How to use Scrivener to keep a recipe book

A new use I found for Scrivener (see my overview) lately emerged from this rediscovered passion of mine, that is cooking. Whenever I want to redo a recipe I don’t know very well, I find myself fighting my way through piles of chaotic handwritten recipes, badly organized bookmarks and website history and emails, srolling through the few recipes books (actual ink and paper books, mind you) that I keep in various places of my flat (and no, not only my kitchen, which is already crammed with ustensils). Half the time I find myself phoning my mother to learn how she does it. She is, after all, the one who taught me the taste for nicely cooked meals and when  I cook dishes from my childhood I’m invariably disappointed that they don’t taste like I remembered.

So recently, while I was backing up my work files through dropbox (more on that later) and installing Scrivener on my wife’s new iMac to make sure the backup worked, all the while cooking my first ever muffins to bring to our neighbourg’s party, I thought: hey, wouldn’t it be easier to use Scrivener’s ability to handly multiple files in the same metafile and its keyword+label+searchbox combo to store all my recipes in one place? The corkboard and outline views could be of tremendous help when I’m not inspired and don’t know what-to-c

ook-tonight. That’s the perk of using a software like Scrivener daily: you begin to see new uses for it, ones you’d never expect at first. Try doing that with Word.

So here I am, immediately storing that muffin recipe and a couple ones I use frequently. I stopped there because we had to attend the aforementioned party but in just a couple dozen clicks, I had a pretty functional scrivener file that I intend to update as soon as I get more time or find new recipes. Here’s how it works:

Under Draft I created two subfolders: one for salted recipes, one for sweet ones

In each of these folders, I’ll create one subfile (sorry I never even tried to learn the lingo, I think they’re “scrivs”)  for each recipe where I just jot down the ingredient list and the instructions. I add pictures to see what I’m heading for and to render the recipe livelier.

Then come the keywords

At the moment I have keywords for base ingredient (flour, eggs, etc.), type of dish (entrée, main course, dessert, party dish), how it is cooked (raw, oven, pan…) and where it comes from. So I can now use Scrivener’s search functions to find me recipes out of the ingredient I have at end or the appliances I can use, or if I’m in the mood for Tex-Mex or Asian I can search for that, too.

Labels and Status

I have labels for the time it will take me to make the dish (from under 10 minutes to more than 2hrs). I made sure to tint icons with label color and I ordered my recipes from quickest to longest so depending on how much time I’ve got, I know what color(s) to look for. I also have status stamps that show if I’ve already tested the recipe, if I’m pleased with it or still experimenting. These might change if I find a better use for the stamps.

Which brings us to synopsis cards that I mainly use in Corkboard view. On these I write a quick description of the dish, I develop the “time” infos (by stating precisely how much prep time and how much cooking time) plus any remarks I need to make for my future self or anyone using this recipe book besides me.
I haven’t thought of any use for the Research folder yet but I can imagine at least one: experimenting. That could be where I’d store my own creations but that’s another story yet to be written.

Now, with dropbox, which is a fine over the cloud storage service, I can access my recipes from anywhere with a mac and scrivener. I will also export the recipes as .pdf in order to access them without Scrivener handy. Far less efficient but still useful.

In the features I still need to add, there’s linking to recipe websites, of course but this takes time and will come in its own time.

For those of you who might want to give it a shot, here’s the template (along with the 4 first recipes). Just unzip the file and run the Installer, it will add itself to your other Scrivener’s templates magically. It’s mostly bilingual but some parts are still only in french right now but I’ll try to make a full bilingual version once I’m done with all my other writing. In the meantime, you’ll have to tweak it a bit yourself. Sorry about that.

The story of how Tim Ferriss became my guru without even knowing it

What striked me most when i first stumbled upon Tim Ferriss’s book “The Four Hour Workweek” is that it was classified as an economy/entreuprenarial manual. I never felt that way about the book. Sure it gives you a few keys on how to manage a company but what it mainly is is a lifestyle guide. Like Seneca’s “On the Shortness of Life” that I’ve kept as my bedside book during my teen years and which Tim loves, “The Four Hour Workweek” is a paradigm switching experience. 


Basically the logline for the book could be: “what you always deemed as unchangeable liferules is about to change for ever”. Because that’s what this book does. It reminds you you don’t have to live the life society wants to impose on you. You have the rights and the means to choose your own lifestyle – or rather your art de vivre. To reduce Tim’s book to entrepenarial counselling is, if you ask me, pachydermic crap.


The first lesson I applied from Tim’s book is to define your short-term goals. The biggest reason why I felt bored was because I had nothing to do. Ok there was this ice hockey class I planned to take and would have liked to take right away but I had to wait till september for the new season to begin. I was not in a hurry, just curious to try a new sport so I was ready to wait. I would have liked to take it right away, I didn’t want to take it right away. In fact, I wanted nothing. So what I did one sunday afternoon while my wife wrote her query  letter for a new job, is I took a pen, a little notebook, Tim’s chapter 4 and I wrote a list of things I had in my mind. They were things I was curious to try, things I had always wanted but not allowed myself to do, places I wanted to visit (sadly “the whole world” isn’t specific enough when you’re looking at actionnable goals) and skills I wanted to learn (makes me realize I forgot to consider people I’d want to meet, Tim Ferriss would be one of these, if only to thank him personally for the Book). And suddenly the numbness of my mind lifted and I was cramming line after line of desires on the page. I named it “Things to do before I die” which made it easier to fill than “what do I want?”

Things to do before I die

Things to do before I die

Suddenly my life felt far less boring. There was so much to learn and so much to do I would never have enough time (another misconception soon to be gone). That’s when enthusiasm came back. I was not numb at all anymore. Next step was to take my notebook and decide which 5 things I wanted to be/have/do in the next 6 months. It proved far more easy than what I expected. I understood that I had time. 6-month periods are short enough that you can plan a lot of them in your life (about 100 hundred if you’re 30) and long enough that you can do a lot during that time. Can you think of 100 things you would want to accomplish in your life? Things that would require 6 months to achieve? I don’t. Most of what I want can be done in just a few days. Do you want examples?

I want to fly. I can paraglide in tandem right now if I want, I just need to spend a few hours to get to a moutain and I can use these hours to plan whatever other dream I want. If I want to fly alone, one-week classes are enough that you have the autonomy required to do it. I want to fire a gun. A few metro stops from my appartment there’s a shooting range. I can rent a gun there and fire a few rounds. Spent time: 2-3 hours. I want to visit Vancouver. I can do that in 10 days but I’d rather take at least a whole month, giving me time to meet people there (maybe William Gibson and Douglas Coupland, that would be nice), get a real feel of Vancouver’s life. This trip wouldn’t need any preparation apart from spending a few minutes on the phone with a travel agent. These three experiences could fit in just 1/6th of the 6 month timespan I have to allot. My point is: your life is long enough and things are easy enough to get that you don’t have to make choices you can have/do/be everything, you just need to decide what you want the most right now and what you can wait for. Then, you act, one small step at a time until you get where you wanted to be. Usually it will be faster than what you expected. Plus: it’s really cheap.


You also need to learn to seize opportunities. I like teaching and I wanted to be a screenwriting teacher (another goal that could wait). I thought about creating my own school but that was too much work for the energy I wanted to invest in it. I wanted to be a teacher in my old school but never asked. Then I heard of an opportunity in an entirely different place with people I love. Teaching there would allow me to travel regularly, which is something I want. It would also give me the opportunity to spend more time with people whom company I enjoy and whom I have too few chances to see, which is something else I want. So I asked. I simply sent an email to the head of the school saying I heard about the vacant place and I was interested. She said yes. Time spent: 10 minutes of email writing. Learn to recognize and take these chances. They always happen, you just have to be wary for them and to be bold enough to ask for them. Sometimes you don’t even have to work for your dreams.

For longer dreams, start today and be consistent. I want to learn how to draw. I’ve always loved sketchbooks and I’m jealous of people who know how to sketch life. I want to be able to do it but I’m too lazy to take art classes. What I’m not lazy to do is sketching something for 5 minutes everyday. I use this simple exercize: take a picture, put it upside down and reproduce it. It’s supposed to help you detach your drawing for what it’s supposed to represent. You’re not drawing a tree, you’re assembling shapes and I’ve been told it’s a more efficient way to learn drawing than just trying to draw precise stuff. So that’s what I do. I have a picture that I reproduce everyday. I don’t know where this is going but my biggest faith in life is that exercising will make you reach anything. So I just do it. And I’m happy because I get to draw everyday and I feel I’m on my way to something. It might take me a few years to get there but that’s cool with me. Instead of staying frustrated by my inability to draw, I’m acting to change it and that makes the whole difference.

Act now, reconnect with your dreams, turn them into goals and ask yourself: “which of my dreams will I fulfill today?


Buy The Four Hour Workweek

How Tim Ferriss saved me from a dull life

As I said earlier in a french post, I felt numb. Not physically numb, rather my ability to dream was on hold, my mind was circling around and my passion had faded away. I had done it. I had finally reached what I had been fighting for during 17 years. What was there left for me to do? Live the dream until I died? That would be at least 50 years of the same routine. Dream life or not, I couldn’t bear that thought.

Imagine my surprise, to realise that although I had all I ever wanted I was bored. If I combined my work time, that made for 7 days/month, about 60 hours. But I had to wait for other people to give me assignments. I never knew when I would have to work and because of that I forced myself to stay reachable at all times. I sat in front of my computer every single day, waiting for an email to drop in with my new work. What’s the use of freedom if you make nothing of it? When the email finally reached me I would work a few hours and send my work, then wait for the next step. Once, the wait lasted 1 month, 1 month during which I mainly just sat at my desk, waiting. Ok, I drafted a few personal projects but my mind wasn’t focused. I was always ready to shift my attention to the I’m-sure-it’ll-come-soon assignment. Not very efficient, is it?

Before, when I was feeling uncomfortable with my life I always told myself things would be much much better once I’d be a pro writer. That’s the only thing I wanted and that’s what I was fighting for every single day. But now that I was there I didn’t know what to do, what to turn to. Everything seemed unreachable and unintersting. If become a writer didn’t solve the boredom issue, how could anything else? Was I a spoiled child who’d never be satisfied with anything or was it the human condition to experience boredom throughout one’s life? Whatever the answer I couldn’t live with it.

Here I was, contemplating my fate of numbness, reading books I didn’t care for, surfing sites I held no interest for and listening to music that couldn’t get my mind out of that state. I needed something else. I wondered if maybe moving away, beginning a new life in some other place of the world… that could be a solution. I wouldn’t be bored if I had to learn a new language, build a new network and a new work experience. Would that be an acceptable alternative? Being a noob my whole life? I assumed it would take me 2 years to make my way in a new culture. Let’s say I could feel the novelty of the experience another year? Would that mean moving again to some other place every 3 years? Even with 5 years spans it all just appeared to me as the perspective of yet another routine. Which was exactly what I was searching for a way out of.


How to change your life paradigm


The situation looked irremediable. I was doomed to a routiny life. That’s when I found out about Tim Ferriss’s The Four hour workweek. I don’t remember how, I just remember that I read a few reviews on various blogs, mostly about economics. Most of these blogs displayed large extracts of the book and that’s what convinced me to buy it. I read it in one big gulp and immediately was convinced that what it offered was not at all a way to make easy money but a whole new paradigm, something I was myself trying to define and adopt in my life. Tim is 5 years older than me and he was 5 years ahead of me in his life design. What a chance for me: a shortcut was offered. Some other guy had tried stuff, he had gone through the suffering and the astonishment, the fear of emptiness and he had emerged even more alive on the other side. Just what I needed.

I immediately decided to listen to myself and to him at the same time. I didn’t want routine and I didn’t want boredom? Then why would I want to force myself into categories I didn’t care about? Why stay a screenwriter? Why did I only project myself in other cities doing the same job? Truth is I was afraid. My big motto in life is never to let fear stop me from doing things and I failed at applying it. I was afraid to lose what I had fought for, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get my comfort back, I was afraid of lots of stupid things. I was getting old. Not age-old but mind-old. That’s the worse.

It was time I kicked myself in the butt and forced myself into new experiences. It’s been years since I want to build a company, I have no skills in economics, I suck at budgetting and when I play boardgames I never know how to manage my resources. I can learn. I can even hire people who are comfortable with it and can teach me while doing the job for me. That’s new experiences, new learnings, a new art de vivre. Now I know how to fill the 3 weeks I have left every month. I don’t need to waste this time, I can use it to grow.


Étrange quand même. On passe 25 ans à se battre contre le monde et la société pour réaliser ce dont on a toujours rêvé: être “auteur” professionnel, dans mon cas scénariste, on réussit à en vivre plutôt bien, à se lever le matin sans avoir rien d’autre à faire qu’écrire. En cours de route on acquiert la liberté absolue, celle d’être responsable de sa vie et d’avoir le choix, tous les choix. Et puis un jour, après quelques semaines à ce rythme-là, c’est l’ennui. La journée passe, le travail est fait, mais l’enthousiasme a disparu. Oh, rien ne pourrait remplacer la situation durement conquise, mais à se projeter dans l’avenir, à entrevoir une vie à l’image de chaque jour, ne correspond aucune satisfaction. Je ne voudrais rien faire d’autre comme métier mais c’est justement là que le bât blesse: écrire n’est qu’un métier et ne peut pas remplir une vie. Je ne pourrais vivre sans écrire, j’ai déjà essayé et je déprime. Mais je découvre qu’il m’est impossible de vivre (i.e. être vivant) d’écriture.

La routine appelle l’ennui, même si elle naît du rêve

Le sentiment d’avoir atteint un palier dans l’apprentissage du métier, que je ne pourrai dépasser que par une expérience nécessairement longue et laborieuse. La théorie est digérée, maintenant je suis un scénariste compétent et impatient. Mais surtout un scénariste qui s’ennuie. Je pourrais faire plein de choses, écrire plein de nouveaux concepts mais aucun ne me tente vraiment. Il me manque cet enthousiasme propre à soulever des montagnes. Tout ça n’est plus qu’un job comme un autre, répétitif et routinier. C’est triste et je n’ai pas envie que ça dure. Je veux m’arracher à cette fatalité, changer de métier me semble une bonne idée mais comment renoncer au confort d’un rêve réalisé? Maintenant, tout me semble morne et petit au regard du combat que j’ai mené. Quel sera le prochain défi? Vendre un script à Hollywood m’apparaît comme un accomplissement supplémentaire mais m’ennuie déjà. L’esprit comptable s’empare de moi à mesure que s’égrènent les étapes: devenir bilingue à l’écrit en anglais, analyser le marché, écrire le script et le vendre. Tout ça est facile à atteindre en un an d’efforts concentrés. Disons 5 en s’y mettant en dilettante. Pas de quoi soulever les foules. Je le ferai. Pas tout de suite. Je veux d’abord retrouver la passion.


Vaincre l'ennui en cherchant de nouveaux défis

Vaincre l'ennui en cherchant de nouveaux défis

Alors quoi? Comment remplir le temps libre? Comment (res)susciter l’enthousiasme? Quoi apprendre maintenant que j’ai réalisé mon rêve? Je suis tombé, il y a peu, sur le livre de Tim Ferriss, je ne sais même plus comment, La Semaine de Quatre Heures et c’est une chance. Je l’ai dévoré et il m’a aidé à accélérer le processus de réflexion dans lequel je m’étais engagé. Réfléchir en chronorêves sur 6 ou 12 mois, voyager, vivre à l’étranger quelques mois par an grâce au télétravail et provoquer de nouvelles expériences, voilà qui me convient. J’ai gagné un nouveau point de vue sur mon problème. Plutôt que de chercher un nouveau métier, c’est définir mes envies qui importe et que j’oubliais de faire. Plutôt que de tout jeter, le bébé, la bassine et l’eau du bain, construire sur l’existant apparaît comme une meilleure option. L’idée est d’arrêter de perdre mon temps à des activités non constructives.

Se pousser vers de nouveaux apprentissages

Aujourd’hui, mon apprentissage passerait peut-être par la BD, un nouveau média aux codes narratifs différents de ceux de l’audiovisuel. Mon premier objectif pour les 6 prochains mois, c’est d’en finir une. Mais la réussite ne dépend qu’à moitié de moi puisque je ne sais pas dessiner. Apprendre à dessiner aussi fait partie de mes objectifs, mais pas pour faire de la BD cette fois. En tant que dessinateur, ce que je voudrais, c’est faire du sketch book. Croquer le mouvement, le réel. Savoir reproduire en quelques traits brouillons et pleins de vie, un visage rencontré dans le métro, une scène de rue entrevue au cours d’une balade. Reproduire la vie dans tout ce qu’elle a de fugace et de changeant. Pouvoir faire vite. Passer plusieurs heures courbé sur une page ne m’intéresse que si c’est pour utiliser le langage. A la rentrée, je me mets au hockey (les cours ne commencent pas avant) et cet été, j’essaye de voler en parapente. Faire exploser la bulle du confort, s’ouvrir à de nouveaux horizons et ne pas se contenter de ce qui est facile et évident. Rester curieux comme un remède à l’ennui? Ca me plaît!

La conclusion que je tire de tout ça? N’importe quelle activité, si elle est trop pratiquée, nous plonge dans l’ennui alors souvenons-nous de faire de nos vies un apprentissage sans fin, une découverte quotidienne du monde et un constant dépassement de nous-mêmes. C’est ce qui nous permettra de ne pas devenir des morts-vivants.