These days, it's rare that a blog strikes you as being refreshingly different. But Nicole Gulotta's is exactly that. As a voracious reader and writer, Nicole's popular blog, Eat This Poem, invites you to bring poems to life on the plate, infusing recipes with personal stories, thoughtful commentary and simple ingredients. Her blog is also home to a selection of city literary guides, which just so happen to be one of my favourite corners of the Internet. In this conversation, we discuss writing rituals, how to stay creative while working full-time, and her upcoming book (!!!).
Can you share a little bit about yourself, what you do and why you do what you do?
I’m a writer, author, tea drinker, and home cook. At the moment, I work for a food startup in Los Angeles, the city I’ve called home for nearly a decade. Because I’m a content editor, writing is the core component of my day job, but I always have several creative projects of my own going on, too.
I write because I can’t not write. Writing found me early in life (I have memories of family vacations where I scribbled songs, poems, and our daily adventures into notebooks), and in high school I started writing poetry very seriously (so seriously, in fact, I went on to study it in graduate school). Now I write more about food, but regardless of subject, the impulse to write has always been there.
This past year I’ve started connecting with fellow writers to encourage them on their journey. I absolutely love this work.
The writing life is hard, but I believe the more we’re empowered to embrace our desire to write, combined with practical tools to navigate balancing work and creativity, the easier it becomes.
Congratulations on your upcoming book, Eat This Poem: A Literary Feast of Recipes Inspired by Poetry. I can’t wait to read it! How was the process of getting a book deal? What has writing your book taught you about yourself?
Thank you! I had a somewhat unusual experience in my journey to publishing, and I love to share it because it proves there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Early into writing the Eat This Poem blog, I was approached by an editor who encouraged me write a cookbook. I submitted a proposal about six months later, which opened a much larger discussion about the concept and direction of the book. I spent two years going back and forth with her, continuing to refine the scope and whittle down the poem’s I’d chosen to include. I was also continuing to build my readership, and wrote the entire manuscript before I ever got a book deal. The whole process took about four years!
This experience reinforced my instincts about continuing to write, even when you don’t know how it all will end. I wanted to write a book, so even though I didn’t have a contract or an agent, I wrote it anyway. Knowing how long the publishing process can take, there’s just no sense in waiting until everyone has signed on the dotted line. If you have a book inside you that needs to be written, following that desire is always the right thing to do. The rest will take care of itself when the time is right.
I love how individual and spirited all of your work is, from your beautiful newsletter to your city literary guides. How do you stay inspired? Any blogs, people or rituals you can recommend?
Susan Sontag has talked about how the writer’s job is to pay attention. Over the years, I’ve trained myself to appreciate and take inspiration from ordinary moments. When you do this, inspiration can be found almost anywhere, so that mindset (a daily practice, really) helps keeps my creative lamp lit.
I also follow so many wonderful people who inspire me. A few who come to mind are Andi Cumbo-Floyd (who writes beautifully about the joys and struggles of carving out a life filled with words), Marie Forleo (an all-around inspiring woman/philanthropist/entrepreneur who encourages everyone to share their unique gifts with the world), and Susannah Conway, (her personal letters always feel like connecting with an old friend, plus she gives sound advice about being yourself online, or “sharing your heart” as she puts it).
I often worry about compromising on quality while juggling so many things! How do you manage to make it all work (your editor role, your blog, your book and more)? Does each medium inform the other in any way?
I worry about this, too, which is why I’ve pulled back a bit this past year. But I’m a naturally organized person, which I truly believe is the only reason I’m able to do what seems like so much from the outside. I use editorial calendars and project management tools. All my documents are organized in Google Drive. I also make very good use of my time. Even 15 minutes is enough for me to make progress on a blog post or newsletter, for instance.
I’m not sure each medium informs each other in terms of content, because they have different purposes and use different aspects of my brain, in some ways. But the systems I use to make progress in all these areas certainly overlap.
Lastly, I'm curious to know some of the books, whether cooking or poetry or otherwise, that have had a profound impact on you?
Anne Sexton and Sharon Olds were two poets I was introduced to as a teenager, and both resonated with me because their confessional styles felt like permission to channel my own inner life onto the page. I’ve also learned so much from Elizabeth Bishop, particularly her ability to capture the physical world she inhabits with such accuracy.
As for cooking, I’m not sure the book itself is profound, but my experience of it was. The first cookbook from Giada de Laurentiis, Everyday Italian, was one I discovered just as I was learning to cook. Her recipes were accessible, and being Italian myself, I was eager to cook in a familiar style. I also adore anything by Nigel Slater.
Most recently, I’ve been telling everyone about the book Essentialism. This idea of “the disciplined pursuit of less” has so many positive implications for your creative life if you’re willing to go through the process of discovering what’s most important to work on.