What Baking Taught Me about Writing

BlogHer Original Post

There are two activities I love to do: write and bake. I usually accomplish both late at night and with great joy. You may think these two activities have absolutely nothing to do with each other but surprisingly, they do! Here are seven writing tips that baking taught me.

cake

Image: Gothick_Matt via Flickr

Follow the Recipe, but Don’t

I never ever follow the recipe completely. Sure I read it, understand the basics, but afterward, I make it my own. I encourage this also with writing.

Rules were made to be broken! At least as far as writing and baking goes. Please don’t break the law!

You need not restrict yourself to the parameters of what some long-dead writer commands you to do or what works for someone else. Some of the greatest writers in history broke the rules of convention. Your writing represents you. Make it your own!

You Can Substitute Ingredients, but You Need Something to Work With

In baking, you can substitute butter for margarine, baking powder for cream of tartar, water for milk, and so on. But the bottom line is you have to have something to work with. Zero multiplied by any number is still zero.

You can substitute characters, locations, themes, and more in your work, but if you don’t have a plot or idea to work with, you’ve got nothing. Walk away and come back when you’ve found your inspiration.

Sometimes You Just Have to Put it Back in the Oven

All those perfect formulas of how long it should take to bake this item or that lie! I almost ALWAYS find myself leaving the confection in the oven longer than the recipe stated. Writing is much the same.

Your “oven” may be different than mine, and our ovens likely different than that of the individual who wrote the recipe. Don’t restrict yourself to someone else’s timeline of accomplishment. If you insist on airing your work before it’s ready, it will likely fall flat. And nobody likes flat.

Let It Cool Before Serving

I was raised in a household of cake fiends. We attack eat it while it’s still piping hot because that’s just how much we love cake! But this united attack has kept us from icing many a cake.

My cakes may have been fine without icing, but our writing won’t be. Don’t offend your readers by offering half-baked, undressed work. They deserve better, and so does your reputation as a writer.

Learn How You Bake Best

I cannot abide people in the kitchen while I bake. My creative process demands alone-time. I hate the thought of someone peeking over my shoulder, telling me what I should add, or accusing me of doing something wrong. It’s my work; not theirs.

Writers too need to find what environment they work best in. Some like the hustle-and-bustle of your local Starbucks. Others like seclusion and possibly even silence. Find what works best for you now so your writing won’t suffer later.

There’s No Point If Someone Doesn’t Enjoy It

It irks me to no end when I bake something and no one takes notice of it; when they don’t bother to comment on what I’ve laboured over or worse, express their dislike for it. I want them to enjoy the fruit of my labour—literally!

Similarly, we all want someone—if only ourselves—to enjoy what we’ve written be it blog, article, manifesto, or book. If nobody enjoys it, then it may indicate a few problems:

  • We’re writing the wrong thing
  • We’re writing poorly
  • We’re writing to the wrong audience

Identify your problem so your writing is a joy to others.

Learn to Please Your Audience

If your audience does not enjoy your baking, then find out how you can please them. Do they possess a more Fall-like palate desiring coffee cake, pumpkin bread, and sweet potato pie, or do they lean to more fruity dishes such as peach cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, and key lime cheesecake? Cater to your audience.

In order to please your literary audience, you must learn their wants, desires, and needs and write to that instead of composing whatever crosses your brain. Selfish writers never changed anyone’s life.

Baking and writing are truly more alike than any of us ever knew! Yet with the right experimentation, you can find what works best for your craft as well as for your readers. Happy creating!

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