I baked a cake tonight. Just a plain golden cake with chocolate frosting.
As it was baking I read Rachelle Gardner’s blog about sharing surprising facts readers might not know about us. I thought that most readers probably have no idea that I was a cake decorator before I became a teacher and I loved it.
I had never thought that decorating cakes had anything to do with writing. In my mind baking is a physical job using a part of my brain that controls movement, counting, measuring and often surprising strength. Writing on the other hand, takes flight of the mind, the part of the brain reserved for words, symbolism and narrative. However, tonight as I constructed this basic golden cake for my husband I began to contemplate how baking has shaped me as a writer. I came up with the following 3 lessons:
1. You can’t ignore the customers. One of my greatest weaknesses in the bakery was staying hidden in the back kitchen and avoiding the more difficult demands of disgruntled, picky and inquiring patrons. I wanted to exist in a world all my own; just me and my craft. Often, I feel that way about writing too, but there are two things you miss out on without customers. First, you never make any money without customers and second you never get any better. As a baker and a writer you need impartial people to evaluate your work and decide whether its worth buying or not.
2. You have to make every stage excellent. The first step in cake decorating is to make the cake bases. They have to be made with the finest ingredients, mixed in exact proportions, and cooked at the right temperature for the right amount of time. I think this is an interesting parallel to writing a first draft. It takes the finest ingredients of great plot, complex characters, a dash of symbolism and powerful meaning. But those ingredients don’t make themselves...you have to get them in the correct proportions, at the right time with the right amount of intensity. Then, you have to let it cool. Then you put the filling in and the base coat of frosting. In writing I see this as the revision to a draft. Once that is done you can begin to decorate, adding your own flair, making it beautiful and marketable. You could have an absolutely delicious cake but if the decorations are not enticing it will never sell-- much like writing.
3. You have to practice. Baking is not really that difficult. It may seem daunting when you only look at the final product but in reality almost anybody can do it. The trick is trial and error. It may not come out right the first time and it definitely won’t come out right every time. However, the more you practice the better your craft becomes.
And so here I sit, enjoying a moist slice of cake and working on the layers of my writing.
My challenge for the week is to think about yourself this week, examine the unexpected aspects of your day to day life and think about how that has shaped you as a writer.