Process makes perfect

I know, you’re scratching your head, saying, “I thought it was practice makes perfect?”

Well, yes, practice helps. At pretty much everything.

But the process is important, too – especially for writers. My critique partners made a great point at this week’s meeting: my perfectionism is getting in the way of my productivity, and possibly my creativity.

For me, even with first drafts, writing is like pulling teeth. I write a few words, maybe a sentence – and then delete most of it. I write a little more – and delete even more. Eventually, though, I begin writing more than deleting. I’m still polishing as I go, though. My inner editor rarely shuts up, even when I firmly tell her to butt out and go get a cup of tea.

This time of year, I usually bake cookies. LOTS and LOTS of cookies. (More is always better when it comes to cookies.) Seven or eight different kinds, and several dozen of each kind. Plenty to enjoy and plenty to share.

When I first started making holiday cookies, I was single and working full-time. My process was to pick a weekend, make sure I had all my ingredients ready to go, turn up the holiday music, and on Friday evening, make all the doughs that needed refrigeration, like sugar cookie and gingerbread dough.

Saturday morning, I’d start rolling the dough out and cutting out cookies. Between batches, I’d make the doughs that don’t require refrigeration, like biscotti or rainbow cookies.

Saturday night, I ordered in Chinese food and washed up.

Sunday morning, I woke up early, cranked up more holiday tunes and began icing and decorating all the cookies that needed to be gussied up. Sunday afternoon, I settled in for a nice nap after cleaning the kitchen and enjoying the fruits of my labors with a cup of tea. 🙂

When I was first married, my husband thought I was crazy, but he learned to stay out of the kitchen until clean-up time. And my cookie marathons still worked out quite well.

But when I had my daughter, the cookie marathon was not to be. That first year, the cookies were baked, but I was crazed, baby was unhappy, the house was a mess – not just the kitchen – and suddenly it just wasn’t much fun.

I realized I didn’t need a baking marathon; I needed several short sprints. Now I bake cookies a few times during the season, starting with those kinds that freeze well. (Ginger cookies and cream of tartar sugar cookies, FYI. Biscotti and seven layer bars keep for a couple weeks in tins, too.)

I’m happier, my family’s happier, and we still have holiday cookies of all kinds in tins all over the place. Plenty to enjoy and plenty to share.

My point, in case you missed it while dreaming of spritz cookies and taralle and jam thumbprints, is that I needed to change my process. What worked before needed to change, just as my family and my responsibilities changed.

I’m thinking my writing process needs a change. I’m working full-time, I’m interning as an agency reader, and I’m still writing. (Not to mention the wife and mother thing.)

My goal for this year is to LOOSEN UP. I’m going to try changing up my writing process and see what happens. Work on scenes individually and stop writing chronologically. Try writing longhand and not at my computer – there’s no delete key writing by hand. (And yes, I’ll use pen, not pencil, so no erasing. 🙂 )

Maybe even – gasp! – get me a big ol’ whiteboard and some sticky notes and play around.

And the baking? Well, this year we’re visiting relatives. I’m thinking of taking a break from baking. Maybe just the gingerbread men…. they travel well.



3 thoughts on “Process makes perfect

  1. Good luck with the new writing process. But as a close neighbor who loves cookies, I wouldn’t give up on those so quickly. And if you need any help with quality control, I’m here to help. 🙂

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