There are a million ways to procrastinate. Occasionally the way you procrastinate is somewhat useful, let’s say when you create food instead of writing about what your characters eat. In some ways, cooking/baking is a lot like writing.
First of all, both can be stressful. Both take time. Both benefit from recipes when we’re starting out, but eventually we want to tweak things just a little here and another bit there. Both are able to deliver that sense of success, wonder and joy at the end.
Or, you know, it can all burn down to a pile of crispy ashes.
I’ve never been that into cooking, to be honest. I’m not a complete disaster (meaning I’ve never turned a pizza to cinder or put a few extra cups of salt into a cake) but I’m far from a natural cook. Creativity, on my part, doesn’t reach this area of life, and I need detailed instructions. Baking intrigues me though, so every now and then I give in to the temptation of trying something new.
The part where I think baking and writing meet the most is The Middle. That’s the part where you’ve done most of the hard lifting (with writing it’s finishing the draft, with baking it’s getting the dough done) and you step back to look at what you’ve done.
Oh, the despair! The dough’s too sticky or too tough or too watery or… I can’t remember when I’ve baked something that looked good all the way through. There is always that one point where I freak out and are almost ready to throw the whole thing out because if it doesn’t look perfect in this state, why would it be perfect in the end?
That’s also the part where my boyfriend usually steps in to say it might still taste good. Know what? It usually does. Usually the end result is delicious, even though I nearly scrapped everything.
Now, when I look at a draft, despair is a familiar emotion. Characters are acting out, the middle makes no sense, the plot has so many holes it reminds me of cheese…
You might see where I’m going with this.
The draft looks weird and feels weird because it’s not ready. The work isn’t finished. The same with baking. No, it won’t look like a beautiful, perfect cake when it hasn’t even been to the oven yet. Neither will the draft look like a beautiful, perfect book when it hasn’t been properly edited yet.
Of course the amount of work and participation isn’t quite the same with baking and writing. With baking, the oven usually cleans everything up for me and I end up with some delicious blueberry pie. With writing, I need to be the oven. I have to give the product the final shape, look and feel, and I have to make sure it’s properly cooked instead of raw when I present it to the audience.
What do we learn from this? Patience and practice. Even if the draft (or the dough) looks like you’ve failed miserably, don’t give up. It takes work but in the end it’ll be worth it. Every story you finish and edit gives you more experience to better handle the next one, so never give up! You’re improving all the time.
Do you panic when you write? Do you feel you’ll never turn your draft into a proper novel? How do you battle these feelings and keep working?