December 07, 2020
Flank steak is challenging to prepare. It’s a lean cut of beef, which made it perfect for the Architect’s birthday dinner. Like many of us during the pandemic, she’s paying attention to what she eats and how many calories.
The boys and I wanted her meal to be special, which meant stress-free, which meant it should be low calorie. I took cues from my sister-in-law, who provided recipes that she’s enjoyed (and prepared) herself.
Her advice on the flank steak was straightforward:
“Grill on high heat for 3-5 minutes per side. And be sure to let it rest, before you slice it.”
This was my first time cooking flank steak, but it turned out well enough… according to the birthday girl.
Flank steak requires 10-15 minutes rest after being cooked. If you slice it too soon, the meat will dry out and you’ll ruin an otherwise nice piece of meat. To rest, place it in a dish and cover with foil right after you take it off the grill. Then leave it alone.
In On Writing Stephen King talks about his writing process, and the importance of leaving a story alone after you first draft it. King moves directly to another story, placing the one he just finished in a drawer for several weeks.
He recommends a writer give themselves time to forget a story, so they can return to it with a fresh perspective. Just like flank steak, a new story needs time to rest.
On Writing helped me develop my own process for writing and editing. A lot of books on writing techniques focus on getting started, and maintaining rhythm. In contrast, King’s book focused on maturing a story through iteration.
The cadence I used to write the The Traveler series kept his advice in mind. I could draft a story, then return to edit the prior one. It was a good plan, in theory.
I hit a snag once I finished the draft for the fourth story. My plan for the fifth story veered away from the main narrative. That meant the story that followed the fourth chronologically was the sixth story. I would need continuity between them. However, the fifth story would also inform the sixth story.
The result was a dependency between all three. I would have to draft them together, before I could refine any of the stories further.
Now that I’ve finished drafts of all three—over 12,000 words—I need to give the story a rest. I’ll start to edit the fourth in a few weeks, with hopes to publish it by the start of the new year.
In the meantime, I plan to work more on Nebula Squad and finish the behind-the-scenes for The Banker.
I’ve also started to doodle.
A lot of what I read online is about how to “use the time”, or project ideas for those who find themselves bored. Remote learning, and a house full of people ready to strangle each other is hardly boring, but I appreciate the ideas for creative outlets.
I started with this tutorial series, from Pedro Madeiros on pixel art. His recommended program Aseprite works well on the Mac, but it’s also given new life to the Surface tablet I purchased earlier in the year.
The Surface lets me use a stylus to draw directly into Aseprite. The app itself is straightforward. I enjoy using it because its only for pixel art. Pixelmator, Sketch, and Photoshop all do a lot more, but fall short where Aseprite shines.
Right now I’m focused on learning the basics: shapes, shading, and dithering. Eventually I want to put some of this into a game. I have an idea for a story (of course), built on classic arcade titles like Missile Command, Defender, and Asteroids.
It’s fun, and it keeps my mind sharp. I can pick it up whenever I have a few spare minutes.
Though most of all, it lets my brain rest.