September 30, 2009

Subject: Cooking and Writing

When you're cooking a meal, do you clean up as you go or leave all the dishes for later?
When you write a novel, do you edit what came before or plow ahead?
I thought about the similarities between cooking and writing last night. I was making dinner, feeling smug that I had time to wash the bowls and knives from my vegetable dish before cooking my main course. It's nice not to have to scrabble through a pile of cutting boards and measuring cups to find the good knife, and it makes dinner more enjoyable knowing I won't have to spend hours cleaning up later.
It occurred to me, as I washed the bowls, that cleaning up as I go sums up the revision work I did earlier in the day. I was stuck, having taken a few days to finish up my Hamline homework packet, followed by a weekend off. I wanted to move ahead--I believe in the notion that forward progress is imperative--and yet I couldn't. Not until I fixed what was really bothering me in the previous two scenes. I started with some nitpicking. I embellished a few lines. Then I discovered the problem. It was a matter of attitude. My character was acting way too whiny and paranoid. I had to fix it before I could move on.
Of course, to carry the analogy along, I will have to clean up more when I finish the entire revision. Just like I still have to face dishes at the end of dinner. Hopefully, making little adjustments along the way will help avoid a huge mess later.
What about you? What works best when you're writing?

1 comment:

  1. A combination. A great one to read right after a holiday weekend. If I clean up too much, not enough cooking/writing is happening. But like the chaos of preparing Thanksgiving dinner with six relatives in the kitchen, some order is needed. Write, revise, clean up, recursive it goes. Claire