The cup sat on the edge of the table in such a way that light flooded in from behind highlighting little peaks of the frothed leaf that sat suspended on the latte. I took its picture not because I was overwhelmed by its beauty or because I thought it’d make a compelling image but because I was procrastinating. I had gone there to write but found myself doing whatever I could to avoid facing the blank screen.
“At its root, perfectionism isn’t really about a deep love of being meticulous. It’s about fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of failure. Fear of success.”
― Michael Law
I don’t know who Michael Law is. I’ve never read any of his books. Truth be told I found this quote on GoodReads after doing a google search, “quotes on perfectionism”.
Regardless of where it came from he made the connection of perfectionism to fear that I was seeking for in my own understanding. I had always thought a perfectionist was one who was impeccable and tidy. I’m not those things, but I am often paralyzed by the fear of failed expectations. Those high expectations and fear of putting anything out into the world that doesn’t meet those expectations can often keep me from creating and that scares me most of all.
Can you do me a favor? Can we all agree that this space isn’t perfect? Nor should it be. That would help me out a lot.
In my last post I said that there is nothing more inspiring than seeing someone with great passion actually putting their dream into action. It’s the opposite of this that makes me terribly sad. When other creative types (of which I have many in my life) speak of their own insecurities and when I sense a paralysis in their creating process because of it, my heart breaks. I flood them with praise and nearly beg them to get out of their own head as it’s a waste of time and will do nothing except hinder their creativity. I realize the irony of this.
In the book of Ecclesiastes it talks about the problem of waiting on the perfect moment. If I wait until I’ve crafted the perfect blog post I will never hit “publish”. If I wait until I’m completely satisfied with my images I will never let them be seen. If I wait to share my food until it’s perfectly seasoned then I will never have the joy of sitting around the table with friends. If I wait on the perfect moment, I will spend forever waiting.
The recipe I have for you today can not and will not wait forever. Regardless of the fumbled words or the images I’m not completely satisfied with, I want you to have these cookies now.
The three o’clock urge for something sweet inspired this recipe. My sweet cravings inevitably lead to cookies – more specifically these cookies. But I feel that making the same thing repeatedly is a missed opportunity for something new. So I reworked the recipe, played around with flours, took out the eggs, added flax and tucked in a few new flavors. They may not be perfect, as nothing ever is, but they’re pretty darn close and that’s enough for me.
Cherry, Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies
There are a few ingredients listed below that may not be pantry staples but the extra trip to the store will be rewarded. These cookies were born out of a desire for cookies while also a desire to add a bit more intrigue and healthy bits to my sweet fix. And to be perfectly honest the reason why there are no eggs in this recipe is because I ran out of eggs at home but now I’m completely in love with flax so it all worked out.
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup Turbinado sugar (sugar in the raw – you could also use demerara sugar)
1 teaspoon instant espresso
1 Tablespoon ground flax seeds (I used whole flax seeds that I ground in my spice grinder).
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup almond meal, toasted (350* for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden)
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup dried cherries
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (I used Theo’s 70% with cocoa nibs that they had sent me recently – you can add a couple tablespoons cocoa nibs for a bit of earthy crunch if you’d like).
Pre-heat your oven to 350*.
Combine the flax and water in a small bowl and set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugar until smooth and light in color. Stir in the espresso powder. Add the flax mixture along with the vanilla extract. Stir until well combined.
In a separate bowl whisk together the toasted almond meal, flour, baking soda and salt. Add this to the wet ingredients. Just before the mixture all comes together add the dried cherries and chocolate. Stir until well combined.
Bake at 350* for 12 to 15 minutes or until just golden around the edges and the center still unset. Cool on a wire rack.
I’ve had them. They are perfect. Beautiful and honest writing, my friend. I love this post so much, and I think it will hit home to all of us who put a piece of ourselves out there creatively.
Sara, thank you. Thanks for testing my cookies for me and thank you for pushing me to publish this post. Your encouragement is such a gift to me.
Cherry + chocolate is always a winner as far as I’m concerned. I can’t wait to give these cookies a go!
Thank you, for speaking the words my heart feels but can’t express. your art is the expression of your soul, and there should be no tools for measuring whether it’s good enough. if it’s honest, it’s perfect.
I’m continually inspired by the beautiful pictures and stories you share here.
Ashley, thank you for writing this post. It’s a relief to hear that other cooks/writers/bloggers struggle with the paralyzing fear of failure, or disappointing others. I know I do! Thanks for your honesty – it’s a great reminder that perfect is not possible, and therefore shouldn’t be the goal. If we pursue what we’re passionate about, success may or may not come, but at least we’ll enjoy the process! The cookies look delicious – can’t wait to try them 🙂
I can totally relate to what you’re writing about, Ashley. I was in a similar zone a while back and a good friend slyly handed me a copy of the book “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield, which directly addresses those inner critics and, when reading, you keep saying “Yes!” and “Hear, Hear!” throughout. The book is like a kindred spirit in this way. Thanks for writing this post – it’s nice to know one is not alone while simultaneously coveting virtual cookies.
I too struggle with perfectionism. That quote is so on point. Also: your blog and photos are super inspiring and really, really gorgeous.
Don’t you love sometimes how working with items on hand inspires new ideas and creativity in the kitchen? I’ve had such a great time improvising with complementary food flavors and techniques lately, especially since getting my first recipe published in a national magazine which taught me that I can indeed trust my cooking instincts.
Thanks for sharing insight into your process and your experience. These cookies sound delicious! (I love that there’s flax in them–I know what you mean about wanting to make something sweet have a touch of health in it.)
I’m glad you hit “publish” on this post. The cookies look delicious and your words are true and beautifully written.
Last week, I found cacao nibs in bulk at PCC. Perfect…because I won’t go through 8 oz quickly enough.
Oh sweet Ashley. Chocolate and cherries are perfect. You are as perfect as you should be. Any more so, and people would hate you! Enjoy your time, recharge, and go get ’em!
MG – Thank you! I’ve loved knowing we have been in the same state. I wish we could have seen one another.
Nothing is or should be perfect. Everything could be tweaked to improve it, but it is the imperfections that make us and life and everything that is a part of it interesting and wonderful, including your blog. Imperfections should be celebrated rather than feared, though that is a task easier said than done.
Laura – YES!!!! Let’s celebrate them and the bonds they create through our sharing of our own imperfections.
I completely appreciate your honesty and vulnerability. I believe its better to be honest than perfect. If we create impossible expectations of oufselves…we are only setting ourselves up for failure. But being genuine is key… which I believe you are accomplishing. Therefore you will never fail if you keep true to yourself. Blessings!
I LOVE your blog! it’s ‘perfect for me.I can relate to all the ‘fear’ stuff, I have it too but I am trying to learn not to let it stop me. Thank you .
I love this post. I think you’d enjoy The Artist’s Way, if you haven’t already read it. She speaks to this fear quite well.
Lindsay – I have it but haven’t finished reading it. I’ll be pulling it out again. Thanks.
I can relate so much to what you are saying and I thank you for saying it. I sometimes struggle with the same ideas and you’re totally right that there’s no point in lingering on these thoughts in life, we just need to dive right in and that will eventually take us where we want to be. Thank you again for your inspiring words – and of course, the chocolate, my most favourite thing in life.
And ironically, the next article in my Reader feed was this: http://theserovingeyes.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-only-thing-more-well-known-than.html with this quote: “This entire restaurant was built on failure. Any really good idea comes out of flaws, hard work. And most come out of accidents.”
These look perfect to me!
Going to try these cookies today to feel a little better when we’re having something sweet. Your post I think, will touch a cord with many. My father was a supreme procrasrinator … and I am my father’s daughter :/ and… I’ve always thought Nike’s add campaign “Just do it!” was about much more than sports and fitness (:
Thank you for making the effort to express in words that all too common fear. How odd that although it is so common, we all feel that we alone struggle with it. I wonder if it is not so much a desire to have one’s work be perfect but rather that it reflect the perfection that we observe in the world. Those beauties all around. And the way we hope to be but know that we aren’t. I think the striving is necessary. It becomes dangerous only when we feel that we need to pretend. Honesty – being real – is the important thing. And this felt real.
The cookies look fantastic too 🙂 and I am definitely trying them. Thanks.
Cheri – What a great thought. There is so much beauty around us and I definitely do struggle when I’m not able to communicate that beauty as effectively as I’d like. It’s true that the striving is necessary and that honesty is exactly why I wanted to post this. I don’t want to pretend I have it all figured out. I’d much rather foster a community of honesty where we can all struggle and encourage one another to continue to pursue greatness and keep on trying to capture the beauty that we see around us. Thanks for such a heartfelt comment.
What an incredible post! It resonated on so many levels, from the 3 pm sweet cravings to the reality of perfection. When consumed with doubt, I remind myself that “perfect” would be boring and to propel myself forward, creating. Stifling that drive to keep trying, to try something new to embrace perceived failure is the flame that burns deep inside and is the desire of our very souls.
Great post Ashley. I have been thinking of failure a lot lately. Failure is such a strong character that makes one grow as an individual. We learn from failure as well as success. At times it is a tough balance. It is hard to put your dreams in motion but once you find that determination to jump on the path, the rewards can be bittersweet. Chocolate and cherries just make it all the more easier!
Denise – Beautiful. Thank you for this.
Heck yes! These look awesome!
There is so much meaning in this post. I can relate. I have been wanting to start my food blog for over a year, but would always put it off because I have a point and shoot camera and not a DSLR to take photos. Finally, I said to heck with it, and started my blog! I have already gotten so much joy out of writing my blog. Fancy photos or not, it’s fun, and I love it! I’m glad I did not wait forever. Thanks for sharing this post. The cookies look scrumptious, as do all your recipes! 🙂
Tracey – I’m so glad you just did it! It’s a great blog by the way. Thanks for commenting.
I couldn’t agree more… our blogs, no matter how much we strive to make them perfect, aren’t. But these flaws are what give it character… it shows our human side and some of my favorite bloggers are the ones who don’t have it all together. Because, really, who does?
Brian – So well put. Thank you.
I hear you. I am a perfectionist to the core and constantly struggle with fear of failure. And in fact, I felt seriously defeated after a project I’ve been working on didn’t get the green light last week, but I’m here and I’m ok. Lesson learned. I could still go for one (or five) of these cookies, though. Definitely trying ground flax seed as an egg substitute now that I’ve seen how beautiful these turned out!
Kate – Yes. Such a great attitude. I have to remind myself that my identity is not in my latest project or what I do. At the end of this what is really going to matter. It sounds sort of depressing but it frees me up to create for the sake of creating because in that process I am a better person. Thanks for your comment. I wish we could talk about this over a plate of cookies.
I can relate well to this post. I’m somewhat of a perfectionist and I struggle with this at times.
I think any artist can relate with feelings of fear about putting out work that is “less than.” I know I do. Funny though, because without a lot of experimentation & “imperfect” work, there’s no growth. I can totally relate to what you’re saying.
Your recipes & pictures are always beautiful. Thank you for that.
Janae – So beautifully said. Thank you.
Perfectly said, in the most non-perfectionist way. Thank you for the great read on a Monday morning.
Thank you for writing this! It was eerily relevant as I was reading your post procrastinating on my post as my pictures aren’t perfect (mine never are, as I am not a photog) the recipe is good but not great, and the negative voice is LOUD! Creating is imperfect and most often it’s that imperfection that leads us to greater creativity, but bursting through the fear is not always easy. Thanks for sharing and can’t wait to try the cookies!
Abra – So glad this found you at the right time. That voice is so loud, right?! Ultimately it just feels good to create something and the world is often better for it. Thanks for taking the time to comment – now, go blog! 🙂
i agree. this post was beautifully written – let’s not wait.
I am one of those people. Lots of good — no, fantastic — ideas, paralysed with fear.
Loads of therapy helped me to understand this, but 20 years and three kids later, I am there again, on the precipice of so much, but moving mere millimeters. It is brutal.
I have a few real-life things to hold responsible at this exact moment, things that make it impossible for me to make a move anyway, but once those are cleared up I am going to have to find my way to taking the leap.
Your blog is beautiful. Perfection is not.
Karen – I adore your last line. How true!! Please keep me updated on your pending leap. How thrilling! Cheering you on from over here.
I love this post, Ashley. It’s so, so true. Sometimes, with the blog, Sam will tell me just to wait until I really feel like I have something important to say or let a post “fit for awhile” until it feels right. And then there’s me knowing that if I did that … a year might go by. So I just talk about our days. And hope someone cares to read along. But I think that so many of us have a little pieces of this, whether it’s in regards to our writing, keeping up the house, keeping up our fall wardrobe … thank you. xx
Megan – That is the very struggle I have. I feel like if I would just post flawless images, perfect recipes and poetic words I would be further along than I am but then again, I’d never post. I LOVE reading about your days. You have a way of making them all sound to beautiful and warm. I love it.
ah, perfectionism, my highest muse, my deepest nemesis. it’s a bittersweet bedfellow, isn’t it? i think obedience school is the only option. and a lifelong school it is.
keep it coming, ashley. just as you are.
Molly – You always say it so beautifully. Thanks for being such a great encourager.
These cookies look pretty perfect to me! Yum!
You so often–and so beautifully–capture the thoughts in my head. I, too, wonder how you reconcile the desire to be perfect with the fear associated with not being perfect. If you set the bar at perfect, you’ll always be afraid you’ll never reach it. These cookies seem pretty darn close, if not there already! xo
What a wonderful post — thank you! Your blog is lovely and inspiring, and it doesn’t have to be perfect to be so. My blog is a baby, and I struggle with this a lot — but consistent writing and reading honest and beautiful blogs like yours pushes me to continue. Thanks, Ashley! Keep rockin’ it, sister.
reading this post was already tasting good food for me!!! I’m very often the other face of the medaglia, making the imprecisione, or incompiuto the guideline of my life …… this gives the opportunity to everybody to give me suggestions, help, wisdom and and and simpatia
I believe your words are common thoughts among many. I know that there is no such thing as perfection, but somehow, it is that which I constantly strive for. I am teaching and reteaching myself to appreciate the wonderful things I am capable of, and strive to learn more, and not try to be perfect at the things I do already know and love. I also, have a love for things with almonds and cherries. Throwing chocolate in there is just the icing on the cake! Yum!
So beautiful. I feel quite convicted after reading your post. I too never thought myself to be a perfectionist and am stricken by your post and quote which reveal such truth in my own heart. As an avid musician years ago, I have avoided playing for a couple years now because I “am rusty…not good enough…my creativity needs to be polished first.” yikes! have much thinking to do today now! Thank you.
You spoke to my heart. I constantly struggle with perfectionism and making the “right” choice. And you nailed it – in the end it’s all about fear. I’m afraid of disappointing people – of not being good enough. But I’m also scared of that fear stopping me from living up to my God given potential. Thank you for reminding me what perfectionism is really about.
Thank you for this post. I have struggled with these insecturities all of my 66 years, the result of a very critical mother I suspect. Don’t get me wrong, I love my mother, who is now 90 and lives a full, independent life and whom I see quite often but I still feel the full force of her criticism whenever we are together. Yes, it does stop the creative process but that feeling to create far outweighs the negative.
A very deeply felt thank you, for writing this post. I could write you pages, much of it echoing what others above have shared, of how your words have enlightened me. I only recently discovered your blog. I immediately admired your beautiful photography & food. I connected with your writing & our shared career in pastry. I bookmarked your blog, so I could regularly follow it and I’m so glad I did. Your words have been a blessing to me, at the exact moment I was needing guidance. Thank you Ashley.
Procrastination or not, these look great. I’m not a huge cherry in my sweets fan, but I could get be behind the idea with a recipe like this one.
I’m sure I found you via a recipe on Pinterest and I have found myself looking past the beautiful recipes to the wisdom you are sharing with all of us. I want to Pin your stories, and recipes too, as I know many would benefit from your wisdom as I myself have. It’s just really funny to Pin a picture of butter for the purpose of Pinning your wisdom. Maybe an inspirational photo to go with the stories?? Thank you for sharing your life learnings with me.
Pamela – Thanks so much for your comment and I appreciate your suggestion. I don’t know about you but I find butter VERY inspiring. 🙂
there is just something totally perfect about the cherry chocolate cookie combination. these look so delicious
This is such a great post, Ashley. I think that as bloggers, we all experience some type of fear. We tend to forget, however, that there are so many others who deal with the same fears and that things on the other side of their lenses aren’t picture-perfect as their photos may show them to be. We all screw up: over-bake a cake, drop the *perfectly* frosted cake on the floor, miss the last bit of afternoon light while rushing to cook dinner, miss the cat hair that attached itself to the food, etc. But all of this should remind us that we’re human, not that we’re imperfect. It’s all part of life and part of growing up…part of learning to accept and love ourselves as we are…and to be able to share ourselves with the world through our creative mediums in spite of all of our perceived shortcomings. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts here. The cookies look pretty great too. 😉
Dear Ashley. One of your beautiful posts compelled me to comment a few months ago and you said it was like receiving a warm hug. Well, this post embraced me just when I needed it most. I’ve been on the edge of going “live” with my blog for a month now and this was the extra nudge I needed. We are always hardest on ourselves, finding I’m even more so now as a mother, just when we should be the kindest. I took to heart your self-exploration and also found the connection between perfectionism and fear compelling. I could have been profoundly touched with your written words alone, but then you had to go and punctuate it with the most delicious cookie, tweaking it with substitutions I, myself, would have made. Nice call on the kosher salt and espresso! Having relocated to CA from Seattle a few years ago, I was eagerly awaiting that perfect overcast day to make these at the 3 o’clock hour. Yesterday was that day. With sick kids lounging and rain drizzling against my windows, which is very rare indeed, I filled the home with the aroma of toasted almond and gave myself that warm hug I’d been needing all day. Thank you. I look forward to many more of you insightful posts. Be well…
Susan – I LOVE everything about this. Thank you. And please, will you share your blog when it’s live?
“In the book of Ecclesiastes it talks about the problem of waiting on the perfect moment. If I wait until I’ve crafted the perfect blog post I will never hit “publish”. If I wait until I’m completely satisfied with my images I will never let them be seen. If I wait to share my food until it’s perfectly seasoned then I will never have the joy of sitting around the table with friends. If I wait on the perfect moment, I will spend forever waiting.”
This quote made me cry a little. So beautiful, straight forward, and raw! I’ve only read a couple of your posts, but this one drove me to share you to several friends. I cannot wait to read more and try so many of these delicious recipes! Thank you for your honesty and willingness to share with us! 🙂
Hello Ashley. I will be honored to share my blog with you once I publish! Thank you for the boost of confidence…I’m finding that with the holidays here (did I just admit that?!) I’m at once full of inspiring words and recipes to share but no time. So, in an attempt to stay focused I have “tried” to make some intentions, one of which is to start with the new year and give myself this delicious time to “play” with my template. I have selected WordPress and having admired the clean lines of your site for some time, I wondered if you wouldn’t mind sharing what template you started with (presuming you then customized from there)?
I just made a mash up of these and your regular chocolate chip cookies. ALL GOOD THINGS! I can’t wait ’til they’re out of the oven!
Oh my word. I just made these. First of all, I had no idea flax could be subbed for eggs, so thanks for that! And second of all, these cookies aree AMAZING! I actually can’t stop eating them. Yum!
I’m gluten intolerant what flour do you recommend to replaced the flour in your recipe, you already have almond in the recipe.
I’m sorry. I can’t agree on that. This is a perfect blog (and I a perfectionnist.)