Friday, June 26, 2009

Great -- and Even Greater (flowers, writing, chocolate)

Great -- and Even Greater

These Stella Dora lilies bloomed under the birch tree in my front yard, through no effort on my part. They appeared just weeks after we moved in six years ago. This year, with ample rain and cool weather, they have spread and blossomed even more. How do they look? Good, huh? I am a great gardener. Perhaps even a genius.
Yet something about them reminds me of the first drafts of my writing. It bursts forth in wonderful glory. I love what I have written. It's perfect. I am inspired -- perhaps even a writing genius. Yes, a genius from whose pen (actually keyboard) a literary bouquet has sprung forth in full glory. This piece of writing, I assure myself, is ready for publication.

Look closer at the lilies. Do you see the ugly stuff in the lovely flower photo above? Yep, there it is. Dried, crinkly, used up blooms. Ah, well, they're not so bad are they? Besides, removing the old flowers would require all that bending and reaching and choosing.

In gardening, removing the imperfect flowers is called deadheading. If the plants are not deadheaded, they go to seed and lose vigor. Is it really worth it? Would the plants really look better?

What do you think? The photo above is Stella before deadheading.

Look at Stella after.

But it's writing we're talking about here. Back to the product of my genius -- having embarrassed myself a few times in the past, I wait. I look at the writing again in a few days, and there it is. Ugly stuff. Dead phrases. Limp metaphors. Fading verbs. Cliches. Endless prepositional phrases.
In writing, removing the imperfections is called editing. It's just as necessary in writing as it is in gardening. If the plants are not deadheaded, they go to seed and lose vigor. If the writing isn't edited, it too loses vigor.

No, I am neither a gardening genius nor a writing genius. I am simply an average woman -- so I will labor in the field and at the keyboard in the hope of producing a vigorous bouquet.
As I was working on this post, a writer called and our conversation turned to the creative process. She was feeling guilty for writing without an outline or plan. Sure, I can think of times when an outline is necessary; but mostly my suggestion is -- plant first, deadhead later.

And now -- chocolate: Let's call this recipe


Recently I attended a bridal shower where luscious-looking cupcakes were served. The hostesses, Judy and Brenda, confided their secret. The cupcakes were made with just three ingredients: a box of cake mix, a can of pie filling, and 3 eggs. For the shower, Judy and Brenda used Swiss chocolate cake mix and cherry pie filling. They made the cupcakes in silver foil cupcake "papers." It's what they did next that made the little cakes so appealing. They were frosted with chocolate frosting, from a plastic "can." Then, the tops of half the cupcakes were generously covered with slivered almonds and topped wth a maraschino cherry, with stem. The other half of the cupcakes were embellished with a purchased, foil-wrapped truffle, and for a final touch a pirouette cookie was inserted like a little straw. Super simple yet super attractive.
Judy says the cake mix, pie filling, and eggs are beaten with a hand mixer and can then be baked in a bundt pan, as cupcakes, or whatever strikes your fancy. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes for a bundt cake. Brenda baked the cupcakes in dark pans, at 325 degrees for 22 minutes. Arrange these on a tiered plate as Brenda and Judy did and your guests will be wowed.

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Copyright 2009 Carol Newman