Writing is messy, messy work. And the mess is half the fun.
It's a lot like cooking that way. Think of it as this alchemical process of mixing ingredients (one-half cup of a dream, a fourth of cup of memories beginning to fade, a pinch of cheekiness, a tablespoon of sweat, and a rounded cup of time); spices (one saucy phrase, a heaping teaspoon of innuendo, a sprinkle of read-between-the-lines); equipment (saucepans and spatulas, fingers and keyboards); and of course, timing. You cannot make a respectable beef bourguignon in less than four hours, nor skip on the loving task of first searing your beef cubes and sautéing your mushrooms, carrots, celery, and onions before adding them to the stew.
So too with writing. Sure you can put words on paper. Many of them all at once. But they do not come together to form a cohesive whole--that story come to life on the page--unless you have tenderly cared for them in batches and slowly added them to your alphabet soup.
The spices are a different matter altogether--too much of one and you've lost your dish to the ever aggressive nutmeg or your prose to the temptation of alliteration. Not enough spice and you have a meal as thin and unappetizing as gruel or underdeveloped backstories.
This is nothing to say of the most potent and mercurial of ingredients: your energy. The love and time and essence you pour into what you create. There is no accounting for the tasteless feast you slaved over all day, following the recipe exactly, or the accidental perfection that comes from a few minutes of hastily throwing pantry odds and ends into a bowl. Similarly, you can spend forever on a piece of work and it still feels as dry as burnt toast. Or you can simply trust the hours you have lingered in the kitchen or at your writing desk and let the words come to you of their own accord, ready to make their mark on the page and produce nothing short of a miracle.
And like any dish, the final product (if such a thing exists) is built in layers, over time, and refined by practice (that word to encompass each and every kitchen disaster from the undercooked flan to the overcooked dhal). Each limp string bean, a product of over-boiling, and each burnt salmon are lessons in balance as is each typo, each half-formed paragraph or each experimental tone that made it no farther than the compost. Yet if we never risk a deflated soufflé or flaccid prose, we lose out on the potential for a perfectly risen confection of air, chocolate, and whimsy. The enthusiastic over-use of cumin and the semi-colon (or parenthetical asides) eventually lead to a healthy respect for using both in moderation.
All of this is by way of saying that writing is in the rewriting, just as knowing your way around the kitchen is cooking and recooking specific dishes and attempting new ones. Once you have a recipe down, you must go back and refine it as you learn more about your ingredients and are yourself seasoned by life experience. That is why this year, you'll find me marinating on the messiness--the beautiful, delightful, challenging messiness--of writing and rewriting my thoughts on the magic of everyday life.
Enchantment Learning & Living is an inspirational collection of musings touching on life’s simple pleasures, everyday enchantments, and delectable recipes that will guarantee to stir the kitchen witch in you. If you enjoyed what you just read and believe that true magic is in the everyday, subscribe here.