Why you should deviate

I’m often asked what it’s like to be a writer — how I spend my days, how I experience the world. And so I will be sharing occasional essays from the front lines of my writing life. Enjoy!

Why you should deviate, from Beth Mende ConnyMy husband and I are making a cake. Open before us is the bible for lost souls: the Joy of Cooking. Across the countertop are the requisite ingredients (flour, sugar, baking soda and powder, eggs and salt) and various implements of destruction (measuring cups and spoons). The Joy (ha!) of Cooking makes clear the precise measurements and order of ingredients. It states, “Deviation brings disaster.”

Deviation brings disaster? Joe and I frown as we reread the warning. We then look at each other and smile: “Screw ‘em.”

Why this story about cake, you ask? Because it’s not about cake but deviation.

I am a writer, and to not deviate brings disaster. If I can’t mix ingredients the way I want and in the order and proportions that strike my fancy, why bake at all?

So what if flour spills on the counter or I mistake the salt for sugar. Who cares if I turn my three-layer cake into an apple pie, or preheat my oven to broil. Or simply serve my pie raw, in wine glasses. Or toss the whole mess in the trash and begin again, this time with chubby blueberries that stain my fingers as I plop them into a paper cup. Perhaps I’ll sprinkle fairy dust sugar on them. Or add chocolate syrup with a twist of lemon. Lemon? Yes!

So there Joy of Cooking! Deviation does NOT bring disaster. It brings surprise, which can be just as sweet. Ask any writer.

(By the way, the cake my husband and I made? It was delicious.)

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