Thursday, April 28, 2011

Allie Pleiter on What the Breadmaker Taught Me

I tried banana bread in my automatic bread-maker this morning.  I found a recipe on the internet, followed the instructions to the letter...until the part where I had to tell my machine to skip the kneading and rising functions.

It won't.

My machine insists on going through those cycles no matter which buttons I press.  I'm committed, however, because the batter's in there and I still hold out hope that this could end well.  I'm an optimist by nature, and I want my house to smell like baking banana bread even if I can't eat the results.  I'm hoping I can, but I'm thinking this poor batter will be so mauled by the time it bakes that I'll have a banana brick instead of banana bread.

There's a lesson here for us writers.  Especially those of us struggling through revisions at the moment.  Our impulse is to beat the words to death, to knead them, sit on them, stir them up endlessly in the pursuit of excellence.  Yet, sometimes they just need to be mixed up a bit and slipped gently into the oven.  Every writer I know has re-written a book to death, or at least within an inch of its life.  Not always to the best results.

It's fear, I think.  Fear we don't have the talent we used to (or weren't sure we had in the first place).  We can't bring ourselves to trust the process, God's gift of words, and the strength of the story.  So, if you are an aspiring writer and you can't stop kneading your story today, or there's something you can't bring yourself to turn in to that editor, contest, or crit partner, learn from my bread-maker:  Go.  Back off, step back, and realize that it might just be done and ready to bake.

Like Arthur William Radford said, "half of art is knowing when to stop."

As for the banana bread?  Give me a few hours and I'll let you know.

7 comments:

Sherry said...

I hear ya, Allie! I've been guilty of both writing to death and beating a recipe to death. Hmmm, maybe I should write murders in my stories??
As an analogy, I watched an Irish woman, who runs a bed and breakfast in Ireland, demonstrate making scones on TV. She said you must use one hand to make light scones, if you use two hands, you'll get stones! She put the flour and other dry ingredients in a bowl, made a well, then poured in most of the cream. With one hand, fingers splayed, she gently moved her fingers around through the flour until it started to come together. She poured more cream in and continued, so very gently, and turned out the dough onto a board and formed her scones. Eureka! that's why my scones were dense, not fluffy! Same with writing. If my story is flying off my fingertips, I rarely need to even edit. If I work it too hard, it is flat. :-) Sherry

Lyn Cote said...

Very interesting, Sherry. I'll try that when I do muffins. Mine never look like the pictures.

Good luck with that bread, Allie!

Merrillee said...

I want to know how the bread turned out. As for revisions, I'm doing them right now. I'm always afraid that I won't quite do what the editor is asking, even though I've discussed it with her.

Ausjenny said...

Thanks for the insight and am waiting to see how the bread turned out.
where I cleaned yesterday there was a boy visiting who cant have glutten and he had glutten free banana bread although he said they didn't use a banana turns out it was some sort of banana extract.

Allie Pleiter said...

Believe it or not, the bread turned out great. I'll do it again, and not worry about banana assault practices. Still, it's a good lesson for someone in the midst of revisions (like I am). Never force it...nobody wins.

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad to hear it turned out!

For me, the book is never done. I have to have it peeled from my hands at the post office. LOL

Patsy said...

Oh, Allie, if the bread turned out good, I'd like to have the recipe. I have a bread machine and am trying different bread recipes to see which ones I like.

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