Earlier this year, I decided that I wanted to start baking more regularly, even if only once a week. This quickly became an activity that I do every Monday, and usually I make Turner’s and my bread for the week. I like getting a bit experimental with it and sometimes do other baked goods in place of or in addition to the crusty loaves.
It’s been a lot of fun, and even after just over a month, I’ve seen great improvements with my baking and learned more than I had expected to by this point.
One of the things that I realised throughout this process so far is just how similar baking and writing can be.
- Both need constant practise.
Golly, I’m not kidding. My first several loaves were dry, a bit bland, and crumbly. They tasted okay and were edible, but they were really enjoyable. Similarly, my first blog posts, short stories, and poems were difficult to read or so simple that it was difficult to enjoy them. Practising can help your mind and hands get used to the exercise and work. They’ll become accustomed to the feeling and start growing faster and faster. And if you stop practising, then you might get a little rusty and find it a bit weird to start writing or baking again.
For baking, the practise can help you grow familiar with the ingredients for different recipes; the textures of different doughs; the kneading techniques for different breads; and the times for various cookies, cakes, breads, and pastries. In writing, it can help you discover new forms of poetry, your prefered voice for your blog posts, the best ways for entering deep concentration for long writing sessions, and more things about the characters for your stories and novels.
2. Sometimes projects need to rest and rise.
Projects can easily be over-worked, in both writing and baking. And there are times were the best thing to do is set the project aside for a bit and let is rest and/or rise. For baking, it’s often needed for breads, as well as some other goods, to sit on their own for quite a while, especially with yeast breads. This helps the yeast do its job and give a rise to the bread, which results in a lighter, airier texture and even changing the flavour. In writing, it can sometimes give you a different perspective on the project that you’re working on or it can give you the chance to refuel your mind and/or body (if you’re anything like me, you probably need to stop being so focused on writing and productivity sometimes so that you can eat).
3. It’s okay to experiment.
Alright, it’s more than okay. It’s fantastic! Maybe not always, but it definitely leads to some really crazy and fun discoveries, some of which you might just love for the rest of your life.
One of my favourite experiments in baking so far was a week that I made a couple loaves of bread. One was a bit more normal, just a white wheat yeast loaf. The other was a flavoured adaptation. I decided that I would like to try making a floral sweet bread. So I grabbed some extra sugar and a little bit of dehydrated rose and lavender and kneaded it into the dough just before the first rise. I was very nervous about how the taste might turn out, but somehow it turned out to be the best loaf I’ve ever made, in both texture as well as flavour. Because I used the same dough as the base and just added a few flavours, it was slightly savoury, a tad floral, and a touch sweet.
Much like that experiment on the bread, some of my favourite and best pieces of writing have come from experimentation. Sometimes they come from experimenting with writing prompts. Other times, they come from trying new styles or techniques. And occasionally they come from a combination of several things. Two of my favourites are The Tube (trigger warning: sexual harassment) and Scarlet.
4. Not everything will work.
There are days when, no matter what, you just can’t get anything to come out write, or sometimes it’s just specific projects. In baking, it can be caused by any number of things, like accidentally switching the measurements of some ingredients, the oven not holding heat properly, the weather being too cold or too moist, or the timing not being exactly perfect.
In writing it’s kind of similar, but it might be a bit more difficult to pinpoint the exact cause. Sometimes for me, it’s just that I don’t feel motivated or inspired. Others, I just can’t get any sentences to form properly or my thoughts to become coherent enough to put words to them. Yet some days it’s because I can’t count the amount of syllables in a line or word, however many times I try. And sometimes what I wrote is something I enjoy, but it just doesn’t quite work with the rest of my story or poem, and I just put it off to the side and try to save it for use in another project.
5. Your tastes might, and probably will, change.
I used to adore soda breads. They taste amazing, especially with bitter jams, herbed butters, or toasted as a side for soup. But lately, I’ve not enjoyed them nearly as much as yeast breads. I’ve enjoyed the savoury and sweet flavours that are more easily created from the yeast breads. Plus I’ve liked the lighter textures a lot more. This last week I switched from bread to cookies, and it fit my mood better than anything else has so far, except perhaps the lavender rose bread.
Much like with baking, my tastes for writing (and reading) change rather frequently. Sometimes I prefer the casual form of blogging or the fast-paced writing of intense scenes or short stories. Other times I prefer the relaxed flow of poetry or the studious focus of a critique. As possible, I try to follow my taste for the day and write for about twenty minutes or so. If my flavour changes within the same day, then I’ll do my best to finish the first project before moving on so that I don’t forget what I was writing/wanting to write.
6. Different things take different ingredients.
Just like breads have different ingredients from cookies, different forms of writing take different components. Novels often use prose and that involves more descriptive imagery than poetry, which is built largely on symbolistic imagery. Blogs take more second-person communication, whereas books usually take first- or third-person. Sometimes the ingredients can overlap, but it won’t always be the case. Sometimes the ingredients are specific to someone else’s recipe and not your own or vice versa, but either way, the ingredients in your recipes will work, even if they are different from another’s.
7. Some things will be more popular than others.
So far, my most popular baking was the ginger snap cookies I made last week. Everyone adored them, including myself. However, I want my bread to be the more popular items that I make, and that might happen someday. Just not yet. Either way, it blew my breads out of the water in the responses that I received from the people who have tried them.
Similarly, different things that you write will be more popular than other things you write. And sometimes your favourites will lose out to things that you may not even like. Just try to not let it get you down. So far, I’ve noticed that my poetry tends to be more popular this year than anything else I write, but I’m certainly not going to stop writing the other things that I enjoy either.
8. Sometimes you’ll have to improvise.
Speaking of those ginger snap cookies, I had to improvise so many ingredients! I didn’t have any shortening, so I replaced it with butter and canola oil. I couldn’t find any ground ginger, so I substituted with minced ginger from a jar and ground it a little finer with a mortar and pestle. I also was at a loss for molasses, so I grabbed some brown sugar. Honestly, I didn’t know if it would work or how they would turn out. But after just a couple days, we were down to only having three cookies because everyone loved them so much. Other times improvising might not work as well, but that’s alright.
When writing, I often improvise. I’ll grab past ideas and notice that I don’t have anything to say about specific parts or that I don’t have all the books or notes that I need to finish the post, poem, or story that I’m working on. So I’ll sit back for a minute and observe what I do have within reach. That’s what usually happens with half of my blog posts, for sure. Sometimes improvising means that, because of the substitutions I’m making, I might need to do a lot of reworking to my plan or what I’ve written already, but it works out in the end. Like with baking, sometimes it definitely works out better than others.
9. Occasionally you’ll need to cater to other people’s needs.
Sometimes you might just want to make some really delicious cake, but what is actually needed in the house is biscuits. Other times you’ll really have a craving for cranberry shortbread, but everyone else will want chocolate chip cookies. Most of the times, it’s difficult to find the time to do it all or it’s just impossible, so you have to make the one that is needed or wanted by others’. It can be the same with sitting down to write or type out your works. I think this one mostly goes to blog posts. I won’t lie; there have been times that I’ve just wanted to get on my blog and type up a really long rant full of cursing and tears that seep into my writing through my keyboard. But I know that my readers enjoy my positivity and my desire to brighten everyone’s day and bring hope to the world. So instead of writing that rant, I’ll find a way to make the post a bit more relatable to the world and find a positive viewpoint of it. This usually helps me feel better, too.
10. The more you do it, the better you get.
Okay, so this sounds a lot like practising, and technically practising is a part of it. But the more you do something, even once you’ve stopped “practising” and moved on to just doing it, you continue improving. For baking, it can be that you go from making great biscuits to making essentially perfect ones and exploring various flavours. For writing, it can help you continue to find your voice and style. It can show you what methods of writing you prefer. And it can open your eyes to your favourite genres, topics, and settings.
11. They take a lot of time.
Oh my word, does baking take up time. On an average Monday, I spend about four to six hours in the kitchen (or near it). I’m mixing, stirring, measuring, whisking, cooking, candying, preheating, and baking things. And it truly is exhausting sometimes. It’s similar with writing, except I don’t have a set day or time that I spend writing. I try to do a little bit every day, even if it’s just a couple sentences. But writing takes a long time. Take this specific post, for example. I’ve already spent almost an hour and a half writing it, and it’s only on the first draft. After the revisions, editing, proofreading, scheduling, and all that, I’ll probably have spent about three hours working on it. And that’s just a blog post. Other projects may take years. But I (and hopefully you), will keep writing as well.
12. If you don’t take the time, nothing will happen.
This might seem a little contradictory to letting it rest, but setting aside a project is quite different from doing nothing. But if you don’t bake nothing will come out of the oven, no tasty treats will land upon your tastebuds, and the kitchen will stay clean. I get it. Sometimes you need a break from standing on your feet, cleaning, and brewing up you doughs and batters. And sometimes you need a break from writing so that your brain doesn’t break. But don’t do what I tend to and just stop writing for months on end. I recommend having a few different projects going so that when you step away from one to let it rest, you can work on another. It helps keep you in the practise of writing, and it can help you come up with what you enjoy writing the most. Or you could take a break away from the act of writing and plan for other projects that you are working on or would like to start. Whatever the case, make sure you spend some time writing, even if it isn’t every day or every week.
13. It can be—and usually is—messy.
I could complain about the constant pile of dishes from any regular day, let alone a baking day. Usually, we have stacks of dishes that we dirty and then leave to do until the next morning. But on Mondays I have picarious and teetering towers of mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, spoons, whisks, forks, sieves, baking sheets, knives, cutting boards, mortars and pestles, and containers sitting amidst our other dirty dishes and utensils. And not only that, but the counters, sometimes floors, and always my shirt and pants are covered in flour, sugar, almond milk, and the occasional egg mixed with whatever else I’ve managed to get on my hands and in my hair instead of in the bowls.
And for many writers, writing can be just as messy. We have words, notebooks, sticky notes, tea (or coffee), and red markers strewn about our desks, floors, and bags. And we may even have bruises on our foreheads from collapsing out of exhaustion or frustration onto the table. And all of that is usually before the revising and editing even begins. More often than not, it takes a lot of work to get any writing ready for the world. There may be more red marks than you can count, more notes than you can comprehend, and more tears than you care to admit, but it will be worth it in the end. Take the time to clean up, and you’ll be glad you did it all, even if it takes a long time to feel that way.
Thanks for sticking it through such a long post!
What are your favourite parts about baking and/or writing?
What are your favourite flavours/treats and/or genres?
Let me know in the comments below!