February 25, 2011

Creative Process Interview with Marisa McClellan

 Marisa McClellan is the creator of Food In Jars, a blog filled with all kinds of ways to make, keep, eat, and use canned goods. She shares creative recipes, tips and great information about preserving, cooking, and baking. I always enjoy reading her thoughts, learning from her knowledge, and being inspired by her ideas. I am delighted that she took the time to answer my questions and share some of her thoughts on creating. 

Tell us a little bit about your work space
As a food writer, my creative work time is split fairly evenly between my kitchen and a nook in the den my husband and I share. We live in an apartment that belonged to my grandparents for its first 36 years of life, so it’s a space that is more than a little quirky and deeply familiar to me.

What goes on in there?
I spend my time in the kitchen chopping, cooking, straining and finally preserving fruits and vegetables in jars. My kitchen is all of 80 square feet, which is both a blessing and an infernal frustration. The size forces me to be organized and work a project through to completion, but I wish for a larger, more modernized space on a near-daily basis. When I’m in the den, I’m writing (or trying to). Sometimes I get distracted by my husband’s Lego collection.

What do you like about it?

My kitchen is galley-shaped. Like that configuration or not, it certainly maximizes the available space.

What would you change about it if you could?

The kitchen in our apartment has not changed significantly since the apartment was finished in 1966. Its vintage look is charming in its way, but after 45 years of use, everything is starting to fall apart. Additionally, the stove is vexing simply because of its design. It’s a model in which the oven is over the cooktop. That means when you have pots on the front two burners, it’s nearly impossible to work on the back burners without scalding yourself.

What motivates you to create?

Essentially I start to go crazy when I’m not cooking, writing or taking pictures. I do it so I don’t spend my entire life on the couch, watching myself into a reality TV-induced stupor. The fact that there’s such a practical outcome (loads of canned goods to be gifted and eaten all year) is something of a bonus.

What stalls or inhibits your creative process?

I really struggle with the shorter days of winter. I use my camera every day and when I’m leaving for work in the dark and coming home in the dark, the lack of natural light for making images of what I’ve cooked starts to eat at me.

Tell me about a project or something you have made that you really love or find really exciting.

I’m currently working on my very first cookbook and it’s been an amazing gift to have the opportunity to do it. Of course it’s not always easy going, but pushing myself to make something that’s bigger than I’ve ever done before has been a remarkable experience.

Can you talk about some things that you have learned from mistakes or failures?

One of the things I’ve learned from my failures is that I’m far more likely to fail when I’m really exhausted. Sometimes its better to let that batch of fruit get a bit over ripe than it is to force myself to the stove when I know I’m not equipped to handle it.

Do you ever have doubts about your creations or creative process? How do you keep them away?

I sometimes have doubts about the field of food writing. There are so many people who are doing it, or trying to do it, that I sometimes wonder whether it was a wise choice on my part. What makes me so special to think that I’ll be able to succeed in this area above so many others? The thing is, it’s the only work I’ve ever done in my life that felt natural and seemed to come from within me. When I remember that, I’m able to shake off the doubts (which are most often brought on by situations in which I compare myself to others) and start plugging away again.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for people who want to create more or people who are trying to earn a living from creating?
Get to know landscape before you dive in. Find a niche that works for you and do your best to comfortably occupy that space (but don’t force it). Be generous. When you start to get a little attention, do your best to shine a light on others who are doing good work in the same area. Keep learning and share what you know. 

I've been posting this series every Friday for several weeks. You can see other interview with creative women here.


  1. What a lovely article. Thanks for sharing more about Marisa and her great blog.

  2. Great article nice to learn more about our creative friends....

  3. Nice piece. I can definitely relate to the frustration over lack of daylight! It's actually snowing again!!

  4. I love it. So fun to find out more about you. Love what you do!