A piece of writing does not appear fully formed on the page with just a wiggle of the pencil. We all know that. But do writers really believe that writing is work?
Measuring, prodding, covering, uncovering, failing, creating, cutting off, throwing away, paring down, then layering on again…. If we really think out our concept and have some talent and skill, we secretly believe, our little guy will show up all ready to go without all that bother. And how should I think about writing, anyway? Is it a sea that one can navigate smoothly as long as a good compass and some sea smarts are on hand? Is my next piece a golem that, if molded with just the right tools and spirit, will spring to life?
With or without a good working metaphor, I began assuming that I could “master” writing and be able to churn out lovely, neat prose in no time with just a little forethought. As you may have guessed, food came to the rescue, saving me from this sad misconception.
I happened to be making three-bean soup and slicing up the requisite onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and potatoes the other day. By the end of my prep, I was left with a pile of onion skins, carrot tops, celery leaves, and so on. This reminded me of the parings from an assignment I had just written, a short memoir about the first time I (Mom, cover your eyes) smoked pot. In my preparation for writing, I came up with some memories and then some nicely-written paragraphs about the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program that we loved to hate as middle schoolers. I even found a few drug quizzes online and came up with a structure that would play on questions in a hypothetical DARE test. I also wrote an amusing description of the uniformed and mustachioed Officer Gary who taught the class.
In the end, I used none of it. Continue reading