FreeWrite: Jump at the opportunity

A lot of the time, I want these free-writes to be about a topic that’s meaningful. Something that could potentially go on the blog. Something that’s well-organized and makes clear points.

But that’s not the goal of a free-write. It’s to get the brain thinking creatively.

Consider this scenario. You wake up at 5:35 a.m. Still groggy. Probably want to wake up at 7:35 or even 8:35 a.m. instead. After all, most people sleep in when they can, especially on a Sunday like today.

But you have this new mantra, “Break the chain.” Essentially, if you skip a day of moving your body (and free-writing), then you’ve “zeroed” yourself out.

You don’t have an end-goal in mind, you just know that it’s part of the process of reaching your full potential.

So you get to where you train every day, and you’re still 60 percent asleep. Can or should you expect your body to perform at its best right away? Of course not.

A free-write should not be peak writing performance. It’s a warm-up. It’s preparation for more writing. An inhibitor of writer’s block.

What I’ve honestly found about free-writing is that a topic generally comes to you by the first or second sentence. And that initial topic can inform the direction of the entire free-write session.

What I need to improve on is not going back and trying to improve my writing during the allotted time. The ideas should be able to freely flow on to the page.

If I’m going back and rewriting sentences then I’m limiting the amount of ideas that can flow through me. (I think of myself as a vessel for thoughts and ideas. I’m collecting them as they come.)

The goal, for now, is to utilize this free-writing technique all the time—including when I’m writing a feature story or perhaps a book down the line. Not only am I more satisfied with my output, but I also realize that all the self-doubt wasn’t necessary.

Writing should not be a struggle. Once you’ve learned how to type, and free-write every day, it should be done with ease. You won’t have to procrastinate until the very last minute.

You’ll want to jump at the opportunity before all the great ideas pass you by.

FreeWrite: Coffee chronicles

Coffee can be such a peculiar drink.

Just a single tablespoon (~6 grams) can drastically make a difference in the taste and flavor of the cup.

The grind size certainly matters, and I’m still experimenting with different brands and types of coffee to see what works best for me.

Using Lavazza Cafe Espresso in my drip coffee machine has a learning experience.

Five scoops (my typical dosage) with roughly 500 mL of water produced a over-extracted cup.

Four scoops with the same amount of water produced an under-extracted cup.

I’m trying not to turn this into a science experiment, but that’s what it has inadvertently become.

C’est la vie.

My digestion becomes quite sensitive to less-than-ideal extractions, so I keep working toward the correct balance.

The flavor doesn’t have to be mind-blowing. I care more about ease than doing my own pour-over. But it has to be something that agrees with my palate. For instance, I’m just not a fan of the Chock Full O Nuts brand.

Which brings me back to Lavazza Cafe Espresso. It’s an Italian brand with a lot of history. I like the flavor. But the grind is super fine.

I believe they sell medium grind for drip coffee makers, but I much prefer to buy coffee in a tin, not a bag (makes for easy scooping).

Coffee chronicles, to be continued!

FreeWrite: The end to writer’s block

Writer’s block is a real thing. I’ve experienced it in various degrees over the years.

By its common definition, a writer struggles to record anything. This could be for a variety reasons. For me, the vision of what I wanted wasn’t matching what was appearing on the page.

This was problematic in several ways. First, a writer should never start writing with a preconceived notion of the result. Sure, she can follow an outline, but the writer should capture words and ideas as they flow freely in thought.

Secondly, if a writer doesn’t practice this—writing without expectation or judgement—each day, then the task of writing becomes daunting.

As in any endeavor, dedicated time is required for sharpening and honing ones skills.

I’ve made it a goal to devote 15 minutes a day to freewrite. Most of the entries will appear here on the blog like this one. Some, I may deem unfit for public consumption.

Of course, that ties back to my first point: The writer is merely the vessel through which words and ideas are recorded.

The result may not be up to standard. But that’s no fault of the writer who dedicates herself daily to her craft.

With dedicated practice, a writer will be able to capture the muse at will—dutifully allowing the story to write itself.

FreeWrite: The achievement paradox

Bruce Lee continues to inspire many people with his philosophy and works. There’s no question that he lived an inspired life, aiming for high achievement while famously espousing “no effort.”

Lee is an example of what I clumsily call the “achievement paradox.” He embraced the seemingly contradictory path to achievement. For instance, passion and love for martial arts and film drew him to endure the grueling training and sacrifice needed to improve.

The “achievement paradox” is supported by clinical studies as well. The ability to delay gratification is a actually predictor of long-term achievement.

So by all means, set lofty goals like Bruce Lee. Something you’re passionate about. Something you love. Decide that you’ll do whatever it takes to achieve it.

But conversely, always remain patient. Understand your limits. Learn from your failures. Be flexible enough to change course at a moment’s notice. Be humble enough to admit you don’t know everything. Be willing to step back and go in reverse.

Come to understand the most important paradox of all: Whether or not you achieve the goal is irrelevant. The journey is actually the dream.

FreeWrite: My cooking style, repertoire

I’ve learned to cook a number of Caribbean-inspired foods and dishes. That’s one thing that I never thought I’d be typing 10 years ago.

This morning, for example, I fried yellow plantains for breakfast. Added some fresh cherries on the side with hot, black coffee, and there you have it. A perfect breakfast.

Believe me, it hasn’t been easy. The learning curve has not been quick. I’m still over-cooking my plantains. But I think progress is being made.

My cooking style is a lot of trial and error. It usually takes me at least three or four times to make something to my liking. My first-time dishes have occasionally been disastrous.

This isn’t a Caribbean dish, but I had the idea of making homemade spinach pesto pasta one day. After watching a couple YouTube videos, I threw some lightly steamed spinach and garlic in a blender with cashews (I didn’t have pine nuts), olive oil, fresh-squeezed lemon juice and freshly-grated parmesan cheese.

As usual, I didn’t measure the ingredients and didn’t follow a particular recipe. In most cases, I can adjust things to taste. But the result in this case was far too nutty to resemble pesto, albeit a spinach pesto.

As you could expect, my kids didn’t each much that night.

I’m sure my spinach pesto pasta would be MUCH better a second time. I just haven’t tried making again because I don’t think anyone will give it a try now.

I realize I began this entry talking about how I generally cook Caribbean dishes. I seem to have gotten sidetracked (as usual), but it’s generally my go-to.

When I have some time to cook, I make stew chicken, curry chicken (although I’m far from an expert on this—curry is tricky) and baked salmon.

When I have less time, I’ll make tin mackerel, sardines or simply spaghetti.

My cooking repertoire isn’t extensive by any means, but it’s certainly enough to get the job done most of the time. More importantly, I have a good base of fundamentals which makes cooking enjoyable.

FreeWrite: If I could travel anywhere…

Hypothetically, of course, if I could travel anywhere, it’d probably would be inside the practice facility of an NBA team. Just be a fly on the wall, understand how things operate.

I know, I’m probably letting you down by not saying somewhere exotic like the moon, the bottom of the ocean, the top of Mt. Everest, or the Year 2099.

The fact is, all of those places (and times) would be dope, and I could think of about 100 more that would be interesting as well.

But let’s be real. Witnessing what happens behind closed doors within an NBA facility would be fascinating.

Not only would I get to learn about the social dynamics of that particular team, I’d get to learn more about how elite basketball players train. How they prepare their mind and body every day.

I think that knowledge would directly benefit me as well. No, I don’t have aspirations of playing basketball at a high level, but as an athlete, I’m endlessly fascinated by other athletes.

Getting an unfiltered look into the inner workings of an NBA team would provide me with a concentrated dose of knowledge. Just what I’d need to level up.