Pancake-Making as a Metaphor for Writing

I’m getting better at making pancakes.

Rather, I’m getting better at making pancakes the way I like them, which is, of course, the point. Buttery golden brown, soft in the middle, with a rim of good, light crunch around the edge.

Weekend mornings of my childhood featured light smoke drifting from the kitchen into the living room, dancing within sunbeams that glanced in through wide-open windows. The heavy scent of frying batter and sizzling butter. Usually my dad but sometimes my mom in the kitchen, making the perfect pancakes.

Weekday mornings of my adulthood are comprised of the harried rush to arrive at work on time. I have a hypothesis that every person has a low-level curse and this is mine: always late. No matter how early I wake up. No matter how many grooming ritual corners I cut. I wonder what I did to receive this curse as the stress slowly eats me away.

So, no pancakes. Just precooked turkey sausage browning in a skillet over medium-low heat while I scrape myself together for another day. Darkness outside my window. Cereal to round out my breakfast.

My parents taught me to make pancakes once, a long time ago. But the measurements were approximations and by then we had started using Splenda instead of sugar, so these pancakes were no longer prefect. My brain has deleted the instructions, perhaps out of defiance. But several months ago, I took a shot at making a recipe I found on Pinterest. Pancakes for one. They came out thick and chewy and awful.

Restaurants present tasty pancakes, but not the ones I want. Online recipes strive to recreate these restaurant pancakes, instructions leading to a place I already know I do not wish to go. Just the same, books present tasty stories, but not the ones that fill the gnawing hunger within me. Tips and advice for writers describe recipes for recreating stories already published. Still not right. Never-ending cycles of popular consumption.

I just have to make them myself.

The weekend arrives and I try again for the perfect pancakes. For good stories. The kind I like to eat.

Experimentation and regular practice help. At its basic essence, a pancake is a pancake is a pancake, requiring at least the usual ingredients. The spin you put on those ingredients makes the completed project yours. A little extra water? A splash of vanilla? Cooking spray instead of butter? Nope, definitely not cooking spray. Same with writing story. Basic recipe, with a personal take. A little extra diverse representation? A splash of magical wonder? Gritty realism? No, no grittiness for me.

Endless weekends to keep trying.

This morning’s attempt at the perfect pancakes got very close. Just a little too crunchy on the bottom. Perhaps the story I write this week will turn out similar – close but crunchy. Or maybe not. Each batch presents new challenges, but every weekend, I’m getting better at making pancakes.

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