Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Cake-Novel Connection

I love to cook and bake.  If I find myself with a few free hours with no other pressing concerns (ha) I'm heading one of two places: the bathtub with a good book, or the kitchen to whip up a batch of cookies, muffins or cakes.

Now, the product of this effort is always short-lived.  Cookies, unlike Kiefer Sutherland, generally don't survive 24 hours. Dinner's even worse -- my lovely mushroom risotto is gone in less time than it takes on the stovetop.

But (unlike my perspective on the dishes) cooking and baking never feels like a waste of time to me.  Every time I make something, it becomes easier and more fool-proof.  I can make pizza dough, pancakes and minestrone soup without consulting a recipe.  I always need a recipe for muffins, but I'm sufficiently practiced that I can get ingredients together, mix it all and get the batter into muffin tins before the oven is done pre-heating.  It's all easier and faster now than it used to be.

Since I have a writing blog, not a baking blog, you're waiting for me to get to the point, right? (Or waiting for me to pass the brownies... something like that)

For me, it's easier to feel this way about cooking and baking than writing, sometimes. When I pour my time and energy into a project, I want a happy outcome  (Incidentally, this is also why I'm terrified to touch the sewing machine).  Writing isn't like that, though.  Sometimes I tackle a project with a great idea, and then find out I don't quite have the technique (yet) to have it all play out the way I expect.  Sometimes I finish something and it's just not ready, or technically fine but really, nothing special.

All of the above makes me want to throw my laptop through the window, but unfortunately MacBooks are not very hardy, so I have to resist the temptation. And, of course, remember that the writing is never wasted. Every time we put our pen to paper or our fingers to the keyboard, we learn a little more about the art... even if it doesn't feel that way in the moment.

And if that doesn't cheer you up? Well, there's always chocolate.
What makes you feel down about writing, and what picks you back up? And... what's your favorite baked good? 


Jen said...

I saw the chocolate chip cookies and I had to stop and read this blog before any others... chocolate chip cookies (homemade) are the best... warm and gooey fresh out of the oven... oh my yumminess!!!

Okay but since we are talking about writing I would say that often too much TV time or not a lot of hubby time blocks me from my writing, but I find that some good tunes, and talking with my hubby for inspiration brings it all back!

Summer said...

My favorite baked goods are probably either brownies or the oatmeal cookies a friend of my family from NC used to make whenever we came over...Something about the altitude made them perfect. Still can't get mine as good as hers!

It's easy for me to feel down about my writing, but usually when I try to hold myself to too strict a guideline will it all start to fall apart. I got in 30k on FOUR by holding myself to 2k a day/10k week for 3 weeks, and then it fizzled, after a few days of revolt. NaNoWriMo is the only time I can force myself into writing like that, and it's mostly the status bar and competition aspect, plus the awesome support system through the forums and Facebook group.

I usually get picked back up whenever I see something that makes me feel inspired, whether a beautiful bird at my feeder or a gut-wrenching episode of one of my favorite TV programs.

Like you said, writing is a hard hobby...and I also never feel like time is wasted when I cook, even though we inhale the stuff faster than it takes me to crack two eggs...It's hard to remember that every word you write is good practice, because sometimes it seems that BS is BS is BS.

Guinevere said...

Jen, I'm glad the cookies enticed you in. ;) The TV is a big distraction for me too... I'm so tired after work that it's easy to let it lull me into complacency when I should focus on the novel!

Ooh, Summer, oatmeal cookies... I haven't had those in ages. I sense a weekend baking project. It's easy for me to feel down about my writing too -- sometimes it just gets so frustrating. It helps me to set very small goals, so I don't constantly feel like I'm failing my word count!

Shelley Sly said...

Great post today! I love baked goods, especially brownies.

I can relate with your writing experience. I always put a ton of time and energy into my manuscripts, and when I find out that they're not good, or even just all right, I feel like I got cheated somehow. I mean, doesn't hard work = goal achieved? It didn't make sense to me.

But writing is something that gets better with time and age. The thing that picks me back up is knowing that I can -- and do -- edit my work to make it even better. And then I can edit some more. I can't fail at writing because I'm always open to improving.

Oh, and I'm terrified to touch the sewing machine too! Just bought one with the intention of making my first quilt, and I'm so intimidated!

Donna Hole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna Hole said...

Oops; who knew the damage your fingers could cause when they miss home row. I'll try again.

I've been down on my writing for so long I don't remember what put me there. Maybe it was the endless revisions that didn't seem to be making the story any more marketable. Maybe it was the endless reminders on Agent blogs that a new author is more likely to get hit by lightening - twice - or win the lotto than to attract an agent, let alone get a publishing contract.

But I've had an awesomely helpful critique by a beta reader that has breathed the hope of new life into the project. Thank you. And a couple short stories that are passing for acceptable.

My favorite baked dish is apple pie. Or is it sugar cookies? Why don't you come over here and putter around my kitchen some and we'll figure it out together? My kitchen misses a cook.


Stephanie Thornton said...

Those cookies are making me hungry! I love to bake. As in four times a week or so. I did a flourless chocolate torte the other day and am still munching on it.

And I hate sewing too. There's a great line from the English patient. "A woman should never learn to sew and if she can she should never admit to it."

Ellen B said...

Nice post, Genevieve, but you've made me hungry and I've eaten all the home baked food in my house!

Guinevere said...

Shelley, I'm glad I'm not alone. Great attitude about the editing! I think one of the things I need to work on is my editing - I never really had to edit in school, and it's hard for me to get used to needing extensive edits on my fiction.

Donna, glad to hear I helped in some small way! We're all in this crazy writing business together... So, do you prefer dutch apple pie with the crumb topping, or traditional apple pie?

Stephanie, love that line!

Sorry, Ellen! ;) Those pics do look ridiculously tasty...

Ellie said...

I love to bake, craft and recently dabble at writing.
Baking I can do, blindfolded almost, I can whip up stuff with out a recipe and create my own masterpiece.
Where I want to do well, I am struggling. I started reading the book, "The Artist Way" by Julia
Cameron. I am writing the morning pages and making art dates and feel a shift. A small tilt, but nether the less a tiny slant in a new direction. I need to be alone to be creative and lately there have been a lot of detours.
We have had crazy weather, lots of school cancellations, and then add sickness.

It is hard to pick one fav, but okay, brownies, I make them with a touch of diluted strong coffee and they have this Starbucks quality to them. They are rich, thick and fudgey and everyone oohs and ahhs, when I make them. Funny thing it is on the Baker's Unsweetened Chocolate box. Tear the box apart and inside,there is this amazing recipe. The coffee was my idea, but it really does elevate the richness.