Yesterday I popped over to my parents’ house and discovered that my dad had made samosas. Not the frozen kind (easily warmed in a microwave or oven) but rather, homemade samosas stuffed with love, spiced potatoes, peas and onions. As I smeared jelly onto one of the leftovers my mom turned to me and said: “your dad claims he’ll never again complain about the price of a samosa. They’re harder to make than they look.” This is true. A samosa is a small, triangular Indian food with potatoes, peas and the occasional meat. I’ve always imagined they’d be easy. Chop some veggies, toss on some garam masala and voila! A samosa. Apparently, this is not the case.
How do samosas relate to reading you ask? Well, I also journeyed to a friend’s house last night to do some homework and while we were making dinner she helped me work through some plot issues I found in my manuscript, loopholes if you will. Just before this, however, she’d asked me when I’d finish school and I told her that my manuscript was due the 21st of April, making that my last official day of the semester. “Well you’ve got lots of time,” she said in regards to the eleven days I have to edit and rework several sections of my manuscript, write another term paper and study for yet another final. I laughed. Considering this is project has been on my mind for about a year and has been in progress since last June, eleven days feels like nothing…
But after working through these plot points she came to see how difficult it can be to create an alternate reality. There are, of course, the basic “who, what, where, when and why’s” when starting a project, but these questions become increasingly more complex as the work gains layers. She admitted, after our chat, to seeing the writing process in a new light. So my point is that writing is perhaps a little like samosas. The final product is often a tasty treat we wish to devour, but it is also easy to discount the work that went into that product. A three hundred page book might be read in a matter of days but it certainly wasn’t written this way. The editing process is long and rigorous. In fact, prior to our chat, this same friend reminded me of what she knew about my manuscript. It had been months since we’d spoken about it and when I told her I’d cut a character named Heather she said, “wow, that must have meant you were cutting entire pages” and I told her that yes, I had. Entire sections, pages, characters. All gone. Chucked. Forgotten. What do they say? Kill your darlings? Well, I murdered them with a shined axe. I’ve been merciless.
So it’s easy, when we are unacquainted with a given process, to assume its ease. I am no chef and so in restaurants, when a dish with a simple garnish is placed in front of my I might think “okay, easy” and proceed to list some ingredients. In doing so I fail to consider how long various ingredients might need to simmer, whether or not something was left in marinade overnight or whether some particular ingredient was imported in order to add to the dish’s overall success.
This said, even as someone who loves to write, I’m discovering how complicated the writing process is. Until now, I’d never written anything longer than about fifteen pages. Now, fifty pages in, I’m having to go back and say to myself “wait, but that doesn’t make sense because didn’t so and so say such and such back on page eighteen?” or “wait a second, I’ve sent so and so off on said adventure but what the heck did they do with their kayak?” and as I go back to fix these problems I inevitably encounter or create new ones.
So the countdown is on and with eleven days to go I’ll be buried in work. But I must say, I feel a certain thrill. I love a good challenge and though I’m stressed, I feel my stress beginning to act as a motivator, a voice in the back of my head cheering “Go, Em, Go!” I’m curious if all you writers out there feel the same way. Do you enjoy a tight deadline? Are you motivated to run in order to escape the prospect of failure? Please feel free to leave a comment and share your thoughts!