Confessions of a Baking Obsessed Writer
by K. Allen McNamara
My family knows that I like to bake. When autumn rolls around and the leaves start to change color, I begin looking at cooking magazines, googling recipes for holiday desserts and trying some out. It’s easy to become consumed by baking possibilities because my husband is born in October (think birthday cake, chocolate and coconut) and our grand pup is born near Halloween (so of course we celebrate); and then there are the looming holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas, my daughters have birthdays in January and February… In short, I can find an excuse to bake or look at baking recipes almost anytime of the year. Add to this obsession the fact my oldest daughter is Gluten Free (gf) and my youngest daughter is as well (although she will occasionally cross over into the dark side and indulge in a random piece of gluten laden bread crust) and one could say I am always hunting for the perfect recipe that I can convert to a gf recipe if it isn’t already by its very nature gf ie: flourless chocolate cake.
When it comes to writing my novel, my MO modus operandi tends to be the same as my baker’s dilemma. I hunt for the perfect recipe to sort IT (my giant jumble of ideas, plot points, scenes, characters and setting etc...) and give me the baked and perfectly frosted/sugar dusted novel. I read books by established authors on their process, I consult articles, blogs and pages on distilling successful novels to their essences and then I start revising my novel yet again. My major problem is I have never “baked” my novel through; I’m always pulling it from the oven too soon or adding extra vanilla or scrapping the whole thing.
As a baking hobbyist, I learned early all too well the utter failure of a recipe with too much brown sugar or mistake of neglecting to add xanthan gum to my gf flour mixture or the fact that my ingredients were not room temperature even though the recipe specifically said to make sure they were. Straying from the prescribed order of a recipe or eliminating an ingredient often can lead to a baking failure. So I’ve armed myself with sifters, silpats, springform pans, candy thermometers and a solid set of measuring cups and spoons. But when it comes to writing my novel often times I am like a deer in headlights. I become so mesmerized by the prescriptions and the varied choices for the novel that I stutter and stall and then my novel sits.
From what I can see accountability is the answer to my frozen state. I’ve decided to trick myself into writing, the same way I trick myself into going to the gym (I love having gone to the gym it just takes me awhile to get out the door to do it).
Famed writer Dorothy Parker said the same about writing: “I hate writing, I love having written.” It would seem I have something in common with this notable author. And isn’t writing - daily writing a form of exercise?
The exercise studio I belong to mandates I commit to signing up for a session and then WAIT 8 hours before changing my schedule (the belief being that usually by the time 8 hours has passed the session time will be upon me or on my calendar of events and I will ultimately end up attending or at the very least being charged for the session); I am signing up to write everyday. No excuses. I put my notebook and pen next to my bed (yes, I’m taking it old school, no computer where I will get caught up in researching the structure of my novel, the name of my characters, and various other minutia). I will get up and write. If I don’t move too much the dogs will stay asleep.
Should the dogs awaken and need to escorted down the elevator to the park by yours truly, well then, I have a backup plan. I’ve put a sign up on my bathroom mirror. It’ll be there when I brush my teeth. There’s a sign on my coffee maker, on the fridge, on the tv remote and on my computer. I even put a notation on my smartphone calendar as a morning event.
And because we went apple picking and apples equates to pies, sauce, and crisps...I’ve stuck one on my go-to harvest cookbook.