Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Successful Writers Have Conviction

 Julia Child's first TV Show, The French Chef
She made beef Bourguignon
February 11, 1963
I stumbled upon a Julia Child television program on You Tube last week and learned quickly, if I wanted to make one of her recipes, I would be wise to listen to the corresponding show. For in her shows she tells all her secrets.

My daughter and I chose to make beef Bourguignon, step by step copying Julia's every move on the show.

The family's first comment after tasting the meal that took five hours to make? Yum!

During the show, Julia casually taught skills as she worked in real time, which allowed her to share secrets while the food cooked. One of the many skills she told the "sevantless American cook" was: "You must have conviction." 

At the time the show aired, Americans searched for convenience. Mealtime, although a necessity, encroached on the day. Hamburger helper and other similar foods became the staple. Few women had time or a desire to complete the steps necessary for dishes like beef Bourguignon.

Julia's challenge: prove to the American cooks that big projects can be broken down into doable steps. 

In her show, Julia taught what portions of the recipe could be done the night before and placed in the "icebox" until needed. She lured American cooks into making their family's meal from scratch by tasting, making mistakes, speaking as one who understands, and showing a magnificent product.

Time and priorities. Both are key issues to making a fabulous meal like beef Bourguignon.

Any of this sounding familiar to your writing?

Julia wanted to show the American cook not only how to do the job, but that they COULD make something complicated, tasty, and rewarding. 

In another episode, Julia flicked a skillet containing an egg mixture. Most of the matter flipped as she intended but some flew out of the pan and onto the stove surface. "No one sees you in the kitchen." She scooped the spilled mixture from the stove and blended it with the other egg in the skillet. Her swift hand smoothed and pressed the wayward pieces as though they never left the skillet. The final presentation of the egg dish proved the work of a master could be made by any cook.

I wanted to let these comments about Julia's skills flow before making points, allowing you the first opportunity to apply what can benefit your work the most.  

Now it is time for both of us to share. I will give you a few points that popped in my head then you add your thoughts in the comments.

1. When spaced appropriately throughout our day, there is time to write. Each person and every day is different. Sometimes there isn't a block of time to write. Use every available minute to write. One hundred words here and there add up.

2. Scenes can be written in a different order. As a scene pops in your mind write it down while it is fresh. Save it in the icebox until needed.  Yes, it may need to be modified later because it doesn't completely match the timeline of the story. That's all right.  At least it's there, not gone to that place where all unwritten brilliant ideas, keys, and missing socks disappear. Black hole scenes can not be retrieved.

3. Decide to get something done. Distractions rob our time, making us feel like the off task project is necessary when it isn't. Prioritize. Run from commercial break distractions, they will suck you in and steal your time. Stay true to your conviction.

4. While learning, play by the rules. Yes, seasoned authors have broken writing rules. But, those same authors first focused on the basics, became masters then found where a broken rule could add flavor. A novice breaking a rule adds bitterness. 

The dictionary defines conviction as: a fixed or firm belief.  Skipping no steps. No short cuts. When we write our stories with conviction, a natural result will be an accurate story. 

Professional writers/authors own a fixed or firm belief in their reason for being a writer, their skills, and their product. They each have formulated a system that works as smoothly as hopping on a bicycle. Most importantly: they write everyday.

For one day, my daughter and I had the conviction we could make beef bourguignon. And we did it, just like Julia said we could. After tasting the meal, my daughter hunted through Julia's shows, looking for another meal to make with Julia. 

How about you? Help us learn from points you gleamed?


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter


Debra E. Marvin said...

Great post, Mary. I grew up in the 60s and processed foods were becoming 'the rage'. My mother and grandmothers certainly cooked from scratch but French food did seem to be need 'more conviction'!

Julia Child was a national treasure and I love how you've taken that moxie and reminded us that there are no easy steps to accomplishing the goals for a writer.

I do congratulate you on your meal - I've never made that myself and I probably won't. Watching Julia and Julia was enough fun!

Mary Vee Writer said...

LOL There are times to choose the incredible and times to let them go.

My mom hated to cook. Our cupboard had stacks of hamburger helper boxes and cans of tuna.

This concept helped me with writing. Taking the "instant" method does not produce quality product. Writing a book is a process with many steps. And those who follow the instructions, will have a better chance to be published.

Thanks for stopping by and laughing with us today, Debra. :)

Jill Weatherholt said...

Your post reminded me of the movie Julie and Julia. I love your comparison of Julia's cooking techniques to writing. Each point resonates with me, especially the distractions. It's a constant battle for me, but I'm working on it. Thanks for a great post, Mary!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Hi Jill!
I must admit, the project started with Julie and Julia before morphing into searching Julia's cooking shows ourselves.

I am such a something shiny type of person. It takes internal discipline to keep me on task. When I succeed and complete the project I'm working on, I feel so good.

Hopefully you are progressing in your WIP and closing in on completion. Let us know :)

Jeanne Takenaka said...

I loved this post, Mary! And, I bought Julie and Julia, and I look forward to watching it.

You're right that writing done well will take time and effort, sacrifice. I love cooking, but I've set my finer meals aside while I write, opting for easy, but still from scratch dishes. I have determined to set aside time daily for writing. I bribed my boys with the promise of a fun activity on Friday (or the weekend), if they give me two hours a day. So far, it's working.

My grandmother and great-great aunt were amazing cooks. I can still remember lemon meringue pie and rhubarb crunch. :)

Debra E. Marvin said...

Mary, I wondered about that!
I only thought of the costs! to do all that food day after day would have broken the bank!

Jeanne -- lemon meringue pie is one great example of 'a lot of work'... I think I made one once and my grandmother made them all the time.

We all have different dishes that we will sacrifice for.

...much like getting back to work on a ms that needs a new round of tweaking.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Oooh...great post! Be sure to let us know what you make next.

I love the part about consistency. For me there are different seasons and I guess it means writing daily could be 1000 or more words in the summer and smaller during the school year. If I allow a smaller goal then perhaps I don't have to limit writing to the weekends.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

DEBRA—No one makes lemon meringue pies like my Grandma did. :)

And yes, I'm getting back to my writing too now. Consistency and whipping my characters into shape, don't cha know. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Guess you're going to have to stop by and leave Grandma's recipe for lemon meringue. We are all excited.

LOL Whipping characters into shape. Pie pan? Bunt, Cake, loaf?

Mary Vee Writer said...

While its so true we need to get back to work, sure was fun talking together.
I read your comment and thought, really? Now? okay.

Mary Vee Writer said...

I think you're right that consistency has different seasons. Like Julia pointed out, some some things can be done ahead of time, other days we need to buckle down and catch up. This is where a deadline would be good, even if self imposed, to force the end time for a goal. I like that. I can take a break here, and stay up there, as long as my writing is done on time.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

OOoo, Mary, that looks delicious! And I have to tell you, this was such a great post. I loved all the points that you drew from what you learned from Julia. Seriously...the icebox tip is excellent! ;)