first, eating sweets tends to make me feel happier and comfortable when I beginning a new project. One thing I know is that with all of the unknowns in developing a new story…I get nervous. When I hit the emotional rollercoaster peak and quickly come crashing down off the sugar high, I tend not to feel proud about a scene or a character even if it’s terrific. My characters’ emotions somehow control my food cravings. Well…I like to blame it on them! A romantic scene may call for chocolate and wine; a stressful scene made lead to Twizzlers or Thai takeout. If all else fails, I drink more wine.

The editing phase. This stage requires concentration, patience, and attention to detail. Protein keeps me on point! My characters cannot afford any food mood swings. I tend to focus on protein, fruits and vegetables! My favorite foods that are rich in antioxidants, folic acid and omega-3s include salmon, walnuts, blueberries, goji berries, cantaloupe and kale. I’m addicted to the deliciously dark green leafy guy! My favorite recipe at the moment is from the New York City restaurant Lupa.

The only culprit left is Mr. Coffee. I’m striving to lower my cups per day and sip more green tea or calming teas, especially during those late nights of writing or revising my manuscripts.

So…what’s the bottom line?  When I eat better, I feel better. When I feel better, I write better!

CariKammCari Kamm has worked in the beauty industry for over a decade, building brands, working behind the scenes, and even selling her own skin care line. She has a master’s in clinical nutrition from New York University. Kamm currently works in corporate social media management with clients in the beauty, fashion, and restaurant industries. Living in New York City with her mutt Schmutz, Kamm loves finding inspiration in the most unexpected places, being a novelist, and convincing her fiancé that ordering takeout and making dinner reservations are equal to cooking. More information can be found on her website, CariKamm.com. To check out the book trailer, click here: http://tinyurl.com/bdr7bfn.

Sunflower

A Magical Weekend

On July 3oth, I traveled to Brown University, in Providence, Rhode Island, to attend the 34th Annual Summer Writing Conference of The International Women’s Writing Guild.  The lovely IWWG founder, Hannelore Hahn, was a guest speaker at one of our local writing meetups a few months ago.  After hearing her speak and mentioning the purpose and beauty of the conference, I had a feeling I needed to go.  I am so glad that I did.

The conference’s theme is Remember the Magic.  I wasn’t quite sure what “magic” really meant before that weekend.  I totally get it now.  When 300-400 talented, strong, free-thinking women come together to support and celebrate their passion, and the essence of creativity and imagination, magic happens! It’s hard to explain but anyone who was there felt it.  That’s why these women come back year after year–quite a few have joyfully returned for over 30 years!

The name of the quad in which we stayed. Referred to as "VGQ" instead to avoid a big mouthful.

It was a little bizarre being back on a college campus.  My college graduation was long enough ago that it was odd to be a student again, this time looking at the experience through older, wiser eyes.  However, I received my undergrad degree not so long ago for the memory to be covered in a film of brain fog.  I sensed a smidge of déjà vu as I saw similarities between my college campus at Vanderbilt and this one.  Recollections of a past life slowly took shape, like photo images developing in a darkroom.

Since college, I’ve had recurring dreams of being lost on campus and utterly out of the loop.  Not sure what that’s all about.  I have the same petrified and hopeless feeling every time, one that sometimes leaves residual effects when I awaken.  I worry that I’ll fail out of school since I can’t seem to get to any class on time, I have none of the required textbooks, and I’m not able to comprehend any of the material being taught.  Needless to say, I was reminded of those dreams as I attempted to navigate the campus and familiarize myself with foreign surroundings.

One thing I don't miss are dorm beds. Took this on last day...Mom, I promise I made my bed the rest of the time!

Although I only stayed for the weekend–they offered two, five, and seven-day tuition options–I left with an abundance of writing ideas, and my cup runneth over with motivation.  There were over 50 workshops from which to choose.  This is usually a great “problem” to have, but needing to choose only six from the list for the time I would be there was initially stressful.  I needn’t have worried, as I couldn’t have gone wrong with the multitude of quality offerings.  There were three workshops that stood out because of the impact they had on me and how much I learned….

In Using Dreams and Oracles for Divining Your Muse, Paula Scardamalia showed us how dreams can guide, influence, and spark your writing.  If we had had more time, I would have shared that recurring odd-one-out college dream I told you about.  “What happens in the dream circle, stays in the dream circle,” but I can tell you (because it’s about me) that through an intriguing exercise, I discovered my animal guide…the eagle.

The eagle, my animal guide

Poem=Sound=Body, taught by the dynamic and entertaining Marj Hahne, was a helpful poetry workshop in which we explored how use of sound in our poetry can add layers of texture and depth.  My poems tend to be very rich in imagery, but adding elements of sound took them to a new level.

The Mosaic of Creative Nonfiction:  From Journaling to Essay to Memoir was the most rewarding.  That day, Susan Tiberghien covered Personal Essay, a sub-genre of creative nonfiction of which I didn’t have much experience.  During our writing exercises, I realized that this method was the perfect way to write the book simmering in my head for the better part of this year.  On the way home via Amtrak, I wrote three essays.  As of today, less than two weeks later, I’ve written an additional eight!  Not a bad start, right?  I’ve begun working through her book One Year to a Writing Life:  Twelve Lessons to Deepen Every Writer’s Art and Craft so that I may expand my arsenal of creative expression.

I think you’re getting the picture that it wasn’t difficult to feel inspired on that weekend.  But here are some closing highlights of my short but memorable trip, in ABC’s:

  1. A generous portion of our classes were devoted to writing exercises that stimulated and stirred our creative juices.  The instructors were highly talented and esteemed women who had a wealth of knowledge and encouragement to share.
  2. Brown’s campus is beautiful (I obsessively took pictures of the architecture and quaint-ish streets), the weather was gorgeous too.
  3. Connecting with fascinating women that share a love for and need to write, who support and encourage each other to create from their very core…it’s an undeniably powerful experience.  I felt at home with these word artisans and creative beings who think in another shape and color than the rest of society.

Posing with Louise, one of the wonderful women with whom I bonded at the IWWG's Summer Writing Conference.

I’m determined to hold on to the magic I experienced with these women for as long as I can, until my writing spirit and creative juices are recharged next year.  I’m honored to have been part of the IWWG Summer Writing Conference’s first year at Brown after 30+ years at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.  To me, the move represents a new chapter and direction in the IWWG’s life, and in mine most of all.

Was there a time that you felt intense inspiration and a prolonged period of productive creativity?  I’d love to hear about it!

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9 Ways to Ignite Creativity

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You plop down in your chair, ready to bang out some genius stuff on your computer.  You have an outline in your head of what you want to create, but the thoughts remain in rough draft form and refuse to come together into a cohesive, engaging structure.  Right now, all you have is a dry, tasteless, colorless “thing” that has no life force at all.  You know you’re creative and imaginative, because you’ve done it countless times before.  Why, oh why can’t my creative mojo be summoned at my command like a genie?

Has this ever happened to you?  Unfortunately, our creative juices can’t be turned on and off as easily as a light switch.  It has its own unpredictable timetable.  Luckily for us, our sense of sight, hearing, and movement can nudge our dormant creative forces into activity, hopefully resulting in a volcanic eruption of Mount Vesuvius-like proportions.

Engage Your Visual Sense

  • Feast your eyes on visual food. Visit a museum or gallery to see stunning photography, paintings, or art pieces.  When you’re looking at inspired artistic creations, it’s hard not to get inspired yourself.  In a pinch, you could find masterpieces on the internet, but you may not experience the visceral reaction you experience when viewing art in person.
  • Leave the house/workplace. Get yourself out into nature and watch her beautiful show.  She’s dynamic, powerful, and eager to serve as your muse.
  • Take in a movie. Forget mainstream…foreign, indie, and art films usually push the envelope, are totally unconventional, and get you thinking.  In visiting their world, you get unstuck from yours.

Engage Your Auditory Sense

  • Turn on the tunes. Choose classical, world, new age, or any music that gets your creative juices energized and free-flowing.  Sometimes I leave beautiful–but not distracting–music on in the background while I work, so my brain keeps feeling the artistic flow.
  • Enjoy music in real surround sound. Go to a concert, performance, or show and feel the energy of musicians who love what they do and give themselves over to their craft.  You’ll leave with a pep to your step and a light bulb in your noggin.
  • Eavesdrop. Yeah, you heard me.  The blabbing people do in public could be a gold mine of ideas.  Casually listen in on conversations at coffee shops, in line at the store, or while walking down the street, and you’ll be surprised how revved up your brain gets trying to make sense of what you’re hearing.  It’s even better when you only hear one side of the conversation, or snippets as you walk by, because what’s said isn’t important.   It’s what you make of it that matters, and your imagination will begin warming up its muscles for the upcoming workout.

Engage Your Kinesthetic Sense

  • Write away on a random word. The following writing exercise from creativity coach Melissa Rosati works wonders in unblocking your brain.  We all do this exercise at the beginning of our IWWG meetings to loosen us up (although Melissa is the one providing our words).  Pick 3 arbitrary words–a word you see when you open a book, an object in the room, a word you hear, a word that is floating in your head–and write whatever comes into your consciousness for 2 minutes (do this for each word).  It doesn’t matter what the result is, but I often find I start making some interesting connections that get my imagination firing away.  If this exercise works for you, you could keep writing for a longer period of time, or use a word that has something to do with your project.
  • Get a move on. Dance to your favorite song, take a walk, stretch, whatever.  Sometimes just getting out of your chair can recharge your brain, dust off your mental cobwebs, and get you ready to crank out some genius stuff!
  • Exercise your body to loosen up your brain. I find some of my best ideas come knocking at imagination’s door when I’m on cardio equipment.  The goal is to get your blood pumping and endorphins flowing, but not to engage your brain too much, so it’s free to daydream, brainstorm, and create!

How do you break the stuffy cycle of uninspired thinking?  I’d love to hear your tips!

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