My mom makes the best chocolate chiffon cake. It's one of those hundred-egg-white-spongy cakes, like angel food, except chocolate. Why it isn’t wildly popular is beyond me. You can eat a piece the size of
My mom’s spaghetti, on the other hand, is an overcooked glob of congealing starch. It’s like homemade Boyardee.
So, she cooks some things better than others. Does it make her a bad cook? I defy anyone who tries a piece of that cake to call her a bad cook. You will swear off spaghetti and only eat cake for the rest of your days (which might not be long, given your diet, but they will be immensely happy days).
Now, presto-change-o, watch me pull a writing lesson out of my hat. Cake? How did that get in there? Lord, I’m a mess of crumbs and metaphors. Oh, here it is....
Writing is like cooking. There was only one Julia Childs and she’s dead now. The rest of us are brilliant at some things, not so brilliant at others. Some of us make great, sweet-tooth satisfying desserts; other whip up curries with addictive heat.
The same goes with writing.
But do we glory in our abilities? No. As my mother, who worked in a
Women are the biggest faultfinders on the planet, especially in regard to themselves. The classic example: how many men ask if their butts look big in dress pants? Speaking of dress pants butts, if you’re not reading our online group novel, Aspen Expose, you should be. Jack Davenport, our CEO hero, has some scrumptious assets and mysterious credentials in his dress pants.
Seriously, I bet you can tick off all the “bad” things about your writing, but you’d hem haw around if I asked you what you’re good at. Personally, when I’m doing my novelist gig, similes and metaphors are as elusive as Big Foot. Never mind that I just pulled off a big, beastly one just now. They don’t come easy to my characters. But, you know what? After I started looking at what I love to read, I discovered I’m not fond of metaphor/simile-laden novels. I slobber over a few paragraphs of it, almost have to get my jaw wired shut because it has dropped to the floor in awe of how the writer could compose such lyrical prose. But then it turns into Turkish delight. Intriguing at first, but so dang sticky that I spit it out. Wasn’t it ever going to dissolve? After drooling through a third of the novel, tops, I’m brushing my teeth of it. I wanted to read a novel, not 300 pages poetry infested prose.
I’m not saying to completely ignore writing weaknesses. I do labor to find occasional metaphors and similes that match my characters’ ways of seeing the world. I like to think that when I do use them, they really sparkle, are my characters’ north stars. If you’re not great at dashing dialog, make sure yours moves the story forward. That way, when the reader hits quotation marks, she’ll know to pay close attention. If you’re not good at plot pretzels, have big build-ups to a few powerful turning points.
So, everything has to work, but not on the same level. That’s okay--unless you’re truly untalented and nothing works. You should stick to heating leftovers in the microwave. Those folks, however, would never be reading a blog about writing. They are nuking freezer-burned hotdog buns and sending out their Great American Novels in single-spaced AND encrypted type so agents can’t steal their masterpieces. @=a, &=b... Lord, the scary thing is that someone would probably land a three-book deal for that. You know, 8.36% of the population has a code-breaking fetish.
Be confident about the abilities you have. Stop lusting after the one’s you don’t have. Someone will love you for what you do--and maybe for what you don’t do.
What do you do well?
And for my P.S. -- Do you think Marcus Allen's butt looks big in those pants? Stop daydreaming and answer.