Thursday, July 28, 2011

Editing: Don't Overwork the Dough, But Don't Turn in a Half-Baked Product

I'm not much of a baker. The few times I've attempted it, my (fewer) successes have been the result of mishap, mis-measurement, and flat-out disasters that have been narrowly resurrected through a random combination of desperation, prayer, and frantically throwing in more ingredients in an attempt to re-balance the batter.

However, one thing even I know is that when you're baking (be it bread, cake, or pastry) you don't want to overwork the dough. Over-kneading, over-stirring, over-beating, over-whatevering, leads to tough baked goods. And nobody likes gnawing their way through tough baked goods.

At the same time, you don't want to turn in an under-done, not well-mixed product. Nobody likes a half-baked cake or a mouthful of flour. So how do you know when it's done enough (the batter's fully mixed, the dough's well-kneaded) but not over-done?

The reason I am pondering these random philosophical baking questions today is because secretly, I am really pondering their analogous writing counterparts.

Writing Update: I'm still mired in the editing process. It feels like it will be the endless editing process. I've gotten some excellent feedback from an independent film producer friend (he was amazingly adept at reading my work and immediately finding the structural issues, then suggesting solid, strategic solutions). I've also gotten tremendous support and thoughtful suggestions from my critique partner. Friends, family, and spouse have also weighed in.

Only the spouse led to a screaming match. (Kidding.) (Sort of.)

(Note to self: do not ask spouse for editing help if you want your relationship to last.)

The point is, that all this editing/re-writing/re-organizing could drive a lass to drink! I'm up to my eyeballs in minute (and some large-scale) changes and it's combined into a brain-melting sensation that can only be described as standing too close to a Monet. You can't make out shapes, structure, or reason anymore. It's all just a blur.

So how do you know when the dough's ready (aka not raw) but not overworked?

To be honest, I don't have a solid answer. My immediate coping mechanisms will be getting a little space from the project (space = perspective). Turning to a mind-stilling practice like, ahem, yoga. And relying on my gut instinct, my vision for the project, and the unbiased advice of my crit partner, who hopefully still has some semblance of perspective left. (It's somehow easier to stay objective about someone else's work.)

Hey, just one more reason that a CP is an absolutely, non-negotiable necessity. But that's a post for another day. :)


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