Carving Up a Comparison

As Thanksgiving looms over
us like the giant Snoopy in the Macy’s Day Parade, I thought some of us might
enjoy a little writing comparison. The irony, of course, is that those people
who actually cook Thanksgiving dinner are likely up to their elbows in brine
right now. For those, like me, designated to merely provide the wine
(coincidence, or sign of trouble?), reading this might just keep you out of the
kitchen and the way of the cook long enough to avoid being asked to do the

How Writing is Like
Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

1. It’s extremely time
When it comes out just
right, you’ll smile and say to yourself, your family, your agent/publisher, and
any random person who’ll listen, “It was all worth it.” When, despite your very
best efforts, it flops, your family will want to hide the carving knife (and
all other sharp objects) and your neighbors will see (and hear) a whole new side of
you. My mom’s pie on the lamppost seems mild compared to the rejection letter
bonfire I contemplated setting in the middle of my living room last year. 

2. Practice makes
Managing to time it
so that all the pieces come together at just the right moment, having the right
numbers of sides without overwhelming the guests with too many dishes, and
finding those special details that make it uniquely your own are all things
that come with practice. The first time is bound to be rough. You will burn
some parts, undercook others, and risk poisoning relatives, who will forever
after be leery of your offerings. Accept that, stock up on Pepto, and move on.
The next time will be smoother. 

3. You’ll want to follow a
recipe at first.
You’ll look to
other cooks who’ve gone before you. You’ll try to duplicate Mom’s stuffing or
J. K. Rowling’s success. You won’t, because you can’t. You’re not your mother
(some days this is comforting, but not when it comes to cooking). You’re
definitely not Jo Rowling. Stop trying to be. It’s good to read an abundance of recipes. At
first, following them might be comfortable and a great way to learn. Eventually,
though, you need to find your own perfect path to succulent stuffing and
writing success. Sadly for my waistline and pockets, I’m told one involves lots
of butter and the other rarely ends in lots of bread. 

4. All your guests will
approach the final product differently;
no one way will be satisfying. You’ll grind your teeth at the uncle
who devours the whole thing in under thirty seconds, giving no feedback
whatsoever except to belch and ask, “When’s dessert?” You’ll wish you were able
to zone out the friend who, prior to chewing, wants to comment on every
mouthful. (This would be in poor taste, when you were the one who invited her to
begin with.) And you’ll impatiently pound your fingers on the wine goblet that
you’ve refilled numerous times waiting for your nano-nibbling great aunt to
finally finish.

5. When it’s all said
and done, no matter how dry it was, most of your friends and family will tell
you they loved it.
They’ll rave
about how wonderful and talented you are, at least while you’re in earshot.
You’ll be well aware that it’s the love and booze-filled nog talking, but
you should bask in it anyways. There are agents, editors, reviewers, and just plain
haters aplenty to tell you the truth. Be thankful for the people in your life
who love you enough to lie and to return to the table year after year. 

Thanks to my ELA
department head for coming up with this prompt and for letting me steal it for
my long-overdue blog!

Happy cooking, writing,
and gorging this week! And remember: don’t dismiss grandma’s elastic waist pants until you’ve tried them, and always kiss the cook!


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