Friday, December 21, 2012

When Your Perfect Snowflake Becomes a Puffy Hand

Image from  stock.xchng

I have a thing for snowflakes- they're one of those rarities that are so delicate and symmetrically perfect, and if the saying is true, no two snowflakes look exactly alike. Snowflakes are nature's testament to the value of nonconformity and individualism.

Sugar snowflake cookies were one of the items on my household's holiday baking program this year. A couple of nights ago, my daughter worked on her fine motor skills by pushing her little fingers down on a snowflake cookie cutter to slice the dough. Her reward was seeing the pretty snowflakes she created. Once the cookies were baked, I'd planned  to work with her to brush each flake with a pale blue icing and then use a white glitter gel to pipe out some fancy lines.

Maybe I ticked off the baking gods by using supermarket cookie dough over making this from scratch. About five minutes after the snowflakes began baking in the preheated oven, the  cookies began to swell. At seven minutes, some of the shapes got so bloated that the straight smooth edges rounded out, and then these puffy mounds of dough began attaching themselves to each other like a cluster of chunky bonded molecules. When I took the baked cookies out of the oven, they looked nothing like the dainty little snowflakes I put in.

Years ago, on a trip, I got a bunch of super nasty bug bites all over both hands.  When I rolled my swollen red hands into fists, I couldn't even see my knuckles because my skin was so puffed up. It was totally whack. Most of my so-called snowflake cookies turned out looking like those puffy hands. My daughter didn't mind the misshapen cookies as she happily sprinkled them with colored sugars but I'd really wanted my snowflakes to be perfect.

Striving for perfect snowflakes only to end up with puffy hands could be a metaphor for so many things, including road blocks I've encountered in my journey as a writer. Sometimes a plot, once conceived with a bright light bulb popping up over my head, becomes a puffy hand. Sometimes a character I'd nurtured and rooted for becomes a puffy hand. Sometimes the whole MS becomes a giant puffy hand. Sometimes you meet an industry professional thinking you're presenting a snowflake, but they respond as if you'd just flashed those puffy hands.

When I get worked up over a "puffy hand" I am dealt, I try to figure out what I'm  really stewing over- whether it is the ideal of something I wanted that didn't come through, or that I didn't get the by-product I would've gotten from attaining the ideal, or both.  

For example, my occasional frustrations with the writing and publishing process come from my desire to get published. And why do I want to be published? I have something to say, and I want people to hear it. With baking cookies, I'd just wanted to do a fun activity with my daughter (and that, I did). Digging a little deeper, I also wanted the perfect snowflake cookies because I have a baking ego I must  feed.
Sometimes people have idealized notions of things they want without  considering what they are really seeking. When I can admit to myself why I want the things I want, it helps me understand the source of my disappointment when things don't go the way I'd hoped.

Have you ever had idealized notions of how something would turn out only to end up with "puffy hands?" How did you handle this? 

For all you bakers, what are you making for the holidays?

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!


Tammy Theriault said...

what a great post!! loved the metaphor of snowflakes...baking some sugar cookies for decorating with a friend for the kids to decorate together!!

Elise Fallson said...

I am the worst at baking. Seriously. I don't know why but every time I try to make something that requires oven baking, catastrophe ensues. I either forget ingredients, over cook, under cook, you name it. I've accepted that I'm just not good at baking, however I am pretty good at cooking main dish meals. So I guess it's best to concentrate on what we're good at. (:
Happy Holiday! Hope you and your family have a great one and Happy New Year!

Sherry Ellis said...

I'm sure your cookies still tasted great!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Great point and well thought out. It's probably a good idea for people to stop every little once in awhile and consider what it is they're actually pursuing and why. It's so easy to get caught up in everything and forget the reasoning behind it.

I'm usually a baking fiend, but have so far baked NOTHING for the holidays. It may happen tomorrow; we will see.

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Paul R. Hewlett said...

I love the "puffy hands" reference, do you mind if I use it? I have had "puffy hands" countless times, the MS idea you mentioned comes to mind. I decided this summer to write a longer length book and had brainstormed some great ideas. I then set out to organize and outline them in an effort to begin writing. I worked, and wrote, and wrote some more. After writing about 2/3 of a rough draft, I sat back and realized it was garbage. The idea is still really good I must add, but the rough draft had become "puffy hands". Thanks for sharing & Merry Christmas.

Paul R. Hewlett

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

LOL, your post brought back some wonderful memories. Like the time my oldest used a cup of salt instead of sugar. He refused to throw the cookies out and managed to eat about 5 before he couldn't stomach anymore.

I'm baking gluten free cheese cake for my husband today. LOL I'll probably end up eating half!

Merry Christmas, Cynthia. Best in 2013~!

Lynn Proctor said...

oh yes--i am not the baker in the family and there is a reason for that :)---merry Christmas to you :)

Cynthia Heart Books said...

Tammy: Sounds like a fun activity!

Elise: Sometimes things I make don't turn out the way I'd hoped too.

Sherry: Thanks!

Shannon: Good luck with whatever you decide to make.

Paul: Thanks for sharing your experience. Maybe if you return to your MS after taking a break, you might realize it can be revised.

Joylene: Thanks for sharing your sweet story.
Must be a yummy cheesecake.

Lynn: Thanks! Have a good one!

Anonymous said...

I stopped baking. I'm not skilled in the kitchen and I know about the puffy hand.

Happy Holidays!

Tara Tyler said...

add enough sugary frosting to your writing and everyone will eat it up?
i am not a good baker, but i can follw a recipe & things turn out ok...
its the writers that add their own spice & flavor that sell! and it usually doesnt end up the wy we planned..

hope you had a wonderful holiday! happy new year!

Anonymous said...

i didn't end up making my favorite gingerbread men recipe this holiday season. maybe i'll rebel and make some january cookies :)

i'm going to contemplate your question about the desire to be published. it's probably part ego, and this idea inside my head of what it means to be published...

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