Saturday, November 01, 2008

Pad Thai and writing

A couple of weeks ago I became obsessed by learning how to make  Pad Thai and Pad See Yew. My first attempts were awful -- in fact, when I served up the first plate of Pad Thai I thought:
"This looks absolutely disgusting."
It tasted terrible, too.

But I ate it anyway, wondering what had gone wrong and what to do differently the next time. It took about six tries, but I finally produced a plate of Pad Thai that was (if I do say so myself) good. Now, I can make it for other people.

At around the same time, I gathered up the courage to show my agent a novel that had been dismissed by my best friend: "Don't work on it anymore, no sense throwing good energy after bad." (She writes for TV and while they are "in the room," beating out scripts, they're blunt.) Feeling the whole time as though I MIGHT be wasting my time, that maybe the novel was really awful, I rewrote it anyway.  

But I didn't show it to my agent until I was far enough into my NEW novel not to be devastated if she too hated it (of course, I knew she wouldn't SAY she hated it -- but if she didn't think it was publishable, that would be the same thing). She said she  loved it. I could hardly believe it at first, then energy and confidence and determination surged in. That one comment restored my confidence in the story and made me determined to make it the best it can be. 

Meanwhile I was still trying the Pad Thai -- and that's when I thought: hey! When  I cook, I wait until *I* like the dish before I make it for other people. I don't invite them over and experiment (the draft my best friend read was really really rough). It's always tempting to show things early, so you don't waste your time, but there aren't ANY guarantees in this business, you just have to like the idea enough yourself to make the writing and time worth the risk. Until something is DONE, no one else can judge it anyway. 

I also don't think "Oh, I'm a terrible cook"  blah blah if something I make turns out badly. I either:
* decide the dish isn't worth making again (as in the scallops with blueberry mayonnaise from a cookbook I won't name -- GROSS!) 
*figure out what I did wrong and keep trying until I love it.

btw if anyone is interested in the Pad Thai method that worked for me -- the result of reading many recipes and as you've seen, many tries, let me know and I'll post it. With pictures and detailed directions. If only writing were as easy!


Grace Lin said...

I want the recipe!!

alvinaling said...

This is a great post. I love the analogy with cooking! And yes, I want the recipe, too!

Kristi Valiant said...

I just bought all the ingredients for pad thai a few days ago, and I'm hoping my recipe comes out ok. I'd love to see yours!

Unknown said...

I plan to print this out and read it when I'm feeling discouraged about something I'm writing--thanks!
Janet from PaperTigers