I took up royal icing cookie decorating last year after a weekend of watching a few videos. I thought it was going to be easy enough, it was frosting a cookie for goodness sakes. I quickly learned there was a lot of hidden skill and practice in those delectable creations. Not so different from my frame of mind when I said “I’m going to write a novel” three and a half years ago.
A few months into my new skill of cookie decorating, my son had a specific request for his birthday. Not the usual (and easier) daisy flower or simple star shape. He wanted characters. Book characters to be specific, Zachary Ruthless, Greg from Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Big Nate. Since I adore the fact my son loves to read, I started brainstorming right away. Since I have little talent when it comes to sketching, I didn’t want to set my sights too high. I used flat black icing and began to pipe. When I finished my first attempt (a practice one for before the real birthday set was needed) I was kinda happy. It wasn’t anything like my favorite cookie websites where you start to wonder if it’s even a cookie because it’s so beautiful. Mine was amateur. Crude. From a beginner.
When the birthday actually came, I tried a different technique for the final set. I decided to only focus on one set of book characters. Cut the cookie in the head shape. Add color. Layer the levels. It was little tweaks to add more life (and skill) to what I originally started. It took more time and definitely more patience, but I was understanding the icing more. I learned how consistency plays a major part in keeping the shape and look you want after you’ve piped it on the cookie. When the second set was done, I was stoked! They were beautiful. I was so excited I sent a set to the author and the agent to show them how cool the cookie could become. It was the best I could do…at the time.
A few months later, and more cookies under my belt, I made another set of Zachary cookies. You may wonder why I make so many of this character. What can I say? I loved the book. (Here’s the plug where you should go out and buy it if you haven’t. At least check out the author’s blog, it’s pretty funny.) This time even before I started, I made a game plan. I prepped a few days before and made a list of all the colors I would need. It also involved a stencil to make several cookies look exactly the same and like the original drawing of the character. When I finished this round, I knew this is the best I can do.
It’s not hard to draw the similarity to my writing experience. With each book, each revision, each lesson learned, I create a better product. The only difference is I’m not as confident as defining the “this is the best I can do” phase. Maybe this is because I’m not as obsessed with cookies as I am writing. (Shocking, I know.) Or maybe it’s because the end result for a cookie is to be eaten, a quick pleasure having nothing to do with what it looks like. Or the fact I haven’t quieted down the whispers of insecurity around writing like I have with icing cookies.
What I do take away from my evolution of this Zachary Ruthless cookie is anything is possible. It may take a lot of work and even more persistence, but there will be a day where I am satisfied with what I have written. A day I release my writing into the world and hope it is gobbled up as quickly as a good tasting sugar cookie.