Cooking Up a Story?



  by Sheila R. Pierson      

I’ve been watching one of those cooking shows where the ‘cooks’ aren’t exactly professionals. In fact, they are horribly bad at cooking and yet they keep trying. Watching these folks suffer through a simple sauté, struggling through slicing their veggies julienne style and even dropping food on the floor just as they are plating their substandard dishes made me think of…myself. You may be asking yourself, “What the hell is she talking about? Isn’t she a writer?”

The way I see it, writers and cooks are very much alike really. Cooks have ingredients, each of them important to the dish. They are so important, in fact, that by using the wrong one or by leaving one out the entire dish can be ruined. Test it for yourself. Make a homemade chocolate pie, adding each ingredient except the sugar. It smells good, looks good, but taste it…terrible! Writers have their own ingredients and they vary as much as those available to a cook. Instead of salt, flour and sugar, we have nouns, verbs and adjectives. Use one of these the wrong way and wait for Sponge Bob to say “You’re amateur is showing.”

But to answer the question of my being a writer – yes, I’m a writer. I’m not a great writer but I keep trying, putting one word down on paper and then another until something mysteriously wonderful happens…a story begins to take shape. There’s nothing easy about it. It takes a lot of work, at least for me. Sometimes I struggle with the most basic of themes, suffer through edits that seem to take me right back to square one and just as I think I have it all together, I find participles dangling precariously throughout my little masterpiece. Ugh!

Cooks have pots, pans, skillets and spatulas while writers have pens, laptops, dictionaries and spellcheckers. Cooks struggle with finessing the flavors out of their concoctions, while writers struggle with finessing the story out of their characters.

Why do cooks, even bad ones, keep cooking? The same reason writers, even not so great ones, keep writing. They love it. They love working with their respective ingredients, manipulating them, enjoying the process until something pleasing is produced from their efforts. So what does the cook do if his dish ends up a splattered mess on the floor? He gets his trusty mop out, cleans it up and starts over. At least writers have a delete button.

“Writing only leads to more writing.” – Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

(Image provided by Microsoft ClipArt)


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