"Required reading" for today's smart writer.

"Required reading" for today's smart writer.
Information & inspiration to hone your craft and increase your cash...Since 2009

Thursday, June 27, 2013

What Cooking Has Taught me About Writing...

Eager to impress and please my guests for a back yard party, a few weeks ago, I tried a new recipe.
As is characteristic of my Zodiac sign ( a water sign)--we love to nurture and cater to family and friends.

For some reason, I'm also a big "foodie" who finds the act of watching cooking shows very relaxing.
Name a cooking show or chef, and it's likely that it's on my weekly viewing list: from Simply Ming, to Katie Brown, to old reruns of Julia Child.

Anyhow, I digress here...
So, as I was saying--the recipe called for a spice that I had never used before.
It's called Cumin (pronounced "Q-MIN").

Short on time, and long on tasks on my "to do" list, I decided to just leave it out.
What difference could one small ingredient I had never even heard of make, right?
Well...not necessarily.
Though the dish (Black bean and corn salad) was still pleasing to some folks' palate, a few days ago, I  actually found some of the missing ingredient and bought it at my local grocer.
And I taste tested it.
The verdict?
The flavor would have certainly enhanced my recipe had I chosen not to leave it out.

I find that writing is kind of that way too.
Before we decide to take shortcuts or break certain rules to fit our fancy, it's important to know what purpose they serve, and how we can produce an equally pleasurable experience for our readers, if we deviate from time honored traditions and logistics. 

Here are a few other lessons learned as a result of watching recent episodes of Master Chef and Hell's Kitchen:

  • You can't rush the process, if you want to produce quality results. If a recipe calls for something to be baked at 250 degrees for 2 hours, don't try to reduce the time by placing it in the oven for 1 hour at 500 degrees.  Can you say "Cajun"? :-)
  •  Don't try anything new or elaborate on a tight deadline. Whether it's for a party, or to impress an editor. Experiment on your own time.
  • Don't "stir the pot." In other words, don't engage in online "word wars" or belittle others through blog rants. You're likely to "get burned" in the process. 
  • If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen! Hell's Kitchen Master Chef, Gordon Ramsay, is insanely wicked when it comes to critiques of contestants.He makes comedian Andrew Dice Clay sound like a Boy Scout comparatively. (Hence the name, “Hell’s Kitchen”.)  The point here? Sometimes rejection letters, commentary provided by editors, and even general blog comments by readers, can be brutal and unfair.
    Don’t let it permanently burn you. It comes with the territory. Apply what you can. Pass on leftovers.
  • Don’t discount expert experience. In order to teach others, you must be willing to learn.
    Generally speaking, experts in any field, are designated experts for a reason.
    They’ve done their homework. They’ve traveled where you’re trying to go.
    They know some things that you don’t. Hello?
    Each show, I’m amazed at how resistant some folks are to the advice of their mentors.
    Though confidence is an admirable trait, confidence should never come before competence.
    It doesn’t even in the dictionary.

So, if you don't want your ideas and creative pieces to come across as "half baked" observe these timely lessons from the kitchen.

Thoughts? Agree or disagree?

Image: Freedigitalphotos.net


  1. Jennifer--The cooking analogy works quite well.

    One of my favorite cooking shows is "Chopped." Just like the cooks in that competition, writers get presented with obstacles, and they have to learn to make those obstacles work for them. Facing something that is unfamiliar will help strengthen our skills.

    (I just finished "Backstage With Julia" Child and it was quite enjoyable.)

    1. Sioux,

      "Sweet" discovery; I never heard of "Chopped" and I thought I was up on all the cooking shows. Is it new? On cable?

      Always love to hear from you. Much thanks!

    2. Chopped is on cable (food network, I believe--we don't have cable anymore). It's been around for a while. I'm assuming it's still on, but you know what they say when you assume...;)

      They have 4 contestants, three rounds/dishes. They have certain ingredients they have to use for each round. Some of them are weird, like liver a requirement for the dessert round; a competitor gets "chopped" during each round (salad, entrée) and then it's down to two cooks for the dessert round.

      If you like cooking shows, I think you would enjoy it.

    3. Interesting. I'll see if I can find videos on line. No cable here either. Thanks!

  2. I agree with Sioux.The analogy worked well. By choosing stronger words, we enhance the 'flavor' of our writing.

    1. quietspirit,

      It's always good to have you add to the menu here at Pen and Prosper. Thanks for your time and comment. :-)

  3. You certainly cooked up a recipe for successful writing with this post! Hope you are enjoying summer's bounty.

    1. Thanks, Linda. And it goes without saying that you're one of my favorite "guests". :-)

  4. I like the cooking analogy, recently I have actually looked more carefully at the - Menu - on my Writing Blog, you can currently discover a Dish of mainly (vitamine rich) 'Raw Foods' :)

    Rather general posts about several different types of writing, and posts about Success, Inspiration, and Writer's Interviews. There still is enough room for improvements, Although lately there is a considerable increase in return visitors possibly because of the
    'Extra Flavor', there are lot's of 'Sauces'
    you can choose from...,

    Like additional info about things like Blogging, Affiliate Marketing (for example about writing Product Reviews) and links to other blogs that especially for writer's can be interesting to read, for example about (Stock) Photography, Books (Book Reviews), Music,
    Movies, Travel(writing).

    1. Thanks for letting us know what's "brewing" at your place, H.P. :-)

  5. Confidence should never come before competence.Love it! Along with all your other excellent points.

  6. Love this comparison! These are great points that will surely add flavor to our writing career. :)

  7. Love this comparison! These great points will surely add flavor to our writing career. :)

    1. Hi Karen,

      Glad you enjoyed this "food for thought". :-)

      Thanks for adding to the mix here.

  8. I used cumin just today in a beef tenderloin recipe. It does make a difference and balances salt and pepper really well with its earthiness. I grew up eating food made with cumin, so the scent of cumin alone takes me back to my childhood. ;-)

    These are great comparisons you make here. And I'm quoting you on that line: "Confidence should never come before competence!"

    Be well, my friend.

    1. A cumin consumer, great. :-) I do see now where I could possibly use it for meats and maybe chili?

      Anyhow, I love expanding my food vocabulary and my weekly menu options. Thanks for stopping by and sharing, Janette.

  9. This is a great analogy. I was trying to do a similar article with roller skating but it has not come to me yet. This was fodder for inspiration.

    1. Keep at it. Good luck with that! :-) Thanks for your thoughts today.

  10. A few things that come to mind: getting up when you fall, balance, hold on to others for support. :-)