Friday, March 03, 2006


About ten years ago we had a party for Paul's parents' 40th anniversary. I offered to make the cake. I had decorated plenty of cakes before this but never a tiered wedding-style cake, complete with pillars and other frou-frou.

So for hours and hours I worked on this cake, my nose right down beside it, my arms getting tense and sore. I piped white shells around the top and droopy swags on the sides and what looked like fancy icing pillars.

The longer it went, the more mistakes I made. Aacckk! the icing gapped there! This swag dropped further than that one! Oh dear me, I gouged it!

By the time I neared the end I was so discouraged I wondered if we could even use this cake. Finally I finished it, wondering if I would need to run to a bakery to get another one before the party.

And then an amazing thing happened. I stepped back, and suddenly I saw a beautiful cake. All the mistakes seemed to disappear and the whole picture was of an elegant, classy, party-worthy cake.

I mentioned this later to my friend Dana, who used to decorate cakes professionally, and she laughed and said it always happens this way.

Right now I feel like I have my nose right up to the cake again, only this time I am handling not white frosting but endless white papers. I am doing a last proofread of my book before it gets printed. I can't do any major changes, only check for typos and maybe change a sentence here and there. And this time I'm thinking, "Oh dear, this sounds silly! Why did I ever say that? Boring, boring, boring. Why did we put this chapter first--nobody's going to read anything beyond that. (Disgusted sigh)"

I suppose this is normal as well for someone examining every word of the same story for the tenth time. And I am really hoping that the cake effect is true here as well, that when it's all done and I step back for a long-range view, it will turn into something beautiful.

Quote of the Day:
"Your beard is getting hairy."
--Steven, to Matt, who started growing a wiry red beard at Bible school


  1. That's a good analogy, it helped me understand what you're feeling as you proofread. We can be our own worst critic, yet be comforted by the thought that there is enough solidness in the "big picutre" to make up for the imperfections. Thanks for letting me see this through your eyes.

  2. OH NO! Not a red beard!!!!!!! There is not much worse in life than a red beard, and I'm allowed to say that because I have red-haired brothers.

    Dorcas, okay let me try this again, maugh ein sell veisht deing aup nemma dappa schvint!!!!!!!!!!


  3. So what's so bad about a red beard???!!! Reminds me of my grandfather. And I like red hair, too

  4. Oh how I hate red beards! Always have, probably always will. Now I do like red hair however, I better would because it surrounds me. Red beards just don't look nice, at least I have yet to meet one that does. But, enlighten me dear anon, and perhaps I shall change my mind. Nah, probably not.


  5. You don't know me, but I admire your way with words. When I read your Ordinary Days, I caught myself thinking--wish I could write like that!
    You have no idea how comforting your self-questioning is. I'm in the last stages of tightening a manuscript before submitting it to a faceless editor. Scary. Good to know sometimes it's a matter of perspective and stepping back from the whole thing.