Two Sundays ago I attended a pasta making workshop, led my Italian friend, Barbara Reale, in the beautiful town of Delft. I had always wanted to learn how to make pasta and had felt rather daunted by the perfection required. But being scared of something is no reason not to do it, right? A bit like writing.
As I kneaded the dough for what seemed like hours, left it for a while to cool in the fridge and spent time making a variety of fillings another compartment in my brain was busily trying to work out what this all had to do with writing. Then, towards the end, when we took our thinly rolled dough and used it to make capeletti, tortelli, ravioli with the meat, fish and spinach fillings we had prepared it hit me. Making pasta has everything to do with writing. Let me explain.
Of course good writers need to be able to write well, but perhaps more importantly, the most successful writers will be very good at having ideas. New journalists are instructed to have an idea for an article and then write the same basic piece five different ways for five different publications. Similarly, pasta makers will make the dough and then create a variety of fillings, made into a variety of shapes until that one basic ball of dough has been made into three, five, ten or more different types of pasta.
A book can be written in many ways, honed for a different market each time. A story can be written with a variety of endings, or with the story seen through the eyes of first one character then another.
Professional writers need to flex their muscles and try out new media and new art forms. A short story can become a poem, an article becomes a book, a book becomes a workshop and so on. Only last week dancer Alaine Handa choreographed a dance based on my poem, Unity in Diversity, and that poem had been inspired by Matisse’s painting, La Danse.
I may not be Italian, but I am pretty sure I think like one. Each of my books began as an article, became a variety of workshops and keynote speeches, some became poems, and recently my Write Your Life Stories live workshop became a home study program, itself made out of podcasts, video, a workbook and even stickers.
So, think of your current idea as a ball of pasta dough and write a list of all the different things you could write, starting from that first, single idea.
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