A guest post to motivate, encourage, and inspire...
Nana’s Fried Tomatoes
When I was little, I sat at the yellow booth in my grandmother’s kitchen and watched her prepare fried tomatoes. She would tell me the steps as she went along, cutting thick slices of tomato, plopping them into whisked eggs, coating them with bread crumbs and then frying them in butter. It all seemed pretty simple, yet many years later, when she wrote the three steps for me on the back of a white paper plate, I just couldn’t get it right. I followed her steps, but they never tasted perfectly burnt, soft and juicy like hers.
Through the receiver, I could hear her fingers tap on the table. “The trick is to leave them on for a really long time. Be patient. Give the tomatoes time to burn.”
For years I have been an impatient writer. I write a piece, re-write it once or twice and send it out. Sometimes I get lucky. If I do not, I toss the piece away and never think of it again.
One time several years ago after a series of rejections, I decided to stop writing. I convinced myself that I should not be a writer. Of course, that didn’t last, and after only six months, I began to sneak in writing time again. I also began reading more about the process of revision, and I started to allow myself more time between drafts. I realized that I had been scolding myself for not producing good writing at a fast pace. In reality, I was not allowing my natural writing process time to breathe and shape my best words.
What I need to do is trust my process. Like Nana pacing in her pink slippers and humming while her tomatoes cook, I need to go for a walk, read a book or work on a different writing project while my first one marinates a bit.
There are days when I look at an essay I have been working on and the puzzle pieces within it seem so abstract that I don’t think I will ever be able to put them together again, but then the next week or after feedback from a fellow writer, I take a fresh look and suddenly I am able to figure out what to cut or how to re-arrange a sentence or what my ending should really be.
I no longer define my success as a writer by the amount I get published. Instead, my new end goal is to send out one polished piece a month.
And now when I stand at the stove and I hear Nana’s voice telling me to let the tomatoes simmer for a long time, I can take a deep breath and do just that. When their redness becomes blackened and soft on both sides, I flip them onto a plate.
Ready to serve.
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