When you bake a cake you have ingredients: sugar, flour, butter, baking soda, eggs, milk. You put them in a bowl and mix them up. But this does not make a cake. This makes goop. Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg
In the small notebook I carry around, I often scribble down ideas for personal essays or blog posts, perhaps a word or phrase, maybe a reference to a magazine or newspaper article. Sometimes in the local cafe or coffee shop, another patron sparks my interest – perhaps their appearance, or their manner intrigues me, and so I make note of that, thinking they might appear in a story or poem sometime down the road ( when I have time to “really write”).
This collection of ideas and thoughts become like a recipe book for my writing. Combined with structure and grammar, they are the ingredients for the stories I’d like to tell. But putting them all together into an edible product is not as simple as methodically placing them onto the page. They need what a cook might call a binding agent, something that links them together – the focal point of what you’re trying to say.
Your writing recipe also requires flavor, something to spice up the goop of ingredients you’ve stirred up. Spice comes from the details – saying your father liked cars is bland and ordinary. Saying that he spent every Sunday afternoon washing and waxing his powder blue ’57 Chevy, rubbing it tenderly with soft, worn out cotton t-shirts, creates a much tastier sentence.
Look through your writers notebook (of course you have one by now, right?) and make a list of all the ingredients you’ve jotted down. Is there anything that binds them together, a common thread which you might use to link some of these ideas into a coherent piece of writing? Are there ways you can add more details to spice up your ideas?