When it comes to cooking, I am far–very far–from being a perfectionist. I’m more of a pragmatist. Don’t have cornstarch? Use some flour. Forgot to buy the second package of lemon jello? Halve the recipe. Can’t figure out how much lemonade mix to put in the giant dispenser at church? Just throw a bunch in and test it until the kids stop whining about how watery it tastes.
But when it comes to writing, I’m a total, complete, lunatic perfectionist. That’s why I think I find blogging somewhat unsettling. These are early drafts–not really finished, aka perfect.
And if you are in charge of a church cookbook and you’re a perfectionist, it’s probably not the best idea to blog about the entire cookbook that you edited because now I’m finding all sorts of mistakes, omissions, and problems.
Since last fall, I’ve been working through Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. The book is about tapping into creativity through a variety of artistic pursuits. In week 7, she hits a familiar chord.
“Perfectionism,” says Cameron, “has nothing to do with getting it right. It has nothing to do with fixing things. It has nothing to do with standards. Perfectionism is a refusal to let yourself move ahead. It is a loop–an obsessive, debilitating, closed system that causes you to get stuck in the details of what you are writing…and lose sight of the whole. … Instead of enjoying the process, the perfectionist is constantly grading the results” (p. 119-120). Ouch.
So far I’ve found three typos, a recipe in Side Dishes that should be in Salads, and a really great recipe that was omitted. And I’ve only been cooking through our cookbook for a couple of weeks.
One of my goals this year is to climb a 14er in my home state of Colorado. The 14ers are mountains above 14,000 feet, and there are 54 of them in the state. My brother David has climbed some crazy number like 36 of them, and when I saw he took his whole family up one last year, I thought, “Hey, I want to do that!” Why? I have no idea. It’s hard. That’s why my word for the year is “persistence.” I’m going to need a lot of it.
But I’ve also been thinking about perfectionism as it relates to my goal of climbing a mountain, and in general becoming healthier. I have this perfect image of my thinner self trekking up the mountain in my Merrell hiking boots, my hair bouncing with my skipping steps. My sweat-wicking clothing will be sailing behind me, you know, sort of like Amelia Earhart with her white scarf flapping in the breeze.
But what it will actually be: not pretty, and most certainly not glamorous–if I even make it at all.
The thing about writing a book or a poem or a screenplay or a novel is that it’s never really finished or perfect. The writer must simply let go and be content that it’s done enough. Now when I read some of my published books, I cringe at a phrase I no longer like or a word I would not use now. But within the time frame I had, where I was as a writer, and within that time in my life, it was the best I could do.
So in addition to “persistence,” I’m adding to my word arsenal for the year the phrase, “It doesn’t have to be perfect.” Of course, the perfectionist in me is crying out: “No, No, NO! That phrase is much too boring! Too bland! Spice it up, make it catchy!” But in the spirit of letting go, I’m leaving it. Trekking up the side of a mountain doesn’t have to be perfect. Writing a children’s poem doesn’t have to be perfect. Editing a church cookbook doesn’t have to be perfect.
Why? Because in Christ, our story is all about grace. Grace to bear with each other when we hurt one another. Grace to forgive past wrongs. Grace to move forward into the future with hope and not bitterness. Grace to rejoice in Christ’s forgiveness.
So I hope you’ll forgive me when I reveal my next typo in Laura P.’s fantastic addition to the cookbook, Mint Pudding Dessert. It should say “powdered” instead of “powder” sugar. Sigh…
Mint Pudding Dessert
Anyhow, doesn’t this recipe sound amazing (p. 83)? Four layers of delicious sweet flavors blended together.
The first layer consists of flour, sugar, nuts (I used walnuts) and butter. Here’s the first layer out of the oven with the second layer–whipped topping, sour cream, and powdered sugar ready to go.
The third layer is chocolate pudding, and the fourth layer is whipped topping blended with a little green food coloring and mint extract.
I may or may not have tasted a small corner.
Yum. I wish I’d had a glass 9×13 so that I could see the fabulous layers. but in the end, who cares? It’s all about the taste. And wow, does this taste great. It’s light, slightly minty, slightly chocolatey.