Saturday, July 16, 2016

Crafting the Cake (Or, How Baking and Writing Should Be Compared)

Recently, I've come to term with a few facets of myself.

To begin with, I've finally realized that I need to bake. Just like I need to write. Perhaps not with the same soul-pinned need to string words together in the right sentences, phrases, paragraphs, sweeping tiers of meaning and warmth and the sense that what I am becomes that much better when it is put down on the blank page.

But at least with cake, I can eat my feelings and I don't have to look them in the eye while weaving them into dialogue and description. Also, it tastes better.

Anyway, I've also realized that the whole thing about baking and writing - "writing is like baking, you need the right ingredients and you have to be ready to wait, the raw material doesn't taste as good as the end result" and so on and so forth - is not...actually legitimate. At least, in regards to me. Probably because I just tugged a chocolate cake out of the oven and I can actually see the end results as pretty and don't actually find the in-process results of baking too bad even if they are rather messy and require a lot of scrubbing afterward.

Yes, writing requires the right ingredients. But the right ingredients vary. You can't always check your way down a list and go, "Oh, I've got my love thread right where I want it, so I'm heading to Aisle 12 to toss in a few thematic elements and maybe a little comic relief."

Yes, writing requires waiting. But at least with a cake, I know that within a good thirty minutes, I'll be heading in there with my gloves on and a toothpick ready to test that ooey-gooey middle - and, unlike an unfinished draft being carefully avoided in the writing program of choice for the week, that middle will settle itself in with a little heat and careful footsteps.

Yes, the raw material is no way reflective of the results. But at least you know what is coming out and you don't necessarily have to toss the entire middle of the cake and pour a new batter around the scorched edges in order to make progress. Well, not always. Okay, maybe that one still works.

I think you get the general idea. And I hope this doesn't sound like me whinging and whining about how hard writing is. Yes. It's hard. Yes. I do it anyway. Yes. I love it and this is my community and I wouldn't trade it for anything because this is such a gift and such a remarkable place to be and know that I am part of it and I contribute to it.

But. For all that baking has made me realize about the frustrations of writing - the unavoidable hiccups and fallen middles and sickening realization that somewhere along the line, you turned the heat too high and didn't stir enough and have to start a new batch (and yes, this totally does work as a comparison for writing) - I did have one important thought pop in my head when I was first sliding in that chocolate cake cooling on my counter:

Baking and writing both do require faith and patience...for you.

In you.

If I can hold a hand mixer in my aching hand and stir a thick batter for two long minutes and be confident that I'm doing the right steps, I should be confident when I'm writing down notes on a love list or starting a new synopsis or feeling that sickening ride-took-a-quick-turn lurch of new inspiration and rushing to take notes on it.

If I can grease a pan and set an oven and feel that I've given my cake the environment it needs to grow and reach its full, delectable, soft and fluffy potential in, I should feel just as secure in my mind's ability to add a creative flair to my own thoughts and imaginings.

Of course, thanks to the mind's impeccable ability to focus on all the wrong steps you take and the pancake-flat ambition of your ideas (or maybe that is just my mind, always snapping at my heels and making me question everything), it is not that easy.

Of course, even if I followed all the instructions in a recipe I'm using for the first time, there's still that nervous feeling of, "This can either be really good or a big waste of my time and flour."

And I don't really have answers for that, still. I would probably write faster if I did and spend less time deleting and tearing up and just...questioning everything. Which I don't do while I'm baking. Which probably says a lot.

Anyway. I think the moral today is create with confidence, create with self-assurance. Create with the thought that you are giving your work the environment and exposure it needs to grow and rise and reach its full, engaging, exciting, personally stirring potential.

And maybe put a cake in the oven so that when the self-doubt strikes, at least your mouth will also be full.


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