Monday, September 27, 2010

Why Writing is Like a Piece of Cake - Literally

This past week I didn't write at all. There was a pretty good reason for it though. I was busy making a cake for a baby shower that I co-hosted with my BFF.

Yes, it took nearly all week to make the cake. I started Tuesday night and just minutes before the shower on Friday evening I completed the final assembly.

As far as cake decorating is concerned I took one class with my mom as a teenager. But I've never taken any classes in fondant - I'm entirely self-taught.

So you probably think the cake is pretty amazing, right?

Well, the guests did too.

But you know what?

All I saw were the imperfections. Everything I could have done differently. The things I could have changed to improve it.

As I pondered this, it made me think of the writing process. Why can't we writers just be proud of our hard work and effort? Why must we always look at the errors?

We're so focused on fixing what is wrong that we loose sight of what's right.

Maybe, just maybe, if we focused on the positive - the things that make our writing fantastic - we might not be so derailed by the negative and we'd be encouraged to keep pressing forward.

Perhaps we think we're being narcissistic if we admit our writing is good.

It's silly though because it really is ok to admit we've excelled at something. I even think it's healthy.

One of my writing strengths is dialog. The exchanges come off as natural - completely unforced. While I occasionally might have a few extra tags or beats, that's ok because the bones are there. And those tags can easily be removed.

Even though I might not be perfect at dialog, the strength I have in it reminds me of my talent when the rest of the manuscript sucks.

Just like my cake wasn't perfect, it's ok to admit that it was an amazing effort (especially since it was only my second attempt with fondant). You know what else? The cake tasted wonderful too. All moist and yummy with chocolate creme filling. Knowing that my cake not only looked beautiful but tasted delicious too, gives me the courage to try again. Maybe next time it will be even better. Because I've learned from my weaknesses as well as my strengths.

In the end, whether it's a slice of cake or a wedge of words, we should always search for the sweet part because that's what will move us forward. Not the bad stuff.

What are your writing strengths? I know you've got them! And it's ok to admit them. I won't think you're vain. In fact, I'll even applaud each and every admission!

22 comments:

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Wow, that's an amazing looking cake!

My mom sews quilts. They're gorgeous, but few people get to see them because she's too focused on the flaws that no one else notices. It's a shame, considering how much work and money go into making them.

Thank goodness I don't have the same mentality. My writing's not perfect, but I work on my weaknesses and try to get better. But most importantly, I'm not afraid to show others my work (CP, beta readers, agents).

Christine Fonseca said...

I love this post! And I needed the reminder. It is SO EASY to see the flaws, isn't it?!?

Talei said...

That cake is outstanding!! Wow.

Its funny how hard it is to accept compliments sometimes. I know reading over my WIP, I find all these really cringe worthy errors and wonder how on earth I thought that chapter was finished. Strengths? *cough cough* I guess being able to recognise that edits are needed, not get upset over any constructive critiquing and go back over it again and again until I can say - Yup, now its looking good.

Piedmont Writer said...

I am so hungry right now!

My writing strength is dialogue as well but I think with enough revision (and the sharp eye of a beta reader) the rest of my ms. eventually becomes good enough for me.

Like your cake. You worked really hard on it right up until the last minute fixing the things you needed to. And it was good enough for the guests. Eventually my ms. will be good enough for the agents.

Erinn said...

"Perhaps we think we're being narcissistic if we admit our writing is good."

SO TRUE. All I see is mistakes in my writing and I tend to believe that everyone else is smarter than I am so I take their advice.

After a failed query attempt a few years ago, I want my novel to be as perfect as it can be.

Hence why it's taken me three years to write it and at least 13 different major rewrites.

I loved everything about this post-- and I love cake.

hmmmmm cake.

Jaydee Morgan said...

Wow, awesome job on the cake - and an excellent blog post. Like you, my strength is dialogue. It's even hard to type that, but you're right, we need to appreciate the good and not just focus on our weaknesses.

Tamika: said...

The cake looks amazing! If my writing looked as yummy I would be on to something:)

I think one strength I have is creating beautiful description and snappy dialogue. There I said it! I hope I live up to it:)

Colene Murphy said...

That is a crazy awesome cake! Now I'm hungry.

I think you are so right. It's the same with any kind of artist, we never see what other people see in our work. All we focus on are thos danged flaws that you get sure everyone else will notice and laugh at you about. I can't even tell if what I write is a good story or it's something that I just thought was cool and now is stupid.

Great post. Excellent cake!

Alexandra Crocodile said...

Wow! That is one hell of a cake! And I think you're on to something in re the writing process. We should perhaps focus more on the good parts and less on the bad...

Meredith said...

Ugh, I always see the flaws in my writing, but I never see all of them. That's why I rely on people reading my WiPs and telling me what I can't see. Your cake looks so amazing--great job!

Sara B. Larson said...

Wow, what an amazing cake! If you're writing is anything like that cake, you are one talented chicka! :) And great post, we definitely need to focus on the positive.

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh my what a cake! I would like a huge piece, if you please:)
And I needed this post today cause I feel really really horrid about my writing. Thank you!

DL Hammons said...

WOWZA!! That cake is almost too pretty to eat!

I know what you mean about only seeing the imperfections in our writing. It's taken me a long time to learn how to let go at some point. :)

Casey said...

OOOH, PRETTY! :-D I love the cake!

I'm good at dialog, too. I love dialog. I think I'm good at world-building, too - making it seem like the characters actually live instead of just kind of wandering around the Streets of Lack of Mental Imagery.

Jen Daiker said...

Isn't that always the case? You work so hard designing, creating, writing, whatever it is your working on and you most always notice the imperfections...

I have to say though, that cake is amazing, and I think they are SUPER lucky to have you as a friend, because even though I don't love cake, I'd love for YOU to make me a cake, it was FABULOUS!

Writing strenghts is description, especially when it comes to horror and suspense, I can make you jump (I can make myself jump), my weaknesses dialogue and punctuation.

Dawn Simon said...

What a beautiful cake!

I like your analogy. My strengths are usually dialogue and humor.

Tania McCue said...

You blog ate my first comment. It was eloquent. Or something ;)

Thanks for the words of encouragement. You are so right, it is better to give myself credit for my strengths, especially during times when I am ready to give up on the whole thing. I think I do dialogue very well, but there are also some passages that stick out that aren't necessarily special for any reason, but that I love. Maybe just because they are well written or moving. So go me.

Oh, and that cake looks awesome. Can I have a slice?

Amie Kaufman said...

I think I hesitate to talk about my strengths because there's a little voice in my head that says 'you could be wrong, and the only one who doesn't know it', and that fear of looking like I'm delusional... it's a fearsome adversary.

So, this feels unnatural, but: my jokes are funny. I write humour well.

Now I'm going to go hide behind the couch.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Awesome cake, Amie! And why is it that we only see the flaws? What is wrong with us??? :-)

Nick said...

Let them eat cake - but then, who would want to destroy that masterpiece?

lbdiamond said...

Ohmygoodness! I've been thinking about this very topic! I keep looking at how "awful" my writing it, what needs to be changed, what I mess up on, but I don't stop to think how much my writing has improved. Goodness gracious, I've come a LONG way in two years. Why don't I give myself credit for that?! Thanks for reminding me to look at the positive. ;)

Maybe I can have success querying TB after all, LOL!

Talei said...

Hi Amie! I have a little award for you at my blog, do come by and collect when you can. ;)