12 Thoughts On Writing A Cookbook

As I enter the fourth month of cookbook–writing adventures, it’s time to pause and reflect on the experience.  Here are some of my deep, deep thoughts:

Some Most Every Days I Eat Too Much

I only regret that I have but one stomach to give to recipe testing. – Anonymous food patriot

There are two of us humans in our household.  Each with only one, pathetically inadequate stomach.  Some days I make more than one recipe for the book, plus “normal” meals.  My recipes are generally created to serve a family of four.  Even with three full meals a day the result is a refrigerator and tummies packed to the gills. Yet the food keeps coming.  Share with the neighbors, you say? You haven’t been to Oklahoma, have you?

Some Days I Really, Really Dislike Food

As a result of the above, there are days when the thought of lifting a fork- or spoonful of food to my mouth makes me want to heave.  All I want is herbal tea and a belly rest.  But then I remember The Deadline (see #12 below) and know that skipping meals right about now is not really an option. Anyone up for the Green Smoothie Challenge starting October 2??

Recipe Testers Are Saving My Ass
Whoever invented recipe testers has my unending admiration and gratitude.  I cannot imagine going through this process without these wonderful people – who quite possibly are gluttons-for-punishment.  They:

  • buy strange and sometimes expensive ingredients;
  • spend hours cooking/baking/dehydrating recipes that may or may not work or even appeal to them, and then they make them again after I’ve done more tweaking;
  • make why-didn’t-I-think-of-that suggestions for substitutions and time-savers – and also point out where I’ve skipped a step or ingredient.
  • take the time to leave thoughtful feedback that without a doubt improves the quality of the recipes, and
  • then take photos of the results and share them on various social media outlets.

I can’t thank my recipe testers enough.  I love you.

Recipe Testing is Humbling
Having pledged my undying love to my testers, nothing will deflate one’s ego like a negative comment on a recipe.  Believe me, I would rather hear it from the small circle of trusted testers than from some pissed-off reader who shelled out $15 for the book plus loaded up on agar, medjool dates, hemp seeds, and specialty flours – only to have the recipes disappoint.  Yes, this is going to happen anyway.  But recipe testers will root out a good majority of issues and you can go to print knowing you did your best.  Screw the people with lousy taste anyway, right?!

I Am Compelled To Make Every Recipe Count
Recipe ideas come in nearly unmanageable tsunamis or they don’t come at all and I can hear the lonely sound of crickets in the vast Mojave of my creative mind.  Some days nothing I try works; on other days my pots and pans are blessed by the benevolent Cooking Fairy.  But there is one overriding thought: everything I make from now until October 1 must be for the cookbook.  Of course, that is irrational, but that’s what it feels like.  I feel as if can’t spend time on any other culinary frivolities (sorry, Kel, we’re buying our bread for a while…).  And that feeling, my friends, is Crazy-Making.

Self-Doubt Sucks
I’ve had many a sleepless night, brain churning like Ma Ingalls making butter; wondering why the H-E Double Hockey Sticks I got myself into this mess and how am I ever going to pull it off?  People: I’m a fake, a phony, a fraud!! Can I come up with over 130 recipes by October?  How am I ever going to get all of the photographs done?  Will anyone buy my cookbook?  If they buy it, will they like the recipes?  How long will it be before my book ends up in the bargain bin at Books-A-Million? And so goes my racing mind.  I despise those nights.  No amount of pep talking and face slapping can get me out of one of those jags.  Only daylight (sometimes), time, and just moving forward relieves the doubts. A nice comment from a recipe tester helps tons, too.  In the end, it’s all going to go the way it goes.  And if that isn’t some profound shizz right there, I don’t know what is.

Why Are There So Many #@!* Ingredients??
One of my weaknesses as a home cook is that I tend to get caught up in a More is More mentality.  The thing is, there’s this plethora of intriguing ingredients out there!  And I want to try every one of them!  Every week or so I have to rein myself in, mentally smack my fingers with a ruler and say, keep it simple(r)!  It’s tough. Make no mistake about it, creating simple + tasty food is not for sissies.

What, The Photos, Too?!
I can control freak with the best of them, so I’m actually happy to be the one taking the photos for my own book – but it really adds to the time crunch.  Especially when one is as inexperienced as I am behind the camera.  Work flow?  What’s that?  Thankfully, a few months ago and prior to being contacted by a publisher, I took an online photography course, bought Lightroom, and I invested in a new lens. All of those things have made a huge difference in the quality of my photos.  Don’t get me wrong, I have a boatload left to learn, but I don’t feel quite as freaked out as I would had I not taken that course.  And – even cooler – I was fortunate enough to get my feet wet taking the photos for a dear friend’s upcoming cookbook.

Some Recipes Cannot Be Saved, Salvaged, Fixed, or Redeemed
I’ve learned to read That Certain Look in Kel’s eyes when a recipe just doesn’t cut it.  (God love him, he eats it anyway.)  And try as I might, wish as fervently as possible – some recipes still resist all attempts to make them edible.  It’s deflating, for sure.  But I try to chock it up to an inevitable part of the process – a kind of collateral damage in the fog of cookbook-writing.

How Do They Do It??
A lot of my blogging compatriots are also now working feverishly on their own cookbook projects.  It’s amazing how vegan cookbooks have really taken off and its heartening to see that so many of the people I admire will be sharing their amazing recipes with a much wider audience.  If you are one of those bloggers who is busy creating recipes/writing your book/taking the photos AND YOU ARE STILL POSTING REGULARLY TO YOUR BLOG:  I salute you with both hands. You, my friends, have The Right Stuff.  I do not.  I simply can’t focus on both a blog and a cookbook and produce quality product for either. P.S. What’s your secret?!

It Still Makes No Sense
On those self-doubt days, the whole scenario defies logic.  What kind of publisher contacts a low- to mid-level blogger with acceptable photos and untested recipes and asks them to squeeze out a cookbook in 6 months time?  Whatever their reasons and motivations, I care not.  It’s cool.

I Need To Enjoy the Ride (While Still Meeting A Deadline)
I haven’t had a serious deadline looming in my life, oh, since my days as an administrative assistant to a CEO.  And that, my friends, was many years ago.  I’m an organized person.  I like lists and spreadsheets and work progressing in an orderly and quantifiable manner, but up until now, any “deadline” was a phantom, a self-created shifting line in the sands of time.  October 1st is out there.  It’s heading towards me like Sandra Bullock in Speed a.k.a. at a frightening clip.  Summer is going to blow by and soon I’ll have weeks, then only days to pull all of this together.  Can I do it?  Yeah.  But I’m going to need some serious yoga and chocolate afterwards.

The last thing I want to do is let this singular time in my life get by me without feeling it.  I don’t mean in the sense of wasting time or putting stuff off – a la as in college when I had 4 weeks to write an essay and I waited until the night before.  Especially since – loathe as I am to say this – I’m at the midpoint in my life.  What I mean is that difficult though some of them are, every moment right now needs to be enjoyed acknowledged.  And truly, this is one amazing time of my life.

Going whichever way the wind blows.
Tearing out the pages,
Just to watch them fly
Let it go.  It will get easier.
Let it go.  Just enjoy the ride.
– Pete Droge, Going Whichever Way the Wind Blows



44 thoughts on “12 Thoughts On Writing A Cookbook

  1. Marfigs/Margaux

    I’m so excited for your cookbook! What’s wrong with people in Oklahoma? Are they introverted/guns-on-the-porch kinda people? It sounds like you’re on an insane journey but you must be learning so much about food and yourself 🙂 Oh boy, I know that face you mean that people pull and you just *know* they’re thinking “ew” but still plod through it – unfortunately one’s household testers aren’t always so great at explaining why they don’t like something, which is not very useful!

    Good luck 🙂

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      You’re absolutely right – – I’m learning a whole heck of a lot about my approach to food and how easy it is to get into a rut. Writing this book has really forced me to think about ingredients in different, unfamiliar ways.

      Oklahomans are actually very friendly and warm, but veganism is kind of like voodoo out here (I’m speaking in broad terms, of course; there are exceptions). I think there is a genuine puzzlement as to why one would choose not to eat beef or drink milk.

  2. Bex @ Vegan Sparkles

    eeeeekkk!! Such an incredible experience, Annie, and it’s great to see that the deadline pressure hasn’t dampened your sense of humour! 🙂
    Onwards and upwards! We are all here cheering you on from the sidelines! xxx

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Thanks, sweet Bex!! I’m so happy to include one or your recipes in the book – – makes the experience all the more special and meaningful. xoxo

  3. The Vegan 8

    Great post Annie!! I can only imagine how stressed you are! I have several commitments right now concerning my blog and feel as if I’m going crazy and I’m not even writing a cookbook, haha! I’ve been trying so hard to do everything, while watching my toddler daily 24/7 and keep my priorities on her and it’s soooo hard. So, I can imagine the chaos! I can’t imagine how I’d do it with a toddler, but alas, as you’ve said….so many others do it. I was so impressed with Angela at Oh She Glows who still kept her blog posts going normally while writing her book! I guess she just spent less time on editing 20 photos versus 50+, haha. Why do publishers give such strict deadlines?! You’ll do great and I’m sure your book will too

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      It sure felt good to write this post and vent :-P! I don’t know, I think you’ve got it harder than I do – anyone raising a child or children while dedicating so much love, time, and effort into blogging/creating recipes – plus of course, dealing with all of life’s other “tasks.” How do you have a spare minute?! The deadlines are kind of nuts. Not sure what that’s all about, except maybe they feel like they have to get books out before trends end or something – – who knows! Thanks for the support, Brandi! xoxo

  4. Cadry's Kitchen

    I am always surprised when people I know are writing cookbooks are still posting recipes on their blogs. I don’t know how they have the time to do both! As you know, just one post can take hours with recipe creation, photographing, and writing. If one is already doing all of those things for a cookbook, how is their time for it on the blog too?

    You really captured the experience! I’m so proud of you!!! The book is going to be amazing!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Seriously! I guess I’m just not that culinarily 🙂 creative as to have “spare” recipes to post on the blog and to include in the book. I’ve become very covetous of each and every recipe. Thanks, Cadry!

  5. biggsis

    Thanks for sharing your journey…. It sounds satisfyingly stressful..? Abundantly arduous…? Be careful running in the heat – if you even have time for that. Can’t wait to see the finished product 🙂

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Yeah – I think that’s it: satisfyingly stressful :-). I’m actually in a kind of good place right now – seeing real progress and starting to think that I might just pull this off by the deadline.

  6. Teresa@sweetveg

    I really enjoyed hearing about your journey. I’ve been there with a fridge full of food and the daunting task of trying to consume it before it goes to waste. And then needing to make a recipe one more time (or more) when you are already sick of it. Not a good feeling. I had no idea you need to come up with 130 recipes! Achh! I have some time off next week and will try to do some more testing. Thank you for sharing!!

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      No – and I was waiting :-P!! And I love the fabulousness that is you, my cookbook-writing partner-in-crime! xoxo

      1. Somer

        p.s. I plan on dedicating Thursday to some more recipe testing for you. I bought ingredients today. I was out of cashews and flaked coconut at the same time. The horror!

      2. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

        Tragedy!! I came close to being out of cashews and thankfully came across a NEW Whole Foods in Tulsa. Disaster averted…

  7. Mama Tummy

    You are amazing! I don’t think of you as a low to mid-level blogger at all. That would be me. You must be doing something right to have a publisher contact you. That would be a dream come true for me. Although, I’m more into writing my kid’s book these days.

    I can understand what you’re going through. I often experience many of these feelings and I’m not even writing a cookbook. I just put the pressure on myself with my own deadlines that are ridiculous. My husband is my taste tester and I get so discouraged when he doesn’t like something. I can tell he doesn’t even though he says he does. I am the biggest self-doubter I know. That’s the main reason I don’t do all the things I want to. I quit being an architect. I quit being an artist. I quit being a teacher. All because of self-doubt, it does suck. I also completely agree with you on the ingredients. It’s so hard for me to keep it simple.

    I have been considering doing a small ebook with some of my recipes, but I know that would be extremely stressful for me right now. I would be the same with the photos. I would want to take them myself as well, but my photos suck! I’ve been trying to work on them and I can notice a difference when I look at my old posts. We just don’t have the funds to get the equipment I would need to take them to the next level.

    All of my rambling does have a point. You are not alone. You will get through this. Your book is going to be incredible. You’ll have even more to enjoy once it’s finished. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and you opened the door when it came knocking. You are braver than most!

    Good luck on it all. I have no doubt everything will work out as it should.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Oh my gosh. Thank you so much for this lovely (and very personal) comment. It’s making me cry 🙂 – in a good way. I’m so sorry that you feel such self-doubt, but as you know from this post, I totally understand. We can be our own worst enemies and critics. And it’s tough to break out of it, isn’t it?

      I know several bloggers who take incredible photos with their phones and then use free, online editing programs (like picmonkey.com) to really make them stand out. And here’s a thought about writing an e-book: trick yourself. Slowly start compiling recipes, take some photos and just keep it casual. Before long you’ll have enough recipes for an ebook and you won’t have stressed yourself out. I can help you figure out how to put it all together in an ebook.

      Again, thank you for taking the time to share such a thoughtful comment. It means a lot to me. And yes, it’s a really amazing time and I’m so lucky. xoxo

      1. Mama Tummy

        Sorry I made you cry, even if it was in a good way.

        I never thought to look for free editing programs. I’ve never been much of an editing person. I usually take a hundred photos to get one good one.

        And thanks for the tip! I do have quite a few recipes saved up since I cook more than I have time to post. Maybe I shouldn’t post them…

        Anyway, I didn’t mean to make this about me. Thanks for the wonderful offer and you are welcome 🙂

  8. Richa

    you can do it Annie. it is so awesome that you are going to be publishing a cookbook!

    I have a lot more time to the deadline plus i was already creating a stash of recipes for the book. 🙂 I burn out some weeks and just stop reading mails about book or product reviews. those take the most time for me.
    I have 2 tasters who pick up food when i have too much of it 🙂 they go to the school not too far from my home.

    1. Richa

      past 2 weeks i have been down with the heat, allergies, and not thinking much about the book. someone kick me back into the schedule.

      and i am dreading the days when i will have to really write up the chapters and then proof read everything multiple times. i am hoping to find some help doing it, coz my eyes will conk off them for sure.

      sending you lots of luck!

      1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

        Richa, I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a rough patch – I empathize completely! I’m finding that I have to “walk away” every few days and do and think about other things. I think I just focused on it too intensely right out of the gate and I burned out. And I think you’re right that the hardest part will be proofing and editing (and proofing and editing again…). It’s not my strong suit and I too will be seeking other eyeballs to help :-)! Sending you lots of love and luck, though I absolutely KNOW your cookbook is going to be gorgeous.

  9. Becky

    I can’t wait for your cookbook!! Also I can’t tell you what a cathartic read this was right now. I’m a bundle of anxiety as I try to pull the final pieces together for BOWLS!. You said that this experience was humbling, and I couldn’t agree more.

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      Ahhh, thanks Becky. I can’t wait for BOWLS!! It’s a FACT that food just tastes better in one, right? I know it’s going to be a fantastic book. Count me in for any blog hops or giveaways!

  10. Brittany

    You amaze me, and this cookbook is going to be FANTASTIC!! I think you’re doing the right thing by focusing on the book opposed to the blog. Pop in posts like this are more than enough!! Hang in there, and keep recruiting recipe testers!! I SO wish I lived closer to volunteer my stomach! 🙂

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      It’s kinda like you focusing on hiking and school and cupcakes! Thanks, Brittany. Wish I had easy access to your stomach, too ;-P!

  11. Emma

    It sounds like a lot of fun but a lot of stress! I’m not even writing a cookbook but I’ve tested for various and along with cooking for the blog sometimes I just need a break from food!
    We’re all behind you and excited to see the finished product 🙂 x

    1. An Unrefined Vegan Post author

      You’ve got it – totally fun, exciting – but there are those “ohmygawd!!” moments, too. Thanks so much for your support, Emma! I’ve no doubt a cookbook is in your future!!


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