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Feeling Tired, Uninspired, and Fat? Make Risotto

by Carolyn Henderson on 11/15/2011 9:23:38 AM

This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her  freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.

I should have known that yesterday was going to be one of those days when
  1. Sweatpants and a sweatshirt were my chosen wardrobe
  2. The Internet went out for the second day in a row because the technicians who cut through the fiber optic cable the day before, knocking out services to two counties, sliced through it again in their efforts to repair the problem that they caused in the first place.

What it meant for me was that I felt fat, tired, and uninspired, and my offline choices were to work on any number of articles and assignments clamoring to be done, bring the books up to date, or clean off my desk.

I opted for the latter, discovering a business charge bill that was due that day and that had been interred beneath additional paperwork. Online options off limits, I called the Pay by Phone number, receiving a busy signal every five minutes for the three hours that I persisted.

That did it.

Tired, uninspired, frustrated, irritated, and feeling fat – do these sound like the necessary ingredients to produce quality writing?

Didn’t seem that way to me either.

I wrote off the work day and headed to the kitchen to make risotto.

For those of you who are not Italian (I’m not), risotto is a creamy, savory dish made with a special starchy rice called Arborio. To achieve that creaminess, the cook stands over the stove, stirring in hot broth ½ cup at a time, for a half hour or so.

And so, for work yesterday, I stood over the stove, humming and manipulating rice particles with a spatula. I washed the dishes. Swept the floor. Sat with Eddie the Thug Cat. Knit. Gave myself the day off mentally and physically because any creative mind work wasn’t happening, since my internal Internet connection was as shot as that fiber optic cable.

This is not easy for me, as my natural tendency is to hurtle myself forward, even if the steering wheel is having issues, in the belief that any movement, even random movement, is better than sitting still. (This is metaphorical: I don’t drive real cars this way.)

Sometimes, however, I’m tired enough or discouraged enough to take the advice that I give to others, and to give myself a break – mental, physical, spiritual – knowing that if I follow my instincts and do what I really want and need to do – I will reap the benefits later.

And so I am. Internet’s up. Form fitting sweater and cute jeans. Good night’s sleep, progress on the knitting, contented Thug Cat, inspiration to write, and a clean desk.

Artists do not fit their creativity into neat, eight-hour days, something middle managers will never understand. But you understand this. As your own middle manager, you wrestle with an orderly, recognizable work schedule wrapped like a python around the insurgent screaming soul of your Muse.

Yes, it’s good to be disciplined; it’s necessary to paint or write on a regular basis, not allowing yourself to do it only when you “feel” like it; it’s easier to produce when you set aside regular time for this work and stick to it, BUT

Some days, it just doesn’t happen.

On those days, make risotto.

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Related Posts:

Learning to Dance in the Rain

Choose Your Rut Carefully

Artists Creating Their Own Opportunities


Topics: advice for artists | Carolyn Henderson | creativity | FineArtViews | inspiration 

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Barb Stachow
Well when I first started reading this I was thinking now what has Carlolyn thought of now. Riosotto? Brought back memories of kindergarden children painting with different colors of macaroni. But seriously Carlolyn I like your idea better. Have a great new day!

jack white
Since I'm not a cook. I figure I'm the reason God made can-openers, we take a drive. When I realize we have both have been cranking at a high level for too many days in a row I'll grab the SUV keys and say, "Let's go for a drive." With no direction in mind we just take off seeking new places in a fifty mile radius of home.

Once when we lived in Carmel I got Mikki up at 5:am and took her to Yosemite, back when cars could drive in the park. Another time to see Grand Canyon. In the spring we go several times to photograph the Texas wildflowers. These are our "risosotto" days.

We love to drive. Only our galleries have our On-Star number, so we are safe from phone calls once we are in the truck.


Cathy de Lorimier
These break times are often needed and much welcomed. I choose to either walk the dog and count my blessings, (these 2 go hand in hand after years of routine, and it always helps to center me), or on the other extreme, I choose to EAT risotto (or chocolate with almonds, or have a big cup of coffee). Comfort food with a loved one is best, I find. Renewal can be found in the smallest of things, but mostly I find it when I remember what I am grateful for. Thanks Carolyn!

Diane Overmyer
I just knew this article had to be by you Carolyn, the moment I read the title! It is true that breaks are great, but a clean desk (or studio) works like nothing else I've ever known for getting my creative juices flowing! I have found over the years that it is alright for me (partly because I have an amazing husband, who allows my creative juices to flow) to "go with the flow". I have learned that there are times when my house is a mess because I have been swamped with art related tasks. I use to feel badly about that, now I just try to find a balance. I try to keep things orderly, but my orderly is not like my mother's was! Then on days when I don't feel like creating I have learned that cleaning and reorganizing always seems to get me back in the creative mood!

Jill Banks
Thank you, Carolyn! I'm typing this, bleary eyed from a late night of painting ... and while I might not make risotto ... I do need a break! Thanks for getting that middle manager off my back.

I knew when I saw the title this would be Carolyn's work. Especially love the python metaphor, it's exactly right. So often when we're charged up to work, piddly tasks intervene; but when a clear nine-to-five opens up, sometimes our minds are not that clear and require prying open to get at the good stuff.
At our house we know that taking no vacations leads to forced vacations (through injury or stress). Vacations prompted by outside vicissitudes are better than these, and better than none!
Thank you for sharing your lightness of spirit -- it really helps!

Michelle howard
Have you ever read something and thought "she gets me- she really gets me!". Thank you Carolyn. You always "get me" I look forward to your posts!

Love it, Carolyn! On days like that, I sit outside under the pergola to nap in the New mexico sun, look at some art books or publications, daydream about paintings I want to do, and I tell the rest of the household that I'm 'pergolating.'
My husband says that the road to Pergalotry is paved with good intentions ; )

George De Chiara
Because of my wife's work work hours, I need to watch our 2 month old daughter twice a week. For the first few weeks I use to get very frustrated because I couldn't be in the studio working. Now I just think of these days as breaks. I let my mind unwind, relax and enjoy my one on one time with the little one. Sometimes it good to give yourself some time to relax. It's good for the soul. It's good for the muse and it's good for you.

jack white

Remember God rested on the 7th day. He took an entire day off. At least we can steal a few hours from time to time.


"Gave myself the day off mentally and physically because any creative mind work wasn't happening, since my internal Internet connection was as shot as that fiber optic cable."

I feel myself having more moments like this the older I get. Not sure what it means...but I am not so afraid anymore to listen to that loss of connection!

Marian Fortunati
Yep... I guess we've all had days like that, haven't we???
(ABSOLUTELY LOVED Kim's husband's comment!!! I'd use it if I had a pergola!!!
In the meantime I'll sit back and EAT the delicious risotto that my husband often cooks... and enjoy the moment!

Jo Allebach
You certainly hit the nail on the head about not being able to stop and thinking that random motion is better than staying still. That is me. I really have to work at stopping for a break. Thanks for reminding me, in your own special way, that it is necessary to step back and take a breath.

Brian Sherwin
I'm a workhorse -- I have to keep working or else I feel out of place. For example, say that I'm sick... I actually end up feeling guilty if I'm not productive in some way. That said, off days happen... even to a workhorse.

On those days I tend to allow myself the time to self-reflect on my creative endeavors -- I'll read over past articles I've written and so on -- more often than not that will spur the drive to find new directions on topics... or spark research on something I've not touched on yet.

I'll also write out scattered topic ideas during those days. One paragraph for each idea that I feel needs to be addressed -- and from there I have something to draw from once the writing juices start to flow.

In addition to that, a good cup of coffee will give me time for pause... no matter what kind of day I'm having. :)

Deborah Weinstein
Carolyn, I just want to tell you that I adore your posts. As my incoming email box gets progressively more and more out of hand, I have taken to deleting most of it unread. But never your posts. Thank you!

tom weinkle
Great advice. It takes a certain sort of bravery to admit one needs to take a break from work. And a another type to admit it's time to get back to it.

Donald Fox
Gimme a break has always had more meaning than expressing disbelief, the speaker showing disdain for some overreaching comment or seemingly absurd situation. It's interesting how we often use certain expressions with irony. Consciously taking a break is different from having one forced upon you (illness, accident, unexpected obstacle). Recognizing the importance of the time off however it comes about and then using it creatively, productively, or pleasurably can be an important survival skill.

Brian Sherwin
If you think about it... people tend to take a lot of time out of the day for things that only serve to block productivity. Jack just hit on that issue with his latest article. So yes... productivity can be hampered on a 'bad day' -- but think of the time we lose overall by allowing ourselves to be distracted by things that, in the end, really don't matter. For example, I don't think addiction to Jersey Shore will improve your ability to create great art. :)

Carol Schmauder
Ah, Carolyn, as many have stated before me, we need to take time to eat risotto (in my case it is also chocolate). Those risotto making days give me a much needed battery recharge.

Thanks for the great post!

Joanne Benson
Hi Carolyn, Loved the article. I call those days PJ days because sometimes I stay in PJ's until late in the day! We all need an occasional break from the grind. Glad you are back in sync again!

Carolyn Henderson
Oh, you wonderful people -- reading your comments makes me smile and just lights the fire to my day.

I've been out and about, and am off to be out and about again this week, so this brief period of sitting on the chair will take care of the dust accumulation.

I wish I could answer each comment individually this time, because you've all said such poignant, funny things (except you, Jack -- I mean, do you even warm up the beans from the can? And do you boil coffee over the coals? Modern day cowboy Texan -- you are a poignant, funny thing, and you stir up the room when you walk in it), but Deborah, my gratitude for not being one of the deleteds is great indeed, because if your e-mail inbox looks like mine, I know what you're going through.

George -- when we first started watching our grandbaby, I, too, felt the frustration of valuable work time slipping away. Now, on days when she's gone, the house feels empty and quiet, definitely quiet.

We're on the tail end of raising four kids, and can unequivocally state that there is nothing greater in our lives than our family. It makes us who we are, and our art is better for it.

The Norwegian Artist just walked in and he's ready to go, so off I go as well.

Best to you, all of you. You are all amazing, kick butt, superlative people!


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