Monday, January 25, 2010


I thought for a very, very long time that I could control when things happened. I understood the concept of causation and simply imagined myself to be the only catalyst needed to start my plans in motion. I didn’t fail because it never crossed my mind as a possibility.
I cruised along under this determined and diligent narcissism until I was about 14 when I entered the Reader’s Digest writing contest. It was a humor contest, asking for amusing stories from reader’s daily lives.
Even at that age, I knew that humor was one of the most challenging endeavors for a writer. But, I was determined and that meant I must succeed. Fortunately, I did have plenty of fodder for the funny piece. I chose to write about a recent baking fiasco, when I attempted to bake “No Fail Fudge.” (I’m sure that you can already foresee the irony of the piece.)
I had the kitchen to myself and I was eager to begin my culinary career. I got the recipe for No Fail Fudge from the back of a fluff jar. Looking back, this should have been the first clue that I was not on the path to sweet success. Fluff is certainly not the foremost ingredient of sublime pastries.
The real problems began when I tried to substitute ingredients. The recipe called for evaporated milk. I had never even heard of evaporated milk. Using the power of deduction I figured that the liquid has been evaporated out of the milk making it pretty much the same thing as powered milk.
It is not at all the same thing. A truth which I came to realize minutes later when faced with a burnt pan, a kitchen full of smoke and a full blown failure.
Sadly, not only my fudge was a failure but also my attempt in narrating it humorously. I was hit with my first rejection letter.
Since then I have written several more dismal pieces of writing. My frustration came in the fact that the harder I tried to make something good and worthwhile the worse it turned out.
Success does not submit to our time table.
I often wonder when I will believe that I am a writer? Perhaps when I surrender my futile attempts to bridle success. Perhaps when I stop trying so hard and start enjoying the journey.


  1. Believe it are a writer...
    This is one of my favorite stories. I'd love to see the original submitted manuscript. Enjoying the journey is definitely a key. I think we all struggle with that. We want the validation of someone (especially someone whom knows good writing from bad.)
    J. T. says the secret in life is enjoying the passing of time. That's not the whole story but it is some good advice.
    The question for writers might be a bit esoteric but it is worth posing...does a writer need a reader?

  2. Kate, Writing humour successfully isn't for everyone. I have tried, and the best I can say is that I am entertaining. My style is my style, and that's as much a part of me as the way I look. It is pointless, I have learned, to compare that style to others' (damn, where should that apostrophe go??) because it is as individual as a fingerprint. There will always be writers who do things better than me, and I cannot be a one-size-fits-all who is also good at everything.
    It's fun to try and write in a different way, and often instructive, for sure. But to think of yourself as anything like a failure because you 'can't' do a certain genre is pointless and will only give you another reason to hold back.

    Just keep writing. You're good. I've said that before and I am not trying to prop up your ego. I found that when I stopped being so conscious of my style, writing came more naturally and easily.

    By all means examine what you mean by 'success', but in the meantime just keep writing. And about lots of varied topics. You seem to be very focussed on writing about writing, and whether you have a right to call yourself a writer! (Of COURSE you do, pffftt!!!). Break out, and try something new - I'll read you.

  3. JRD- I wish I had the original too. I think I submitted it in my handwritten scrawl never to be returned! Argh the days before computers....perhaps a good topic for discussion. Love the JT quote. Thank you:)

    Debroah- You are so right!! What would I do without your comments. Thank you.