Trial, Error, and How It Applies to Writing

What’s on the iPod: Things We Lost in the Fire by Bastille

I vote we have more four-day weekends. I got more accomplished and then did little to nothing in a way that was utterly refreshing. Thanksgiving was spent at the stepson’s fiancee’s home, and we were treated to a great meal followed by a fun board game. Home by 9 pm as Daughter had to head to work very early Friday morning. Her company is usually hit by the Black Friday madness (and Cyber Monday, so today will be no better), and it was her job to keep everyone in customer service fed and hydrated while getting some competitor tracking done.

Our Friday was spent in a much more relaxing way. I rarely partake of the Black Friday madness and I’ve never gotten out of bed for it, for sure, so it was a little ironic to spend the late morning in the appliance store ordering all our appliances. I’m not against Black Friday as a concept. Retailers rely on it. Yes, it’s become a bit crazy, but we as a society can’t really point fingers when we’re the ones driving such madness. We are consumers, after all. And retailers are in business to make money, just like most businesses. It’s all about choice. I choose not to chase the sale to that extent.

Besides, I’m much more of a Cyber Monday gal. 😉

Back to the appliances. Because they’re ordered and the installer is scheduled to show in two weeks, there was much prep work to be done. Stepson and Husband spent the entire weekend prepping for a new range that needs an electrical outlet (gas cooktop/electric oven combo) and moving cabinets one-and-a-half inches to the left to accommodate the refrigerator. Much work to be done, but it’s started.

I spent the weekend doing a little holiday shopping online, trying to get the decorations up, and redeeming myself in the kitchen (around construction, no less) after the Great Thanksgiving Pie Fiasco of 2013.

I started out with a great pie crust recipe. Since we were due for dinner at 3 pm, I wanted to get a jump-start, so I started rolling out dough at 10 am. Good thing I did — three burned crusts/pie later, we realized the oven was set to the self-clean mode. How can I miss that? Quite easily; the knobs no longer have any markings on them. We guess-timate where the settings are. Usually, it’s one click to the right and the oven comes on. However, someone must have left it in the Bake position and I didn’t notice.

Hence the reason for new appliances.

Within five minutes, I smelled something burning. Sure enough, one pie crust was black. The other looked salvageable, so I poured the pumpkin mix in. Tried it again with another dough recipe, too. Stuck one in the oven along with the pie. Five minutes into cooking, again, and I smelled it again. This time, the top of the pie was black and the crust was useless.

Once I got the right setting, I started yet again. By this time I had enough dough for just one crust. Luckily, Daughter had bought a graham cracker crust, so I had two pies to take with us. The pies tasted great, but I didn’t notice thanks to my hair still sporting the humiliating smell of burnt crust.

Yesterday, I did my own Thanksgiving dinner. Originally, Son was supposed to visit, but a death in his girlfriend’s immediate family prevented it. So I cooked for whomever was around. It was more relaxing knowing it wasn’t The Meal, as in the tradition that everyone is relying on. I played with the yam recipe and came up with a brandied yam dish that was just divine, so I redeemed myself after the Pie Fiasco.

That’s how it is with writing too, isn’t it? Well, maybe no burnt crusts, but there are times when expectations simply cannot be met, or certainly not on the first try. Some writers will let that one experience define them or their careers. It’s like dabbling at marketing and giving up the minute you get a “no thank you.”

You let it defeat you.

But each project, client interaction, marketing attempt, etc. is a case of trial and error, no? Do you go into every project knowing you’re going to knock the thing out of the park for the client? No. You go in knowing you’re giving them a first draft — or at least you probably should think that way.

I know there were a few times I worked with clients and the first result was not liked. It happens. Is it your lack of writing talent? Doubtful. More likely it’s a problem with communication. I had a few cases where the client would complain loudly about “numerous” errors when only one small one appeared (or in a few cases, none). I’ve also had to rewrite entire articles because I wasn’t able to guess correctly what the client wanted.

You keep trying.

No matter if it’s your client work or your fiction/non-fiction work, you keep trying. Why? Because this writing stuff is in your blood. Quitting it or admitting defeat would be like refusing air because someone said you weren’t inhaling properly.

How has trial and error made you a better writer?
How was your Thanksgiving?

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  • Paula December 2, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    I'm glad I wasn't the only baker with a pie fiasco.

    Twelve family members (cousins, siblings, kids and three dogs) had a multi-day Thanksgiving retreat up in the North Woods. My cousin and his wife own the property, building a dream "cabin" gradually. They started with what's now the lower level, so we had four bedrooms, two bathrooms and two kitchens.

    Another pie baking cousin and I baked pies in the downstairs kitchen. I made the crust ahead, and my niece and nephew helped roll it out. I made the apple pie filling and brought stuff for the pumpkin pie, so while the kids were rolling we made the fillings. My sister-in-law brought a gluten free crust. I brought extra pumpkin and evaporated milk, so my cousin made more filling. The colors weren't the same, but she used different spices than the combo I'd brought for the first pie. (Disclaimer: we both loathe pumpkin pie.) We had to fit three pies in one oven. The apple pie was pretty deep and didn't fit on the lower shelf. I didn't realize the oven had a heating element on top, too, so the lattice crust my cousin worked so hard on started to burn before we could put foil over it.

    Every crumb of the apple pie went, but we know the pumpkin pies weren't very good because there were leftovers. I think all of the sugar accidentally got put into one of the pies since one was described as "really sweet" and the other wasn't sweet enough. Oops! (Hey we were working in a strange kitchen with kids and a new recipe.)

    Fortunately, the chocolate almond toffee I made with another cousin (in the upstairs kitchen) turned out perfectly.

    So what if the pumpkin pies were awful – the company was amazing.

  • Lori December 3, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    Oh no! Paula, that's a story to tell for years to come. 🙂 It's these kinds of tales that make holidays memorable, don't you think? Okay, in a weird way, but still memorable!

  • Paula December 3, 2013 at 5:13 pm

    When I was in high school, the first time I made the Thanksgiving turkey on my own I didn't know how to truss it, and the skin shrank up a lot, leaving a gaping hole. My sister dubbed it "The Smiling Turkey."

    One year, an aunt was taking the turkey out of the roaster and getting it ready to carve, and a big wad of skin/fat flew across her kitchen. It left a grease stain on the wall paper for years to come.

    There's always something that goes amiss. I think it keeps us humble!

  • Lori December 3, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    My first stuffing "clinked" when it hit the plate. 🙂