“You’d think I’d have learned to cook after all these years,” I complain as I slide the dried-out beef roast from the oven. I should have added more water; I should have covered the roaster; I should have just dumped a can of mushroom soup on top. After thirty-odd years of assembling three squares a day, give or take, I can still make a royal mess of a meal.
The same can apply to my writing. After thirteen years, I sometimes wonder if I’ve learned anything. Every time I start a new novel, I determine to take a more direct approach. This time I’ll follow Donald Maass’s Breakout Novel workbook; this time I’ll create detailed character arcs even before I start writing; this time I’ll map out the story into three acts, making sure the main turning points fall at appropriate places.
I’m trying to avoid the messy stuff, and writing, like cooking and life in general, tends to be messy. There’s no way around it. We must push through various difficult phases until the finished product is pulled out of the creative oven.
Writing takes a lot of work. Period. There will be preliminary phases where we don’t quite know our characters, developmental phases where the whole thing resembles a bland soup, and organizational phases where things seem to be coming together, only to reveal great gaps that need filling.
The important thing for us to remember is to keep at it. Continue to learn, continue to practice, continue to improve. And let’s not allow ourselves to be derailed by occasional or even frequent failures. These are simply methods that did not work—this time.
Nothing worthwhile comes easily, therefore I will cook more beef roasts. I will write more novels. I will continue to attempt to live my life to please my LORD because that’s what I’m here for. Cooks cook; writers write and people who love the LORD live for Him through the messy stuff. Life is made up of opportunities waiting to be used.
You’d think I’d have learned after all these years that “Mistakes are made, I’ll not deny, but only made by those who try.”