The best pancakes are never the first off the griddle. I’ve learned that over the years.
So I’m learning to be patient.
The first pancakes are always slightly anemic. They never turn that golden brown of restaurant adds and Coppertone babies. The oil is too bubbly. Too prevalent. Too… much.
So it has to cook off a bit — get absorbed by those first flimsy efforts. Kind of like teenaged skin. It needs a lot of blotting — and some time.
Time and practice. That’s what I’m learning. It’s like that in pancakes. In writing. And In life. And I’m hoping all the practice is beginning to pay off.
I’ve been reading a lot of books on writing lately. Some are rereads — like Stephen King’s On Writing and Annie Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Some are brand new, like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Jen Pastiloff’s On Being Human.
They’re all teaching me some bits about writing, but lots more about myself. How I tend to strive for perfection when I really should just strive to get it all onto the skillet. Perfectionism isn’t possible. And anyway, as Annie Lamott says,
Perfectionism means that you try desperately not to leave so much mess to clean up. But clutter and mess show us that life is being lived. Clutter is wonderfully fertile ground — you can still discover new treasures under all those piles, clean things up, edit things out, fix things, get a grip. Tidiness suggests that something is as good as it’s going to get. Tidiness makes me think of held breath, of suspended animation, while writing needs to breathe and move.
So I’ll make a mess while building my batter. I’ll add in. Mix up. Pour out. Spill a bit. Flip too early.
Some sentences are destined to collapse onto themselves — it’s inevitable a few will flounder and fold. Let ’em. Clean up the mess later.
And I know those initial pancakes will be a bit pale and doughy or haphazardly layered. That’s fodder for the second draft. The next go round always gets better.
My life has been like that too. My early years were on the whiter shade of pale. Limp and slightly unbaked. Potential, but nowhere close to perfection.
Now I’m living my best, well-burnished life.
My writing is slowly sizzling its way toward buttery golden goodness, too. It’s losing its doughy center; it’s crisping and finding its edges. All with a little help from some master chefs, a whole lotta help from a well-seasoned skillet, and lots and lots of doughy first drafts.
So today (and every day), I’m assembling ingredients, mixing the batter and getting on with it. Mistakes will be made.
But it’s time to make the pancakes.