Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Favorite Writing Tool: Post-It Notes

 By Victoria Allman

Set a daily word count and make sure you hit it every day.

Those are the words that have been drilled into every writer’s head at every conference, on the page of every book on craft, and in every article about how to succeed as an author. But, what if you physically can’t sit at the computer each day?

Life is busy.

For me, my job as chef on a yacht keeps me on my feet for sixteen hours a day. I’m up at five to start the days baking and fly around the galley all day making breakfast, lunch, hors d’oeuvres, and dinner for our crew and guests. Often, it isn’t until ten or eleven at night when the last plate of Tahitian vanilla panna cotta with tropical fruit compote is cleared. That leaves precious few hours to sit and write. 

Plus, my books are about life on board the yacht, the places we travel, and the local recipes I learn. In my limited down time, I explore the ports and markets gathering stories, meeting the weather-beaten fishermen who sell me a tangle of octopus tentacles, and experiencing the heat that explodes my mouth as I bite into the habenero chile just picked from an island farm. Without spending my time strolling through ancient cobble-stoned cities I’d have nothing to write about.

Luckily, my time in the galley chopping vegetables and kneading bread gives me time to think. Usually, my hands are covered in flour, so I can’t transfer my thoughts to the computer, but I always have a pad of Post-its sitting next to my cutting board. Throughout the day, as my mind wanders, I jot down ideas for stories, descriptive sentences of the strawberry grouper ceviche I’m making, and my thoughts on the color of sunlight at dusk off the island of Santorini.

Over the course of a week, I collect hundreds of these little yellow scraps of paper. On Sunday, my day off, I wake early and spend the morning transcribing the olive oil splattered notes. The words flow effortlessly and fast as they have been simmering in my brain all week. My word count boils over and quickly I find myself hitting what would have been the accumulated word count for the week. By early afternoon, I can escape the boat and go explore, adding new scribbles to my pile of scrap paper for next week.

It’s not a method of success I’ve seen promoted, but it works for me. So, when life becomes overwhelming and you find yourself strapped for time in your writing nook, grab a pad of Post-its and go explore life.
Victoria Allman has been following her stomach around the globe for fourteen years as a yacht chef.  She writes about her floating culinary odyssey through Europe, the Caribbean, Nepal, Vietnam, Africa and the South Pacific in her first book, SeaFare:  A Chef’s Journey Across the Ocean.SEAsoned: A Chef’s Journey with Her Captain, Victoria’s second book, is the hilarious look at a yacht chef’s first year working for her husband while they cruise from the Bahamas to Italy, France, Greece and Spain; trying to stay afloat. Her essays on travel and food have appeared in Dockwalk Magazine, Marina Life Magazine, and OnDeck Skipper. You can read more of her food-driven escapades through her website,

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