My Secret Ingredient

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I am told that I make good pancakes.

Even if I weren’t told this, I would know it. Because I taste them, and they taste good, and I have good taste.

They’re the perfect color. Golden yellow with light brown edges. Crisp on the outside but fluffy and soft on the inside.

I am patient. I wait until the just-right amount of bubbles appear on the surface of the round puddle of mix. A puddle that is not too thick and not too thin. I resist the urge to peek, and I stand guard as they cook. When the bubbly surface begins to look dry-ish, I know it’s time to flip them. Timing is everything. You cannot flip them a moment too soon because you must only do it once. Multiple flips will mean the texture is lost.

They look good. But the taste is what really sets them apart. Sweet but not too sweet. Delicate, not doughy.

I have a secret.

The secret ingredient is buttermilk, and it makes all the difference.

Writing isn’t much different than making good pancakes.

It starts with good taste. You don’t need anyone to tell you your writing is good except you, though it is encouraging when they do (and it helps).

You need patience. A sense of when a piece of writing is finished, not over or underdone.

But most of all you need a writer’s secret ingredient: persistence. You have to show up and write consistently and persistently enough to grow and produce work of quality.

Memoir of a Failed Memoirist

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Please don’t ask me to remember something. Don’t say, “Remember the time we…” or “Tell me about when…”.
The past, for me, is a wasteland of vague impressions, abstractions, and perceptions. Memories are not movies playing out in my mind. They aren’t clear and vivid photo-quality images.
I’m good at remembering odd, insignificant details. Like how I decided to name my fat, orange goldfish Garfield. Then I named his skinny, gray swimming partner Simon. I thought it was clever to reference the famous Sunday comics cat, while also indirectly suggesting a famous sixties folk-pop duo. And yes, Garfield is close enough to Garfunkel to make this witty in my mind. I remember how they died. Simon went first. It was a nameless, tumor-causing fish disease. I was glad that Garfield outlived him by several years, even though he eventually succumbed to the mysterious belly up-disease.
Looking at photos is helpful. So is listening to stories that friends and relatives tell. But I can’t seem to shake the uncomfortable realization that vast chunks of my life exist somewhere in a black, inaccessible void. This is what scares me. It makes me feel sad and wholly inadequate to describe my own past.
It’s not that I don’t remember any of it. It’s that I remember it differently than others. It’s selective at best. My memories are often random and always subjective. I’ve come to accept this as a by-product of being an INFJ. My dominant cognitive function is introverted intuition. Which means I can’t also have introverted sensing. I’m not able to file sensory images away in my brain and retrieve them at will. I’m much better at thinking abstract thoughts and finding patterns. It’s also why I miss exits on the highway when I’m talking to someone.
For day three of my21 Day Writing Challenge, I have decided to consider the past. I’m drawn to memoir and I’m not sure why.
So far I’ve managed to capture two interesting childhood moments in the form of a memoir. Was this a stroke of luck? An un-reproducible, isolated phenomenon? Am I doomed to fail at memoir writing?
I’m sure I have a few more where those came from, so I’m going to try and suspend all self-deprecation from this point forward.
Maybe there’s a reason I like memoir so much. Maybe I like the idea of struggling with the elusive past, fishing something out of the depths of time, and re-working it into a meaningful story.

Growing as a Writer {a 21 Day Challenge}

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I want to grow as a writer. My plan is to show up here every day and write something.

Poetry. Dreams. Memories. Stories. Observations. Thoughts. Feelings. Whatever.

I’m told that I need the practice. And that something magical happens when you just write. So I’ve decided to take on a daily writing challenge. I’m going to write here every day. I’ll be using some prompts.

After 21 days, I’m going to look back at what I’ve written. I’ll see what themes emerge. I’ll find my voice. Writing every day will be a habit, and I’ll train my brain to think like a writer. Well, that’s the idea anyway.

Here’s what I know about writing:

There’s a voice in my head. It’s the voice of every book or poem I’ve ever read. When I arrange words and read them out loud in my head, the voice tells me if they sound right. If they flow. If they sound like what I’ve read.

Neat. Polished. Nothing messy. No sordid details. Clean, clever and cold. Censored and sifted. Careful. This is how I write.

Maybe I’m reading the wrong books?

This is day two. Read day one’s post here.

Free Books


It’s more difficult than it looks putting word after word on a page. Words that make sense.

Words are free.

Like the books you find now and then on an ugly metal shelf by the exit doors of the library.

You could be sleeping on a couch and cashing out your retirement fund twenty years too soon. You could be surrounded by bags of those free books, writing free words.

And at first, you never stop asking if it makes sense.

But then, one day, when you’re reading your books and writing your words, you start feeling free.

And someday someone will pick your words right off of a drab gray shelf.

Because they’re free.