Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Insecure Writers Post-- Making it Rise

I have always struggled with yeast breads. I love to cook, and delight in attempting difficult recipes. I've made souffles, and Beef Wellington, and my meringue could make you cry. But yeast breads... ugh!I can never get bread to rise, and yet I kept trying over and over and over because there is something in me that will not be bested by quick yeast.

As I was railing against this difficulty this week, something occurred to me-- the way I cook is a really great metaphor for my writing career. I try things, things that are hard,  things that make me uncomfortable, things that challenge me, and things that bring me comfort.And sometimes, I cry.

September was a month for crying over yeast breads, and my latest WIP. I am writing a book that is a fictionalization of my mom's struggle with cancer. I wanted to tell her story, and mine as well. Every time I open it, I convince myself that I am not worthy of writing this book, that my attempts are trite and that I am not talented enough to write in a way that honors what cancer patients go through.

Like all of my attempts at yeast breads, this dough just would not rise.

I took a long weekend last weekend-- I've been traveling a ton and I was tired and needed it. As it turns out, this was a really smart move. On Friday, I got up and decided I was going to bake and write-- yeast bread and at least 4,000 words in the new book. My progress was rocky.
  • At 8 a.m., I had the first starter dough rising, and 500 words written. 
  • By 10 a.m. I had thrown away the first starter because it failed to rise, and 300 words written. 
  • At 11 a.m. I decided to buck up, put together another starter, and deleted my 300 words to start over. 
  • By noon, I was ready to give up. Yeast bread should not be this hard, and now the second started did nothing. And the book... hell, this thing is fiction that draws inspiration from my life. Why was writing it so damned hard? 
  • And then, at 1 p.m., I put a solid set to my shoulders,  put together my third attempt at starter dough, and turned my computer back on. I will stop feeling defeated, I promised myself.

Something amazing happened-- the dough rose. I think I used cooler water, a ceramic bowl, and suddenly, I had bubbly dough and a signal of hope. I added the rest of the ingredients, set it to keep rising, and went to work writing.

I ended the day with 4,500 words, and my first successful dinner roll ever. The writing was clunky, and the roll tasted awful. But it rose, and so next time, I can focus on flavor. And I wrote it, so next time I can smooth it out.


  1. Hi, Shauna! Enjoyed how you compared your writing to getting bread to raise.

    I've also struggled with yeast breads. Not sure why they don't fully rise, but I'll give it a try again this winter. My hubby has hinted around at getting a bread machine, because we always had success with making bread that way, but I'd like to conquer making a good yeast bread the old-fashioned way. : )

  2. What a great metaphor! I love to bake yeast breads and getting the temperature just right is tricky. I love to knead it until the gluten glistens and then wait for the magic that turns that flour and water into fluffy dough ready to bake.

    There are indeed many similarities between bread making and writing. You have to get things "just right" to be successful.

    So glad you stopped in at The Write Game on Insecure Writers' Wednesday. It's been lovely to meet you.

  3. Congrats on sticking with it all. My favorite saying is never give up, never surrender.

  4. This is perfect. It wasn't until last week when I finally mastered pizza dough from scratch (after 5 years of trying to get it right). Apply it to writing and you have a perfect metaphor. Great post, Shauna! :)

  5. I am glad you kept going, and you got a result in the end by sticking with it. Sounds like your writing is on track too.

    I have a bread machine. Good post.

  6. Congratulations on all those words! And conquering the bread.

  7. What a gorgeous post. I love the analogy, as baking takes patience and persistence. Plus, I'm convinced the more you love to bake, the better the baker you are. Kudos on the words and the bread, I have a feeling the flavor is very close!