Scrambled Egg Writing

There are about as many ways to prepare scrambled eggs as there are cooks. Last week with my mother visiting, we had scrambled eggs every morning for breakfast. Some mornings I made them, some mornings Mom did, and one morning Carl did.

Carl barely mixes the eggs at all, cooks them in butter, adds no salt or pepper. Mom mixes them thoroughly, adds milk, salt, and pepper, and cooks them in bacon grease. I mix slightly, add salt, pepper, and marjoram, and cook them in either butter or grease.
They’re all eggs, they all taste different, they all reflect the cook, and they’re all delicious.
You see where I’m going with this, right?

There are so many different styles of writing. Even within the same genre, everyone writes a little differently, puts a little unique twist on the way to tell the story. You can try to imitate someone else exactly, and maybe the story will read okay, but it won’t be you.

There are a lot of “rules” for cooking. One thing I learned from the truly marvelous cooks in my life is that rules are meant to be learned and then ignored at your discretion. Hold too tightly to them, and you’ll never be more than a mediocre cook. To really make food that tastes grand, do it the way that suits you best. Scramble those darn eggs the way you like them, even if nobody else does it like that, and even if it’s against the rules. Some people may not like them, but that’s okay, too.

Learn the “rules” of writing. Then break ’em where you need to in order to write the story your way. Some people may read it and complain about you not doing things the “right” way, but that’s okay. There isn’t one right way. Just ask Shakespeare. He certainly wasn’t following rules.

Sometimes the eggs will stick and burn, or your hand will slip and you’ll dump too much salt in, and sometimes maybe you’ll try cooking them a different way and find that it’s better, or at least fun for a change.

Sometimes the story will flop spectacularly, or you just won’t be able to make all the various elements come together in a cohesive whole, and sometimes you’ll try a different style and have a lot of fun with it, maybe even figure out a way to incorporate the new with the old.

If you fail, you scrape the frying pan into the trash, you hit “delete” on the document, you push up your sleeves and you start again, learning from your mistakes and sometimes, the best of times, even laughing at them.

And you get better. Always. Just so long as you keep trying.

Some days the bread loaves turn out perfectly …

And sometimes they meld into each other to become one big lump. Yep. It happens. Still bread. Still tasty.

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12 thoughts on “Scrambled Egg Writing

  1. Louise, I LOVE this post. It is so, so true that sticking too closely to the rules makes for mediocre cooking (I would know, I'm too focused on recipes and don't let myself just freely go by taste and appearance of the food), so why wouldn't the same hold true for writing? Trying to imitate other people's style or write in a way that is not "us," is not only not being true to ourselves, but also will not lead to the best work we can produce. Thanks for this reminder :)

  2. Well said! The great thing about reading is getting into the head of a character and making you look at the world in a new light. If our writing doesn't do that, then what was the point? Better to be you than anyone else :)

  3. I love this post too, it's so well said with the analogy. This post has a great message in it for all of us writers: you have to know when to break the rules. Thank you for the great comparisons! :)

  4. Most of my biggest failures in cooking have been when I've followed the recipe instead of my gut – and my stories that fall the flattest are those where I go by the rules instead of my heart.

  5. You know, that's one of the reasons I can't stand "sequels" to classic literature written by someone other than the original author. Someone else just can't ever get the flavour right.I love those loafzillas, they're hilarious. And as you say, still tasty.

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