Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Slowly Progressing

As expected on the day before Thanksgiving, I’m up to my elbows in food (not literally of course).  My Mom and I are collaborating on our dinner this year, so I’m providing the baked goods, and she’s providing the cooked goods.  Dad’s grilling the turkey, so all are playing their part.

Of course, being in charge of the baking means that I’m making pumpkin pies. Where would Thanksgiving be without those, after all? 

In the interest of doing things naturally and from scratch, I resisted the urge to buy canned pumpkin this year.  Instead, when the pie pumpkins went on sale at the grocery store, back in October, I bought two.  I’ve been storing them ever since, all in anticipation of my baking. 

The real first step is a big squashy flower!
Of course starting with a whole pumpkin means taking rather more time than usual to make the pies, so my preparations began on Monday.  I cut my two chosen victims in half, scooped out the seeds and put them in the oven to roast for two hours.  Then I scraped out the soft and deliciously flavorful flesh, ran it through the food processor and behold: my chief ingredient was prepared.

A day later, I came home from a ridiculously long meeting at school and relaxed by making the dough.  I’ve never been a fan of the more or less tasteless pastry which tends to be used for pies, so I turned to my French cookbook to make a paté sucré, or sugar dough, which is lightly sweetened and very, very buttery.  Buttery and French are practically synonyms, after all.

Yet another day has passed and here I am, now with the pies in the oven.  Before that, though, I had to let the dough come to room temperature, mix all the ingredients together, prepare the pie pans, heat the oven, roll out the dough and finally pop everything in to bake.  It has all been very enjoyable, but the process was slow and methodical – I had to plan it so that I could fit it into my work schedule. 

Neither pie nor Paris was built in a day!
Anyway, all this led me to start thinking while I was stirring together pumpkin and milk and eggs and spices.  Every endeavor is composed of steps.  You can’t rush them or leave them out or skimp on them just to save time.  If you do, the end result is almost guaranteed to be unsatisfactory. 

For me, as a writer, this is something very important to remember.  Back when I was young and innocent and had just finished my first novel (actually this was only 4.5 years ago, so I exaggerate), I was pretty confident that my product was perfect.  No editing would be needed, of course!  I plunged right into my second novel, without a second thought.

Well, looking back, I realize I left out some steps.  I now have no idea how long that novel will languish, waiting for me to have time to return to it and perhaps entirely rewrite it.  Luckily on my second novel, The Art of Dying, I was a bit more sensible, and realized that I had to do some editing.  My naiveté lingered though, because I thought I’d be able to edit effectively while charging ahead with yet another novel.  

Because it's methodical, it turns out so lovely!
Now I’m in sort of a mess – not a bad mess, because I have the first draft of three novels and the (hopefully) final draft of a fourth under my belt, which is a good feeling.  However, your guess is as good as mine for when I might get to the other three. 

What have I learned though? 

Basically, at long last, I realize I really need to take the time to finish each novel completely before beginning on the next.  I write fast and the result is that if I don’t make myself stop to edit thoroughly, I slowly drown in hundreds of thousands of words.  Therefore, from pumpkin pies I have learned the necessity of taking steps in order.

Just kidding.  Of course I didn’t learn it from the pies, but the methodical nature of baking only serves to emphasize that in other areas I need to follow the method too.  It’s easy for us all to be impatient and to focus only on the parts of our lives that we enjoy.  On the other hand, if we take care of everything in order, then when we do get to the enjoyment, it feels earned, satisfactory – the proper result of our work. 

So, while I don’t advise excising all spontaneity, when you’re working on a project – do yourself a favor and follow the necessary steps.  It may not be any fun at the time, but I can assure you that you’ll thank yourself at the end.  You’ll look back and see an accomplishment you can be proud of.  I’m pretty sure that then you’ll not even remember the drudgery!

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I've been tagged the green bean casserole queen (you know the one that made those onion crunchy things famous...). I'm making 'it' my own this year by adding a few chopped non-salted almonds.

    Steps? Does that mean I have to start making lists... hmmm. Maybe not. :)