I don’t remember how I found the blog Eat This Poem by Nicole Gulotta. But I’m so happy I did. It provides a steady stream of inspiration for my writing and my palate. Gulotta’s blog combines two of her passions: food and poetry.
She shares delicious recipes — everything from blueberry buckwheat pancakes to mushroom quesadillas with brie and honey. She also features her favorite poems and sometimes posts a poem of her own (like this beauty).
In our monthly series, she reveals her personal creative process and solutions for stubborn obstacles, and shares inspiring, helpful advice for readers.
In addition to writing her literary food blog, which she does on lunch breaks and in the evenings, Gulotta is the assistant manager of the world’s largest humanitarian award. She is based in Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and French bulldog.
Learn more about Gulotta and her work here.
1. Do you incorporate creativity-boosting activities into your daily routine? If so, what activities do you do?
During the week, I don’t have a lot of time to get out the door in the morning, so I fit creativity into my lunch breaks and evenings. When I’m at the office, I try to take one or two short walks during the day, and often write on my lunch break.
I go to yoga classes several evenings a week, which relaxes my body and helps my mind be more receptive to new ideas. I also try to read every day. Even if it’s a single poem just before going to bed every night or half of a magazine, it connects me to something outside myself, offers another point of view, and provides inspiration.
I tend to believe that if I’m consistently taking care of my mind and body, the creativity will flow more easily. My job is to be receptive when inspiration strikes!
Also, I always have a notebook and extra pens in my purse, and believe that eating well is essential. I can’t write on an empty stomach.
2. What are your inspirations for your work?
As a writer and food blogger, I’m inspired by a variety of sources, from restaurant meals to fellow bloggers, magazines, and many cookbook authors like Nigel Slater, Alice Waters, Heidi Swanson, and Thomas Keller, to name just a few.
My food blog explores the connections between cooking and poetry, so I’m always combing through poems to find food references, and read poems with the hope of being inspired to develop a recipe.
In some ways, it’s a very specific way to read poetry, so I also try to read poetry for the sake of it, regardless of the possibility of a future blog post.
I’m also inspired by chefs. There’s nothing better than having a great meal at a restaurant when you can tell, from the knife cuts to the plating to the flavors, that the chef is cooking from a truly masterful and thoughtful place. Being around other people who are passionate about something is always energizing.
3. There are many culprits that can crush creativity, such as distractions, self-doubt and fear of failure. What tends to stand in the way of your creativity?
Excuses and fear. I’ve had this conversation with many people over the years, and we’re all trying to balance our creative sides with our professional sides. Whatever gives you the paycheck tends to win out, so it’s easy to make excuses to not write, not read, or not support yourself creatively because it doesn’t seem as valuable anymore.
Creativity is often intangible for long periods of time. It takes a lot of work behind the scenes for something to materialize and be validated in a way that others can understand and benefit from, like a book publication or art gallery opening.
Sometimes it’s hard to trust these moments will happen for us, but we have to keep focusing on what makes us happy and find the time to pursue everything in life we care about.
Fear, especially for writers, is a very common affliction. We’re afraid no one will read what we write, no one will understand us, no one will publish our work, and perhaps the worst of all, that we’re not actually writers at all.
Fear knows how to hit us in our most vulnerable places. We can’t let ourselves stay in that state of mind for too long.
4. How do you overcome these obstacles?
I tackle these obstacles in several ways. Sometimes as an artist you have a moment (or several moments!) in life when you wonder, why this? Why writing? (Or why acting or ballet or making art installations with metal, etc.)
We wonder why we have this urge at all. When we get to that place, we need to remind ourselves that we love it, we’re good at it, and that there is no alternative but to embrace it.
It helps to remember the pure joy of it, or a moment or two in your career that were highlights, when you received praise or affirmation that helped get you to the next level, that remind you you’re doing something right.
It’s very easy to embrace creativity as a student, because our main priority during those years is to study and write and discover who we are. Life looks very different when you transition to the professional world, and it’s not uncommon to experience a crisis between what you should be doing and what you want to be doing, but you shouldn’t have to choose between pursuing your creative instincts or a career built in another field.
There are ways for the two to overlap. I believe a balance can be achieved, but it takes a very conscious effort on our part to define what we want our lives to look like, and where creativity fits in.
We make excuses for why we’re not writing enough, or place blame on external forces like our boss or our commute or our family responsibilities, but the truth is we have a choice.
The best way to overcome any obstacles is to step back, look at your life, and make adjustments. You can control how you spend your time. Something might need to change in your routine to accommodate your passions, but it’s up to you to determine what that is and move forward.
Setting attainable goals is also really important. We have to be honest with how much time we have, what our limitations or obligations are, and set out to accomplish what makes sense for us. Even if it’s reading one chapter a day or writing one paragraph. Something is always better than nothing.
5. What are some of your favorite resources on creativity?
Brain Pickings always offers inspiring posts and book recommendations. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott should be on everyone’s bookshelf. I also appreciate the point of view of Zen Habits. I always feel more creative when the rest of my life is purposeful and free of clutter.
6. What is your favorite way to get your creative juices flowing?
Exercise! I’m a big believer that working out helps me tap into creativity, so I keep a consistent routine of yoga, Pilates, and cardio throughout the week. If I ever find myself in a creative rut or stuck on a writing project, I take a walk.
Being outside lets my mind wander in a different way, and I almost always walk back into the house with a renewed energy.
7. What’s your advice for readers on cultivating creativity?
Look at your daily routine and find the spaces where you can make changes. Most of us who consider ourselves artists or creative types also have full-time jobs, sometimes in unrelated fields.
I look at my career as a partner in my creative life, not as a hindrance. I make good use of my lunch breaks by reading or writing, take several short breaks throughout the day for quick walks, and use my commute time to think through projects.
We all have personal and professional obligations, but it’s possible to incorporate creativity into the mix, too. We have to make it a priority, and make changes, however small, to support our creative life.
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know about creativity?
On the one hand, creativity is something mysterious and innate. We can’t always explain why we gravitate towards writing or painting or dance, but once we accept it and stop questioning why, that’s when our most inspired work can be achieved. The medium chooses us, and it’s our job to listen.