I have a friend who loves to bake and enjoys experimenting with old recipes. One year she made a fruitcake. Fruitcake has a reputation. Many people claim that it is dense, dry, and tastes like figs (no offense fig lovers), and let’s face it, it’s not the prettiest face in the pastry case.
I am convinced that every Christmas someone somewhere receives the same one. It is never opened. It just gets passed from home to home like an uninvited guest. This time it turned up on my doorstep.
Now, I knew she’d been working on this recipe for quite some time. Her great grandad was ninety and all he asked for was someone to bake granny’s famous fruitcake at Christmas. It seemed many had tried but no one could get it right. Too much of this or too little of that had left a pile of failed attempts in the garbage. But this girl was patient and wouldn’t give up on great grandma or her recipe. In a moment of weakness, I agreed to be her guinea pig.
As soon as she dropped it off I regretted that decision. It was heavy and brown and visually not all that appealing. It resembled a brick in an aluminum pan. To her credit, she did her best to dress it up. She had decorated the top with nuts and cherries wrapped it in a festive cellophane sleeve and tied it with a pretty red bow. “I hope you like it. I want your honest opinion.” She said
I placed it on my kitchen counter and tried to avoid going in there at all cost. Finally, the need for caffeine overtook me and I walked in. It was there, waiting for me like a lonely puppy. I considered lying to her and pretending I had tried it. “It was yummy,” I’d say. But I felt obligated to give it a taste. I brewed myself a cup of coffee, sliced off a piece and took a bite. Then I called my friend and gave her my opinion.
Have you ever worked really hard at something only to feel that your best efforts were fruitless? If you are a writer I can guess that you have. We come up with all these great story ideas and rush to get them down on paper only to find when we get to the end they look like a jumbled mess.
We throw in a few nutty characters, mix in sweet moments and write down a story with a weak plot line. We feel that time is ticking and we have to get it out there. We send it out into the world too soon only to hear back that it’s not quite right yet. We consider chucking the whole thing into the trash without another thought. But like my friend we must not lose hope, we must persevere. It just needs more time to bake. Put that manuscript in a drawer and let it sit.
I knew my friend’s fruitcake recipe had gone through many changes over the years, and guess what? It was actually good. Really moist and sweet, loaded with pecans, pineapples, and cherries and best of all, (surprise ending) it had rum in it!
All I’m saying is, your efforts are not fruitless. Keep at that manuscript and when you think it’s ready, share it with a trusted friend. She or he will tell you the truth and you just may be pleasantly surprised.
MERRY CHRISTMAS from the desk of M.A. Cortez
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