When you can’t sleep, what are your options? The other night, I was oddly awake, just thinking and creating from 2am on. I had gone to sleep without a problem around 11:30, but now I was awake, thinking. Not anxious, just running concepts through my brain.

By 4am, I was too hungry to stay in bed, so I got up, got a yogurt and started writing and reading. It was a lovely interlude, actually. The house was quiet and my mind was alert. It reminded me of times long ago when I was awake in the middle of the night to nurse a baby. Some of those nights, it felt like hell to be woken. Other nights, I embraced the time up… it was my time.

As the world slept, I read the stories and recipes in Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey. (She’s the Barefoot Contessa, if you don’t know her.) Ina tells the story of their early marriage and how much pleasure she takes in cooking for people she loves, and the story of how her career developed as she followed her passion – cooking. She shares so many beautiful – and comforting – recipes, and her life-long philosophy that cooking for someone shows love and devotion. It literally demonstrates to the recipient that they are worth the cook’s time and effort.

This is a turnabout for me, in a way. I like the creativity of cooking, but as a young feminist when I married, I worried about getting saddled with all the cooking. I’m pretty good in the kitchen, but I’ve never felt it as an act of love – just my share, in the division of labor. It makes me think I’ve missed out on something… the pleasure and generosity of food and cooking… the focus on others.

I was inspired by the utter joy and positivity Ina Garten is able to share in her cooking, and in her marriage to Jeffrey. As much as I love my husband, cooking for him has not always been satisfying. I’ll make something extravagant, and he’ll have eaten a late lunch. Or, if it’s something I like, he might not. Or a couple of kids will say, “meh, no thanks.” And I’ll be left to eat an entire Moussaka casserole by myself. (Ina probably remembers who likes or doesn’t like various ingredients and is happy to adjust her menu accordingly. I’m a little grumpier about that.)

As the day dawned, and I thought about cooking and presenting delicious and healthy foods, the person whom I wanted to impress with my love became evident. It was me. I’m worth the effort and caring. I should cook more often, and lovingly, for me. I should eat more deliciously and mindfully. I know I want to eat about fifty things in this cookbook!

This brings to mind some philosophical questions about creativity for me:

  • Is it love when you create for others? Is it art when you create for yourself?
  • Must one care for oneself in order to create? Or perhaps the opposite is true – you must be a ragged mess in order to have the gravitas to create.

Do you have ways you show yourself love and devotion? Do you have ways you deprive yourself of the same? What impact does caring for yourself have on your creativity and your work? What impact does abusing yourself have, if any? If you care to discuss these topics, please head over to our FB Group – Write Without the Fight.