Strategy Sunday: Sugar and Spice

Often, I find myself writing/blogging while my love is cooking. She fills the house with incredible fragrance: cumin, caraway, cinnamon, vanilla ... the list is endless. Tonight is curry, with chard and vegetables. First, the sticky-sweet scent of roasting sweet potatoes, then the sharp tang of garlic sauteed with onions in a bit of oil, then the pungent eye-watering of salt and lemon tossed into the heat. From my perch on the sofa, I watch her move gently through the kitchen from sink to stove to chopping board. I am grateful for these moments of quiet connection, when the house is still and the only sounds I hear are the clicking of keys and the sizzle-pop-hiss of the skillet.

What does cooking have to with writing?

When I watch my love cook, I experience the sensation of witnessing: as an outside observer, objective toward the action occurring, I see only the chef's knife against the zucchini, the glint of the steel garlic press, the steam rising from the skillet. I hear the rush of water as she rinses a bowl, feel the breeze of the ceiling fan. Every single sensory detail that happens, I catch. I'm not influencing the activity, nor am I being directly impacted by it.

This is what watching a loved one cook has to do with writing.

As writers, we look deep and long at the details. We notice every single thing that happens, whether we realize it or not. As I'm sitting here writing about money or photography or how to tell your personal story, I'm absorbing everything happening around me. Many times, upon reading my drafts, I discover that a detail from the time period I was writing the piece made it's way into the work itself.

No, the cat wasn't snoring when that moment happened, but I have now used feline sleep sounds as a metaphor?


So if there is sugar and spice in cooking, what is the sugar and spice in writing?

For me, the sugar and spice of writing are the details, the tiny moments that aren't 100% essential to core of the story, but add the extra flair that brings out the deliciousness of our personal experiences. I don't have to describe the opaque fog that fills the kitchen from the skillet, but when I talk about it covering my love in a cloak of mist like rolling off the moors, it adds something, doesn't it?

The next time you sit down to write, think about the sugar and spice, the tiny extra details that make your writing not purple prose but rich with expression and meaning.

What kinds of details do you add to spice up your writing?