Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Writing and cooking (or, good writer, bad book?)
I’m a confident, experienced cook. I make up some things and learn others from cuisines I like (right now I’m out in the sticks and teaching myself how to make Thai food – and these dishes will eventually influence mine, probably). But this blog isn’t about food -- the point is that when I cook, I’m not at all afraid to make things completely unlike anything I’ve ever tried, and I’m not judgmental, either. If a dish or a meal isn’t as good as I hoped it would be, I either think of ways I could make it better another time or decide it isn’t worth making again. I don’t think “I’m a bad cook” (though I do sometimes think the idea was bad!) – I just think: that’s how I learn, that’s how I get better.
But when I write something bad (as I did last week: a truly terrible story, for an age group I don’t usually write for), I think I’m a terrible writer, I’ll never write anything good again, why do I think anyone will ever want to read my work blah blah blah.
A few days ago when I was riding my bicycle I reminded myself that good writers sometimes produce bad work. I recently got The Racketty-Packetty House by Frances Hodgson Burnett (reissued for its 100th anniversary), which I made the mistake of buying online sight unseen – and HER bad book didn’t make me think SHE was a bad writer. I just remembered The Secret Garden and the fact that she was a widow with 5 or 6 children to support!
I also remembered one of the BRGs reading some comments I’d written on an old story and saying, “You’re so mean to yourself!” And I decided to just start writing the way I cook. Even if I never manage to create stories as fast, or as easily, as I can make dinners, I can still try new things and decide about the ones that aren’t good the same way.
So far it’s working, and I’m not asking for advice on this story – but I AM curious about how you agents and editors (and librarians, if the story makes it to publication!) out there respond when a trusted writer turns in something out of the box – and awful. And what do people think about writers and illustrators switching genres?