Apparently I make pie when I'm sad. Or at least that's what the daughter says.
I'm not so sure.
Sometimes I make pie because I'm in that mood to dig up old memories and let them hold my heart. Sometimes I make pie because I'd like a dessert but have limited ingredients. Pie is probably my preferred dessert (apart from the never fail hot chocolate sauce fudge pudding). But I don't find making pies easy.
There's a type of anxious inadequacy I face with every pie I make. Will I be able to roll out this crust? Will it burn around the edges again? Will the meringue shrink? Will the middle set or will it come out soggy?
And yet, despite various unpredictable results, I find myself continually returning to the kitchen, choosing a pie dish like it's a mood or a colour, and pulling out another recipe to try.
My writing's a bit like that too. Despite multiple published titles, I still sit at my desk with a nagging uncertainty about my craft. I wonder whether I really know what I'm doing. I hesitate over paragraphs and rewrite sentences because I'm just not sure I've got it right. When my books go out into the world I wonder how they'll fare. Will they reach the readers I meant them for? Will they be enjoyed, loved, returned to? Will the words I've put on the page be worthy of being read?
And then there are the very practical considerations of sales and promotions and school visits and publicity and, well, maybe that's why I like to make pie? It's so much easier than all of this 'author business', especially in the 'current season', when the things we had taken for granted are shoved aside - not so much by imposed restrictions, than the rippling undercurrents in our lives we had been trying to ignore.
r me, this stripping back of 'everyday normal' means I have to face off with my writing in a new and challenging way. The tougher questions rise to the surface: Who am I when I can't write? When school visits are cancelled and brand new books are launched with limited success? When I can't even put together a simple social media post without spending 45 minutes writing and rewriting it? When the definition of success unfurls in layers I previously hadn't noticed?
However unsettling these questions are, I suspect I need to face them full on. Of course; I don't really have to; I could bluster on-wards, shove them down, argue my way out of their gentle observations. But if I do that, will I grow?
My anxiety about making pies is trivial. I face it because I know, regardless of how burnt or wonky or caved in my pie appears, it will be yummy (even if a bit crunchy). In a similar manner, my usual writer's self-doubt ensures I give my best to my work to my writing. But these deeper questions uncovered by current times? What do they do?
Well, they expose where my heart is at. They ask me to look into the mirror - the one on the wall and the one that is God's word - and see those parts of me that need addressing. It can be humiliating to look this way. It can be hard, but it's also real.
And real is why I write in the first place. Because in writing I find a strange place where emotions and objects and stories and fact tangle themselves together in such a way that I find hope. Writing can be both celebratory and lament, wonder and curiosity, dis-belief and faith. Cut back to the barest minimum by times and questions that pull the certainty out from underneath my writer's life, I am offered a glimpse again at why I love the blank page so much. Without expectations or demands, words are playful, powerful things once more. And I know I don't have to face the difficult questions raised by this time on my own, because I was never left alone - not when things were going smoothly and according to carefully made plans, or when things are unsettled and undone. In times of blue sky or in times of (possibly too much) pie, God's love remains the steady, steadfast, steadying thing.
And that makes it worth it all.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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