Tag Archives: read

Expert Drinker

Photo credit to James Martin. Pic first appeared on his blog, The Sipologist.

Photo credit to James Martin. Pic first appeared on his blog, The Sipologist.

At this time two years ago, I was wasting away in an office job to make money. It was what I thought a career had to be — grunt work with a generous helping of boredom and convoluted power structures.

When I got the chance to bartend, I jumped on it. From the outside, it seemed both nerdy and glamorous, and I wanted to be part of that culture. To catch up, I studied drink and product flashcards every day. I asked bartenders I knew for book recommendations, and read them all the time.

After a little while, I started writing about what I’d learned. It was easy and challenging all at once: I’d become passionate about cocktails, so I wanted to do their stories justice. It was a topic I’d come to know well, so it was sometimes hard to translate my knowledge into an accessible story.

But explaining product and cocktails are both parts of bartending, so I used every shift to refine my narrative about a certain drink or a technique or an ingredient. Once I started practicing, it became easier and easier to explain it out loud and in writing.

As an adult, I’ve had trouble owning up to what I am and what I want to be. It took me a long time to call myself a writer, and a few months of bartending full-time before I would call myself a bartender without a qualifier. Even now, I’m not a drinks expert. What I am is an expert drinker. I’ve developed a palate, know how to balance and re-balance a cocktail, and consult the Flavor Bible enough to figure out what liquors play well with what flavors.

I’m still learning, and I’m still putting off reading the stack of cocktail books I keep by my bed. With writing, tutoring, and regular bartending shifts, I can make time to read an article or two every day, but I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping pace with my drinks library. To become a true drinks expert, I’ll have to dive back in, and soon. I’ll start on it tomorrow.

5 Comments

Filed under BlogLikeCrazy, See Clair Mix

Five ways to catch your muse

lightbulbInspiration is one of the most difficult parts of writing. When your muse is present, the words flow like water and editing is a breeze. On the days s/he takes off, composition can feel like a Sisyphean task. For me, these days are frustrating, but they’re also an opportunity for organization. Here are five ways to pin down your muse.

  1. Make lists. Itemize everything that you have to do. Include transcription, brainstorming and research. Breaking down each task into manageable portions can make it seem less daunting. Document all due dates, freelance assignments and payments to make collections easier.
  2. Read and research. If you’re truly stuck, read articles dealing with the same subject. The poorly written ones can give you an idea of how not to address the topic, while the good ones can lend phrases and lede ideas. However, don’t copy them exactly. Plagiarism is as poorly regarded in journalism as it is in college. Don’t do it.
  3. Dump out everything in your brain. Seriously. Write it all out as stream of consciousness. Blow out all the insecurities, TV references and lingering misgivings you might have. Getting it all on paper will purge your mind of some of the distractions that are splitting your focus.
  4. Break up your routine. Get outside. Move around. Get your blood flowing — taking a break for physical activity can give your brain and body the chance to switch gears and relieve stress.
  5. Write at least one crappy first draft. Practicing writing every day makes effective writing much easier. Personally, I’ve found that writing for 30-45 minutes each day saves me hours of stress and decreased productivity during the weeks I have multiple deadlines.

2 Comments

Filed under See Clair Write