Cooking Up a Story

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By Tanara McCauley

“Are these…scones?”

My teen’s guess was generous, considering the cookies looked more like jagged blue biscuits coated in a suspicious glaze.

She held one in her hand, eyes skeptical. I frowned at the cookie-biscuit-scone between her fingers and shook my head.

It was a lemon blueberry cookie, or it was supposed to be. Only I’d had to substitute the cake flour for all-purpose flour, the almond milk for two-percent milk, and I’d supplemented my modest supply of fresh blueberries with tiny frozen ones.

Looking at the final product in my daughter’s hand, I felt more than a little chagrined. The baking venture had been doomed from the start and I shouldn’t have persisted. I’d have saved precious time and effort, and avoided the unnecessary loss of valuable ingredients (vanilla hasn’t been cheap for a while now, folks).

But I did persist.

I persisted after accidentally combining sugar with the other dry ingredients when I was supposed to cream it with butter first.

I persisted when I lost count of how many teaspoons of baking powder I’d added.

I persisted when the batter thumped around in the mixer like a rock, threatening to wrench the bowl from the stand.

I persisted when the irresistible urge to squeeze in one more lemon turned the stiff batter sticky.

And right up to the final moment, when all of my senses screamed at me to commit the gooey anomaly to the trash, I persisted in coaxing balls of the batter onto a cookie sheet; then I slammed the oven door on the whole mess.

Through all of my stubborn persistence, I harbored hope that tasty ingredients like sugar, butter, vanilla, and blueberries would yield something of a good result. But the cookie-biscuit-scone—the blue cookie-biscuit-scone—is what laughed its way out of the oven, mocking me to the last.

Certain I’d toss them out as soon as they cooled, I nibbled the edge of one just to try it. My daughter, seeing my courage, braved her own taste.

Her eyebrows lifted in time with my surprise. The—whatever it’s called—was soft. And sweet. And delicious. My unconventional and unrepeatable blend of ingredients and efforts had, in fact, yielded something good.

And I’d almost given up.

Had it been a writing project, it might’ve died before hitting the mixer.

Like baking, writing involves ingredients and steps designed to achieve a specific vision, and there’s so much that can go awry during the process. Scenes fall flat, characters lose dimension, plots get too predictable or so off tangent we can’t see a way to bring them back.

As a writer, I’m aware that words and ideas are expendable. Paragraphs, scenes, and chapters get cut; entire books are shelved. This reality is part of the craft, and good writers embrace reality.

Sometimes, however, we writers exercise the skill of cutting, quitting, and moving on far too early in the creative journey. A lot of risk here, a little substituting there, messy scenes or stilted dialogue, and we deem the work before us unsalvageable. We’re ready to toss it out and start anew, or quit the craft altogether.

Yet, if we see the thing through and trust that God is working as much in the blunders as He worked in the vision, the unique stories we cook up just might awe and surprise us.

Trust that God is working as much in the blunders as He worked in the vision. @TanaraMcCauley #ACFWBlogs #writetips #ACFWCommunity Click To Tweet

Tanara McCauley is a writer of stories inspired by the adventure she lives in Christ. That adventure includes one husband, three children, and a fearful little dog named Charlie. And books. Lots and lots of books. You can find Tanara on Twitter @tanaramccauley or on Facebook.






Comments 3

  1. Yesterday I thought I’d quit;
    it hurts too much, and I’m too tired,
    and I’m not a little bit
    hopeful or inspired.
    And in this morning mail I saw
    a blog post that an agent made,
    and saw in that my selfish flaw,
    for I can yet offer aid;
    the cancer journey’s worn me down,
    and I am almost done,
    but if I make smile from a frown,
    there’s one more race to run,
    to turn and shine God’s bracing light
    for those that follow in this fight.

  2. Tanara, this baking analogy was just the encouragement I needed today to encourage me along my writing journey. Thank you! (In my kitchen, everything that turns out okay is a surprise. May our writing triumphs be one holy surprise after another!)

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