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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What You Can Learn From Bruised Peaches

If you follow me on Twitter (and you should!) you know I've spent the better part of my day in the kitchen making spiced peach jam. It's a messy process. The kitchen is in tatters. The new shirt I bought Saturday is probably stained for life. And for what?

Three pints of jam.

Two of those pints will be boxed for Grandaddy Texas at the earliest possible hour. He's already called to see where the jam is, and this is a man who won't call for anything short of... well... jam! Seriously, the man had a heart attack and he didn't think it was important enough to call the family. Yet he manages to call for jam.

Obviously this is a life or death situation.

When the jam was finished, I licked the cooling spoon. It was the essence of summer. Pure peach bliss.

For the life of me I couldn't imagine why I'd mashed up these delicious peaches for jam. Why hadn't I saved them, and enjoyed them? I could have eaten them, peach juice dribbling down my chin.

And then I remember why.

The jam was made from the ugly peaches. The bruised, broken, rotted at the core peaches that weren't fit for human consumption. They were over-ripe, unfit to be shipped, and so they were sold in half-bushel baskets at the farmer's market. Even my kids, who will put anything in their mouth, wouldn't touch them because they were, "Yucky."

Bruised. Broken. Unfit for anything.... gosh, does this sound the latest draft of my novel to anyone else?

Or maybe just my ego.

Everything before a move is brutal. This isn't my first move (don't ask - I lost count when I was five). I do know how stressful it is setting up all the little things I took for granted as a child: finding a house, turning on electricity, turning off electricity, finding working internet in a different state because the company you use doesn't exist down there, deciding what to pack, finding the money to pay for graduate school AND a trailer hitch.

Yeah, life is peaches and cream, but mostly it's the pits.

So I should have known setting a July 1st deadline and handing my current draft over to my voracious critique group was a recipe for disaster. I'm a semi-intelligent human being. I should have been able to think that far ahead.

I didn't. I'm beating myself up over this. And my ego is getting such a kicking!

After all the work I've put into this novel!

I'm not sure if it was the move, the frustration of still not having chapter one right, or some strange alignment of the stars but I was seriously looking at shelving JANE DOE under the bed for eternity.

My beta-readers talked me off the ledge, reminding me in their sweet, obey-or-die way that I was this hysterical during my last move and that, yes, the book still had hope.

I walked away from the computer for a while. You probably noticed the lack of blog posts. I was absent from Twitter. I wasn't even reading something!

Mentally, I shut down. Experts call this DEPRESSION, or MOVING. The two seem to be synonymous.

And then I spent four hours with bruised peaches.

For the love of little green pickles, people! Why didn't anyone tell me writing was like cooking?

It makes so much more sense now!

You take the worst things, the ones no one will touch. You make an unholy mess that would make even the most loyal House Elf give up the ghost. You sweat. You burn. You doubt. You hope. You stick burning hot something into molten jars and boil them.

And then?

Then you have perfection.

I'm at the unholy mess part of writing. The part where you're boiling everything down and hoping it won't burn. This isn't the pretty part. But it's the most important part. Even more important than putting the finished product on the shelf.

The mess is what makes you, or breaks you.

Wish me luck.


  1. Interesting analogy.

    I say, write for your readers and yourself with writers in a very distant third. Writers hate everybody's work, it seems like. ;)

    I'm very glad your beta readers talked some sense into you. :)

  2. Aw, don't give up on Jane. Great post! And the move will be fine. Just remember to taste the peaches along the way and you'll get through it.

  3. Is this a bad time to mention how much I love peach jam? Way more than grandpa Texas, I assure you! If all it takes is a phone call, I'll get right on it.

    I like how epiphanies come when and where we least expect it. :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  4. Sorry, Angela, Grandaddy Texas is scary than you. If I don't hand over the jam Bad Things could happen.