Thursday, December 3, 2009

Why baking cookies is like writing my book

I made cookies yesterday with Destructo. The directions said, "Grease two baking sheets." So when the recipe was all measured and mixed and ready, I tried to divide the dough into a reasonable number of cookies to fit onto two cookie sheets. Then I looked at the recipe. "Makes six dozen cookies," it said.

Hmm, I thought. Six dozen cookies are unlikely to fit on the two cookie sheets they told me to grease. Probably, I should make these much smaller. But then they won't fit on two cookie sheets. Well, I could get more cookie sheets. I could do several batches. I could freeze the leftover dough for another day. I could do a lot of reasonable things, all of which require energy and also the acceptance of moving in what feels like a backwards direction.

Or, I could leave the cookies as they are and bake them. Which is what I did. And, of course, the cookies all ran into one another and the edges got much more done and the cookies are hexagonal where I had to use a spatula to separate them. They are fine. They taste fine. But they're probably not as great as they could have been if I weren't so lazy.

So then I went to critique group. I brought my new book, the one I'm so in love with. They liked it. A lot. But they raised a concern, a big one. The same concern Tink had when she read it. To address it, I'll need to go back do a lot of rewriting and trashing of what I've already written. Which requires a lot of energy and also the acceptance of moving in what feels like a backwards direction.

Probably, it'll be fine the way it is. But unlike cookies, I'm not willing to settle for "fine." So I must overcome this "get things accomplished" instinct, this desire to fast draft, to cross things off my to do list, to feel "productive." The truth is that writing isn't a linear activity. It's a swirling and stopping, fits and starts, jags of genius/weeks of drivel rollercoaster that does not always even move forwards. Type type type...delete delete delete.

So today, I am back to the beginning.

Ah, well. At least I have cookies.


Anonymous said...

Cookies make revising MUCH more fun. :)

You'll get it. Hope it's a blockbuster!

(now pass me some of those sweets!)


Mary Witzl said...

You know what? Almost every time I bake cookies, I end up with the same results. I'm always so keen to save energy (and money) and not keep the oven on for a long time that I crowd my cookies and end up with a mess. They still taste fine, but they're not as pretty as the kind baked by people who aren't scheming to economize all the time.

Now I'm wondering if there isn't a connection to the way I write as well: I'm too hasty and always trying to do too much at one time.

Anonymous said...

Baking parchment was invented for those of us too lazy to wash baking sheets. Cookies were invented for those of us who would rather snack than revise.

Diane T said...

I can only offer the encouraging words of one C. Monster:

Work hard. Play fair. Eat cookie.

They were very tasty cookies, btw.

cath c said...


this is exactly where i am with my new one, too.

and i never follow a cookie recipe exactly. i like to see what happens if i ... throw more of this in, less of that, oh how about some nuts, i bet this would be even better with nutmeg....but i sure make a lot of cookies.

and they always get eaten.

Jacqui said...

wordwrangler, thanks. I hope so too!

Mary, exactly. I have a hard time with haste and the need to be "done."

Debbie, I was out of parchment paper. And the cookie sheets are still in the sink. Sigh.

Diane, thanks. And thanks for the thoughtful crit. As always.

cath c, the way I see it, put enough brown sugar in and it'll get eaten. Wish writing was that easy!

Sharon Blankenship said...

And a darned good protagonist and plot. That's not exactly starting at scratch.