Bi-weekly chatter about how looking closely at some of the most common expressions in everyday life can prompt new ways of thinking about our writing.
French fries. Pancakes. Fried calamari.
Besides all being a similar shade of off-white or muted gold (depending on your eye) these three selections lose most of their luster once they leave the premises where they were created, whether a kitchen, food truck or cafeteria. In fact, I surveyed some seasoned experts on the topic only to be told that almost all food tastes better in-house.
So why do we do we do it? Why do we order take-out or “get it to go” if we know the taste will be less than, sacrificed and subpar?
Possible reasons abound. And most have to do with lack of time and space.
Not enough time to sit and eat.
Tables are too close together.
I have to work through lunch! (Or dinner, or breakfast.)
I explored time in my last Words on the Street column, with the help of a grimy timer from one of the hottest shows on television now. And back in March of 2022 I looked at how space, having it and not having it, can influence our writing lives.
So, what about taste? And texture? Does our writing suffer when we skimp on time, on space? Like takeout fries, can work get soggy and lose its taste when we rush it out the door?
Yes and no. Maybe, maybe not. (Apologies to readers who adore clear-cut answers.)
Here’s one reason for the two-sided reply: most of the time, writing material (no matter the genre) that evokes and engages a reader takes practice and time to get right, but there are those situations, too, when we stumble on something that shines—a combination of words that sing, a quiet metaphor nestled in the center of a page, a character who needs us to give the reader nothing more than their own, authentic language and voice—right out of the gate. When that happens, I suggest stopping and sitting with that magic. Be grateful. Revel in the brilliance. Celebrate!
Then, get back to work and don’t be upset when the next sentence, paragraph, scene or chapter will need the usual amount of work and attention, or sometimes even more, to avoid becoming soggy and tasteless. Maybe you will need to sit with the work, right there on the premises when it is straight out of the kitchen (the one that doubles as your imagination) to taste it fully and wholly. To know what works and what doesn’t.
It’s times like these—the magical ones, the not-so-magical ones and the ones in-between—
that shape this thing we call our writing lives.
If you think this might be the moment I glace toward the Foo Fighters to drive my point home, your thoughts are correct:
“It’s times like these you learn to live again
It’s times like these you give and give again
It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again.”
Speaking of living, giving and loving, keep at it. Keep writing.
Finally, who wants to share an order of fries with extra ketchup?
Songwriters: Dave Grohl / Taylor Hawkins / Nate Mendel / Chris Shiflett