Too Many Cooks!
It’s July, so I’m keeping it short as I prep for my upcoming week off.
Being that July is a season of BBQs and outdoor eating, this month’s topic takes a look at what happens when there are too many cooks in the kitchen. This is a common creative trapping, one I see all the time with my authors who show their chapters, book covers, titles, catalog materials—you name it—to their friends, family, writers’ groups, and other trusted allies.
Having too many cooks in the kitchen only works when you know who the kitchen boss is. And when you’re writing a book, you’re always the kitchen boss. Last month I had at least four writers realize that some essential ideas and concept for a piece of their writing had gotten lost in the overwhelming rewrite that followed a critique or feedback from one of the aforementioned trusted allies. Whether these people have your best intentions at heart is inconsequential. If you want to write, you’ve gotta know when to take feedback and when to say no thank you.
This particular knowing is just like cooking a burger. Leave it on too long and you’ll have a burnt-to-the-crisp patty that no one wants to touch. Don’t leave it on long enough and you’re gonna have a bloody burger that’s probably not fit to eat. It’s the same with writing: Let it be overcritiqued and reworked to the degree that you don’t recognize it anymore and you’ve gone too far; don’t accept any editorial feedback and turning the other way when someone offers you legitimate advice, and you’re left with something that could have used a little more cooking. It’s not easy. It takes practice. And it takes working with people you really trust to give you consistent, solid feedback that’s not about coopting your work or turning it into something it was never meant to be in the first place.
The first step toward getting those perfectly cooked burgers, though, is remembering who’s boss.
Until next month,