Yay. I’ve just finished writing. Ready to click Publish when I pause just long enough to ask myself, “Is this any good?”
I have, as many of us do, an Inner Editor that should be responsible for this kind of thing, but lately he’s been yelling at me to write faster. Write every day. Write at least a 1000 words. Just write…Right?
I’m told that writing, like golf and surgery, and making the perfect omelet, is one of those 10,000 hour skills. With enough practice, you may not achieve perfection, but you’ll become a master. It’s a comforting notion for rookies like me who have plenty of room to grow, but my problem probably isn’t more words. I don’t know if I’m sharing the “right” words.
It’s just Blogging
I accept the incurability of my disease (Hello, my name is Gabe, and I’m a Blogaholic). Initially, I got my fix through reading, then writing. Eventually (finally), I discovered that the blogosphere is more than a spectator sport. It’s a place for conversations that require more heft than social media can handle, and more back-and-forth than books/magazines are designed to support.
I don’t have to find a publisher willing to take a risk, or convince an agent to campaign on my behalf, in order to share my stories. All it takes is me, my 1000 words, and a Publish button. Yay Internet.
Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s OK to become another voice yammering into an already noisy space. I want to make a meaningful contribution to the conversation. To inspire, and ideally, to engage.
The secret to a great Blog Post is in the sauce
After putting my considerable brain power to use (Netflix has a show called OA that is definitely worth the 8-hour investment), I still hadn’t had an epiphany. It was time to go over to the In-Laws with Monica. Please bear with me for a minute while I set up the scene. I think it might be relevant.
We’re in Bucharest, Romania on our way to celebrate an Eastern Orthodox holiday by preparing a traditional dish called Piftie (pronounced pauf-tse-yay). It’s an all-day family ritual. I may have passed out for a portion of the process, so you might need to refer to a more reliable guide if you’re thinking about making this at home, but here’s what I remember:
- Boil huge kettle of water. If you’re asking yourself how big the kettle needs to be, think Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Start with “double, double toil, and trouble” and go from there.
- Collect a pile of pig parts: ears, cheeks, if pigs wore gym sox, then that part of the legs. Don’t forget the tail. The skin is apparently an important ingredient for flavor and texture, so that stays, but too much meat ruins it.
- Chop up vampire and American-guy repelling quantities of garlic
- Toss in a few chunks of root veggies that would otherwise be mulch, or pig food (circle of life people, circle of life).
- Break off a hunk of the goat’s salt lick and add it to the mix (for medicinal purposes).
This is done in the tiniest apartment available. Family and friends spill out of an o
ver-flowing kitchen into the living room as a steamy miasma saturates everything. Neighbors, noticing the smell, don’t make panicked calls for Hazmat teams as I would expect. There are curious knocks at the door. No disgust. On the contrary, and it could be an artifact of the toxic haze, but I’d swear it looks like they’re hoping for an invitation.
I sneak a few peaks at Monica. I’m expecting to get rewarded with one of those apologetic looks that says: “I know, I know. Totally weird. I’ll make it up to you later.” Instead, this woman who, like me, drinks her wine with pinky out, and carefully hand-picks each
organic, locally grown tomato before buying, is completely engaged in the scene.
Something about this whole thing feels “right” to her. And completely bizarre to me.
There’s no accounting for taste
Later, when it’s just us, and I’ve burned all the clothes we wore, I try to dissect the why of what I just witnessed. This is important because some suggest that good writing is a matter of satisfying the “tastes” of your audience. Should I learn to make Piftie?
As she spoons a few more sips of Piftie, I see bliss. I wonder how this amazing woman, with whom I otherwise share so much, could have such a polar reaction. Not appreciating the miraculous healing power of Taco Bell to the same extent I do is one thing, but a gelatinous pile of pig tail and garlic? I love her. But I don’t get it.
Even if I devoted (survived) 10,000 hours to the art of creating Piftie, I doubt I could foster that kind of bliss. More importantly, I wouldn’t want to.
She tries to help me understand. Part of it has to do with being raised in a communist country until 1989. Things that we consider luxuries today were completely unavailable, and things that we take for granted, like fresh meat and veggies, were in very short supply. Piftie parties (my phrase) are a way to celebrate the important things. Family, friends, warm homes during winter, and full bellies.
It’s about the Passion
Despite Monica’s convincing argument, I can’t say that this experience expanded my palette. But it wasn’t a total loss. Eddie and me got an object lesson in why it won’t work to write what we think potential readers will like. I can’t do it, and even if I could, I wouldn’t want to. And you got a free recipe for Piftie. Win-Win.
That’s what it’s really about in the end. Creating win-wins. A very wise person recently gave me advice along these lines: Write about the stuff that excites you, the stuff that you can’t keep to yourself, even if sometimes you should. If I can do that, then I think I’ll make a meaningful contribution to the conversation.
I may not get why Monica and I have such different culinary tastes, but fortunately, I think this advice is going to sink in. Besides, I’ve got more than 9,500 hours of practice on my way to that elusive promise of competence. Might as well enjoy it, right?