Fudge-like. Chewy, in an oatmeal-chocolate-peanut butter way, smooth and cool from the metal pan and waxed paper with a textured top. Exposed aggregate that you can eat.
Over the past few months, I’ve been trying to perfect my refrigerator cookie recipe (or No-Bakes). My family’s been working on it for years: my cousin took home a blue ribbon for her version, years and years ago, but I’m a fastidious cook. A recipe isn’t permanently “codified” until it’s been tweaked, at least a few times. I get a lot of recipes online, taking portions from well-reviewed recipes and piecing them together.
And refrigerator cookies were no exception. The first few batches were good. The flavor wasn’t bad, but they were flat, pooling across the waxed paper to look more like a chocolate bar than a cookie. There wasn’t much I could change—the recipe only has seven ingredients, not one of which was a thickener—so I kept making it. Then we changed brands of peanut butter, and perfection was achieved (I still think they come out a little sweet, but I’m the chief-dessert-maker, not eater, of the house, so if those that eat them like them, I make no changes; I just eat one per batch, if that.)
All this reminded me of writing. We tweak things, combining elements from a variety of stories: an emotion here, a character type there, a piece of a song matched with a memory of a feeling. And sometimes, after we’ve run through the story for a few drafts, we’re close, but not quite there yet. Something is still off.
And it bugs us. When I write, the smallest thing being off ruins my momentum. (I’m not talking about the description being boring, or not there; I mean about the characters and the plot). Once my “writer’s sense” feels that something’s wrong, I can’t keep writing, and I have no motivation to write, because the whole thing gets contaminated. (And, sadly, my cookie-eating family can’t make these problems disappear.)
But, thankfully, some problems are like switching brands. You may just need to change the gender of a character, or the age. Maybe she has too much or too little family; maybe he needs to use more slang or longer words. It isn’t that you’re an awful writer; you just haven’t found the right ensemble of ingredients to make your story perfect. We sometimes say the mood of a piece is off, when really, it comes down to something far more tangible: the level of description, the way the plot unfolds, the absence or presence of a villain or love interest, etc. With writing, as with most things, it’s the little things that make the big differences.
So, if you feel like your “recipe” is off, play around with things, experiment, and then, throw it all into the refrigerator to chill before touching it again. When you come back with fresh eyes and eager “taste buds,” you might be pleasantly surprised with your creation.
And if anyone’s interested, I can post the recipe for this delectable creation. 🙂
Copyright 2014 Andrea Lundgren