I have a younger cousin in high school, who is a writer. She isn’t published yet as far as I know but she ended up with that creative gene that affects so many in my family. I don’t think that is a bad thing at all. It is actually comforting when one of us is experiencing one of those pesky writer problems and the other knows exactly what it feels like. This kid has such a bright spark too. Her life hasn’t been the easiest but I know one day she is going to take all of that and use it to do something fantastic.
My eldest child and this cousin are exactly one year and one day apart in age. If this were a fairy tale that would mean joining together on an epic journey to a hopefully happy ending. Honestly, if they ever decide to do comics or something, it could happen. My eldest is an artist. ( And yes, I realize there are more ways for a collaboration between a writer and an artist to happen other than comic books, but I watch Into the Spider-Verse last night and so comics were the first things that popped into my head.)
I am horrible at making pancakes. (Also know as hotcakes or flapjacks.) You are probably wondering what one thing has to do with the other, but stick with me please, I really do have a point.
This past week was filled to the gills with errands and appointments and I didn’t sleep well all week. I’ve been having trouble with writing because when I sit down to write I know I don’t have the time to just get lost in the words like I prefer. Everyday worries and responsibilities keep crowding in and I lose my focus. Also, I have just been so tired.
I take naps in my car on my lunch break at work because my head is too fuzzy to concentrate. I have trouble string words together coherently and the filter between my brain and my mouth isn’t working correctly either. This has been going on for a while. I’ve been depressed and frustrated with life and it only seems to get more difficult as the days go on.
Last week my annoyance levels hit the “to hell with it mark”. Often, that is a bad thing but it can occasionally be a good thing too. When I reach THWI, I can either go do something stupid or I can stop looking at all I can’t accomplish and start looking for things I can.
In this case, I pulled up the poetry chapbook I have been fighting the formatting on for months. I sat down, added another poem, deleted all the pretty pictures I had plucked off pixabay, added some simplistic basic art instead (also from pixabay), and then spent hours adjusting and deleting things. I paid attention to what got me the result I was after and what caused problems when I uploaded my manuscript to Amazon. I came to the conclusion that I was an idiot when I realized I was causing one of the main issues myself. However, I kept plugging away and now I have a new poetry chapbook available.
(Right now I am also working on a book of short stories because I have had some complaints from readers who prefer physical copies. Once I am done, it will include all of the shorts I currently have up on Amazon and even more shiny new ones.)
Once I finished the book and ordered a proof of the physical copy, I got the oil changed in my car and then washed the poor thing. I started feeling better because I could see progress. I still had all of the other obligations that had been dragging me down but now I felt better about my ability to get things done and I managed to get a little more sleep.
This brings us back to pancakes. I truly am awful when it comes to making pancakes. I have heard all the tips and tricks. I have watched carefully as other people make them but my pancakes still turn out barely edible if I am lucky. My kids beg me to buy the frozen kind that you heat up in the microwave so that they won’t be forced to endure my attempts at the homemade variety.
I usually listen to them, but a few weeks ago there was a sale at the grocery store on mixes. I picked up a packet of confetti style and a packet of chocolate chip batter mix. I smiled as I thought about getting up early on a Sunday and surprising the kids with a breakfast of fun pancakes and bacon. If one of the kids had been at the store with me, those packets would have never made it to the cart.
I know I am bad at pancakes but I still keep hoping that one day I’ll get it, that it will just click and suddenly I’ll be the pancake queen. I am awesome at grilled cheese so I don’t understand why pancakes are so difficult. I used to be really bad at scrambled eggs but my sister eventually fixed that, so I live in hope that I one day I will be good at pancakes too.
(If you doubt my inept pancake skills, I have had at least three different friends on separate occasions walk in on me during pancake experiments over the years. Each time they wore the same expression of horrified disbelief before they pushed me away from the cooking surface and took my spatula, then proceeded to churn out perfect pancakes from the rest of the batter. My friend Jessi could even make them look like cute little animals.)
This morning the house was chilly because yesterday was lovely and sunny and I didn’t think to turn the heat on before bed last night. I slept in because warm blankets in a cool house are one of the best things in the world. When I awoke, I laid there in my warm cocoon and remembered the packets of pancake mix I had stored in the drawer. It was a perfect warm breakfast day.
After letting the dogs out and feeding the cats, I pulled together all of the things I would need and carefully read the instructions on the back of the package. My son walked in while the first pancake was in the pan and quickly requested something different for breakfast. I frowned but told him he could have what he was asking for along with the chocolate chip pancakes. (He is on the autism spectrum and it is hard to get him to eat different things.) Defeated, he left me to it.
The first pancake was black. I lost track of how long it was in the pan while talking to my son. The second one was less black but still overdone and with tiny bits of plastic stuck to it where the spatula melted. I cleaned the pan and switch to the metal spatula that I should have been using all along. This time I had better results. Still not good, but better. By the time I got to the end of the batter, I managed two reasonably roundish, lightly browned pancakes. I presented them to my son and ate a couple of the more promising failures myself. We each ate about half of our pancakes because warm chocolate chips first thing in the morning turned out not to be the best idea.
Life is full of challenges like pancakes. It may seem like something simple that everyone you know can accomplish without issue. That doesn’t mean you should be disheartened because it is difficult for you. It just means that it is going to take you extra effort to accomplish what seems easy to them. There are probably things that you do without a second thought that others find hard.
Something I hope both my cousin and my eldest child remember as they grow in talent and in life is that it is okay if the first try doesn’t work. It is okay if your repeated attempts don’t turn out perfect. Success is defined by the person who is attempting to achieve it.
In my case successful pancakes aren’t bunny shaped, they are just edible ones. One day that may change. Right now I know what I need to master first; the challenge that is in front of me.