Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

delicious slice of pound cake

Every once in a while I sit down to write something and my mind freezes up completely. I stare at the screen, try to think of something interesting to say and … nothing. Big. Blank. Screen. A bit of writer’s block, I suppose. Does this ever happen to you?

After putting the cake in the oven, I wondered how other people cope with the big, blank screen. I looked up how some prominent authors have dealt with writer’s block and it turns out a few of them have offered up some pretty good advice.

hot chocolate cup

First, there’s the writer of my favorite program, Downton Abbey. I admit, I’m a bit obsessed with Downton. Seriously, how can you not be? Come to think of it, this is the perfect cake to eat while watching the show.

Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey –

“There are days when I realize I’m writing rubbish. But my solution is not to not write. I plan a plot structure, and usually the writer’s block passes…One thing I don’t believe in is constantly going back over what I’ve done. Editing my scripts seems to be fruitful only once I’ve reached the end — when I have the broad strokes, the big picture. If I’m constantly going over what I wrote last Tuesday, it’s difficult to actually finish it…
When I’ve exhausted my general fizz, I’ll write the title of the next scene: “Dining Room, Day.” I think it’s a mistake to stop working without a clue as to what comes next.”

birch in snow
winter creek bw

Here are some nice practical approaches.

Norman Mailer novelist, essayist, journalist –

“A simple rule. If you tell yourself you are going to be at your desk tomorrow, you are by that declaration asking your unconscious to prepare the material. You are, in effect, contracting to pick up such valuables at a given time. Count on me, you are saying to a few forces below: I will be there to write.”

Mark Twain, author and humorist –

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

vase of flowers
hot chocolate solo
dunked pound cake

Maybe it’s a better idea to step away from the screen?

Hilary Mantel, English Author of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies

“If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to ­music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.”

Ernest Hemingway, American author and journalist –

“The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day … you will never be stuck. Always stop while you are going good and don’t think about it or worry about it until you start to write the next day. That way your subconscious will work on it all the time. But if you think about it consciously or worry about it you will kill it and your brain will be tired before you start.”

winter shed bw
sheep portrait

For me, the method I use depends upon what I’m writing. If it’s a blog post, I’ll typically alternate between writing, photography and baking and let my thoughts percolate. For more formal documents, I lock myself in a room and follow an approach similar to Mark Twain. Of course, it’s easier when it’s snowing and I have a chocolate chip pound cake in the oven.

What about you? What keep your creative juices flowing? How do you deal with the big, blank screen?

sliced pound cake
dunked pound cake close

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake

17.5 tbsp (250 g) unsalted butter, softened
2 1/4 c (250 g) organic powdered sugar
5 eggs
1 tsp (4 g) vanilla extract
1 1/4 c plus 2 tbs (200 g) flour, sifted
1/2 c chocolate chips (70 g)

Preheat oven to 350° F (180° C). Butter and flour 1 large or 4 small loaf pans.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter. Blend in the sugar, then the vanilla extract. Add the eggs, one at a time, until well-incorporated. Mix in the flour and chocolate chips until just blended.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, 45-50 minutes.

Allow cake to cool completely on a rack, then un-mold.

Note: To prevent the chocolate chips from sinking to the bottom, like mine, toss them in flour before adding to the batter.

Bon Appetit!




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32 Comments
  1. ahh lovely post.
    right now I need sun; this darkness, rain, and snow is finally getting to me.
    as much as I love NE I cannot take these winters much more.
    I long for sun, sun, sun!

  2. I’m usually frozen by too many things I want to do and lack of focus in starting something! Great thoughts on how to overcome writers block and what a way to help the situation – a delicious cake. Tapping into your senses often helps I think. Relaxing and not trying to write is often good too – nothing will beat a good time out to eat something yum and hydrate yourself! Glad you’re feeling better for it – thanks for a beautiful post 🙂

  3. I’ve also been having writer’s block lately… I try to relax and get away from the computer. Generally, it works.

    This cake is wonderful and so are your gorgeous pictures!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. I am new at writing and had forgotten about ‘writer’s block’ when I think I have nothing useful to say. Now that you have brought it back into my remembrance, I see it as a natural step toward more creativity. I still have not developed a way to deal with it other than putting all away and waiting for a better day. That works for me now because I am not writing a lot but if I write more, then I will have to come up with an approach that will help me meet deadlines.

  5. Great post and images, El. And Thank you for sharing the sage advice from other writers. When I started writing, there was pen and paper, no screen and these days I’ve adapted to working on my tiny MacBook air or iMac. Sometimes, I start with the gem of an idea and then scribble thoughts onto the computer, or onto paper if it’s the middle of the night. If I am unable to finish a piece in one sitting, I will put it aside and do other things (take photographs, listen to music, read, cook etc) until I’m ready to pull it all together. It’s an interesting process!

  6. I absolutely love your wintry photos, El. They are so quiet and peaceful and gorgeous. I definitely get writer’s block sometimes. I am most helped by shutting down my computer, putting away my notebooks, and doing something completely different, preferably outside or in the kitchen. Doing something physical gives my brain time to rest and sift and percolate until the words finally come. 🙂

  7. I very much enjoy writing and when I find myself struggling it usually is my inner critic unleashing a volcano of doubt. For me, it is best to take a break and do something with my hands. Giving my mind some breathing space is my antidote.

    I’ve not been to the “snow” this winter and find your photos vibrant and yet serene. A breathtaking post and cake is always a good thing!

  8. I have post vacation blogging block! Maybe it’s just because there have been so many other things that need taking care of but I have been procrastinating getting a new post done for days. Mentally, I think I’m still on vacation 🙂 Good tips and your pound cake might be what I need too!

  9. You even make winter look beautiful with these photos. I had begun to really hate it this year. And that chocolate chip poundcake? It would go well with a hot cup of coffee right about now. Come on summer!

  10. Ah, well. My blog is a blank right now, but it has nothing to do with writer’s block — mine is more of a blog block. I love your use of quotations — I do the same when looking for some kind of justification for why I feel the way I do. Breathtaking B&W photos. That Birch!

  11. That’s a great post! I always wonder, how people, especially writers work…
    when it comes to me, I’m either very inspired and can move mountains (that is, write non-stop) or I’m frozen and then that one single sentence never seems good enough. I keep re-reading it again and again, and it’s just killing me…
    Then, I usually go to bake 🙂

  12. I don’t consider myself a writer, not by any means, I only write for my little blog, but I too get writer’s block sometimes. It’s tough staring at the screen trying to come up with something to write.

    I love Downton Abbey too. It’s old-fashioned and romantic in a way nowadays’ series are not.

    Your cake, El, looks amazing and your photos are, as always, stunning.

  13. This is incredibly beautiful. The cake looks pretty simple too. I don’t need baking soda or baking powder for this recipe?

    Great tips on writer’s block. I love Downton too!

  14. It happens to me all the time. I usually try to get away from what I’m doing to clear my head. Love the idea of baking a pound cake though, it looks yummy.

  15. I would like to show some gratitude to these great recipe ingredients. I recently achieved it plus it attained excellent: -)
    Excellent blog site using pastry tested recipes I personally for anyone who is serious. I have a blog with cake recipes myself if you are interested. You can find it at http://recipes-for-food.com/

  16. I have Mark Twain’s quote hung up in my studio above my workspace. Like you I tend to take a break from staring at the screen and go for a long walk, bake or take photos. I also carry around a little black book where I often jot down ideas, phrases, thoughts or quotes. These all help when I need a push to write.
    Grand post El!

  17. Since I always write my blog posts on the computer, putting actual pen to real paper seems to unlock something when I’m stuck. Plus, it feels nostalgic!

  18. 🙂 I have very little problem writing policy documents or propositions. Writing with clarity and without voice is my strong suit. Sadly.
    I had to work so hard to get there, once. To leave my voice behind. Now, my voice is easy to find, but the intellectual creativity that used to once be a companion to my voice has been lost. I write like I am having a chat. Idle chatter. Sometimes, like a cheerleader. Promoting. Prompting. Praising. Rarely am I able to write in prose the poetic ideas and aesthetic expressions I sense like I used to. I am finding I am having to work harder to regain that ability now, than ever before. But, I welcome the challenge. I also believe that other artistic endeavors hone the craft… drawing, poetry, photography, music, baking… scultpting. It is the artistic edification of my soul that enables me to find my creative voice. And right now, I am feeling very artistically deprived in general… visiting your site, El, always nurtures that creative spirit within.
    🙂
    Valerie

  19. El, your photographs always make me feel like I’m in another world. Beautiful. I love the simplicity of the cake, it’s so fresh!

  20. This is really helpful. I’m a Journalism student AND a blogger and I definitely encounter writer’s block. What works best for me really is stepping away from the screen and doing something else. But sometimes it’s also just plugging away until the right words come!
    PS – chocolate chip pound cake is an awesome antidote 🙂

  21. Yummy. The hubs and I are going to make it this weekend. We can’t wait to sink our teeth into this cake!

  22. I get stuck all the time. I’m not incredibly creative but I do like the idea of limited distraction. The cake would work well.

  23. I’ve never had an issue with writer’s block, but I’ve also never pushed myself to write when I’m not feeling into it. I see it more for myself as don’twanttowriteitis than writer’s block…. 🙂

    Love the lush visuals Downton Abbey creates, by the way!

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