KingMidget's Ramblings

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Whispering Pizza


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A thing I’ve “known” for some time is that refrigerating bread dough for some period of time during the rise can improve the flavor, the crumb, the crust — pretty much everything about the bread.  But it is something I rarely do.  I’m impatient and generally don’t plan that far ahead.  Unless I’m making sourdough, which requires refreshing my starter days ahead of time and then a two day mixing, kneading, rising process, I generally make bread as quickly as I can.

Then I read the NY Times this week.  Their Wednesday Food Section was dedicated to all things bread.  There I learned about Josey Baker and his new bread book.  He refrigerates his dough for days before baking it.  The description intrigued me.  I started poking around the internet and found this article about refrigerating pizza dough.  The writer made enough dough for ten pizzas and stuck in the fridge.  Every day for the next ten days, he took out enough dough to make one pizza and recorded the results.  His verdict was that refrigerating the dough for 3-5 days produced the best results.

What did I do?  I raced home and made pizza dough Friday evening, stuck it in a baggy and put it in the fridge.  I was planning on making pizza today anyway, so why not try it.  The dough was only the fridge for about 40 hours before I took it out this morning, but that’s certainly longer than I’ve refrigerated dough in the past.  I made five pizzas.  They have two different kind of sausage on them.  Whiskey fennel and green chile.

How did they turn out?  Well, I don’t know.  I was making these pizzas to put away for lunches at work in the next week or two.  As much as I really wanted to have one today, I resisted.  I do know this, however.  I don’t think I’ve ever had my crust look like this…

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See those pockets of air.  That’s a good thing.  There was also more blistering around the edges of the crust than usual and the bottom was well charred.  Not burnt, but charred and crispy.  So, I’ll be doing this more often in the future.  And, hopefully add a day or two to the refrigeration.  Not just for pizza but for bread as well.

What you ask does this have to do with whispering?

Absolutely nothing.  The whispering refers to something wholly unrelated.  I’m in need of a writing whisperer.  I haven’t written much in the last couple of weeks.  Haven’t blogged much either.  I worry that I’m falling into the thing I didn’t want to.  Unlike many writers, I haven’t been writing since I was knee high to a grasshopper.  I didn’t spend my teen years journaling.  I didn’t take creative writing classes in college.  I have not spent my life as a writer.

What I have done is spend most of my life looking for things to motivate me, to challenge me, to stretch my limits.  In sports, I’ve played baseball, softball, golf, tennis, and who knows what else, including playing organized soccer for the first time at the age of 45.  In other areas, cooking is a constant source of opportunities and possibilities to experience something new.  I have tried to learn the violin, classical guitar, saxophone, and harmonica.  In other words, I am constantly in a search for something, that thing that I can do well and take to a different level.

Writing is the thing that has stuck with me longer than any of those other activities and I think I have, as a result, got better at it than anything else I have tried.  Here’s the problem though.  I think I’m getting stuck.  I’m not sure if I’m moving forward anymore and, maybe even, I’m moving backwards.

I discovered something about where I’m at with my writing this week.  I tried through the last few days to write a short story, a couple of different variations.  I kept falling back on the same kind of idea, which is a repeat of so many things I’ve written, and worse than that — I was writing in the same style.  The short, choppy sentences, frequently incomplete, that has started to fill my writing.  And I don’t want to do that with every story I write.  Doing so would mean I’m getting lazy, falling back on a gimmick.

A few years ago I read The Book Thief.  The author had this thing in that where he would describe somebody making a statement and how the words of the statement would flow into the room and do something there.  At first, I didn’t think too much of it, but by the end of the story, it was one of the things that made the story so incredible.  Much to my disappointment, I then read another book written by the same author and he did the same thing in that book.  So, it wasn’t something particular to The Book Thief, it was this author’s gimmick.

Stephen King has a gimmick or two as well.  One of them is his voice — the kind of snotty, know-it-all, teenage smart aleck voice.  I think that’s what bothers me the most about what he has been doing for years now — it’s always that voice.  Why can’t he ever write in a different voice.

Now I’m doing the same thing.  Or at least I feel that way.  I need a writing whisperer to coax me out of this.

That’s one thing I need.  Here’s another — something good to happen with my writing.  Something to tell me that all of the mental and emotional energy I invest in this, the time commitment, and everything else that goes into being a writer is worth it.  Because there are very few things I do just to do.  As much as I may not want to be like this, there has to be a reason for doing what I do with my time.  Particularly something like writing.  I enjoy when I write, when I’m spinning words into a story.  When I get that feeling that I figured out something and got it done.  When I feel like I’ve done something special.  But there needs to be something more than that.  I’m not even sure what that “something more” is.  I just know that I don’t write just for me, just for the sake of writing stories.

Anybody know a writing whisperer?  Anybody know the reason why I write?  Why do you write?

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7 responses to “Whispering Pizza

  1. sknicholls April 27, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    How you could possibly avoid eating a slice of hot fresh pizza is beyond my comprehension.

    I had begun to develop too much anxiety about my writing. Instead of leading to improvement, it led to apathy. I lost the passion, and I feel passion is paramount. Looking through some of my work from my twenties, I realized the best of it was whenever I had a profound message in the words. I started focusing on the message, rather than the execution, on my WIP and got that passion back.

  2. Trent Lewin April 27, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Well, talk about an age-old question, Mark. I don’t know why anyone writes, but I think the need to tell stories and pass on wonder is something ingrained in humanity. I think some people feel it so acutely that they act on it. That’s you. Your discussions on writing have passion, and yes frustration, but I like to think that one comes from the other.

    Voice… this is the trickiest part of writing. Grammar and punctuation and spelling are just constructs. Plot is just the guts of your story. Voice is everything. It dictates how compelling your piece is, and your story relies 100 percent on it. I often think that editing is not about trimming or tightening or anything of the kind. It’s about exposing the voice that you were going for all along, pushing aside the detritus that gets in the way of your voice.

    I do voices by just transposing myself. Putting myself in someone else’s head, whether they exist or not. Sometimes it’s just that person at the bus stop as I drive by, the way they look; why they look so downtrodden about where they’re going, and then I try to imagine where they are going. I try to inhabit their existence, falsely no doubt, but substantively too. I can only recommend that you let yourself go, step out, be brave and perhaps a little wild, and totally unconcerned with where you are going. I’d start short, hammer on 1000 words or so, and see if you get the taste of a different voice or two. It takes time, I find, but it’s so rewarding. When you go back to read it, it may not sound like you. It may sound foreign. It may even repulse you. It’s still you, only it isn’t. It’s something else. It’s the experience of just imagining and being open to constructing the language to fit the voice; if the voice demands choppy and short, so be it. If it demands long and languid, that’s fine. If it requires both mixed up in the same paragraph, that’s a hell of a thing.

    You are a writer, Mark. Of that I have no doubt. I think in ways that you have mastered the voices you started with, and you’re just looking for the next ones. I think it means, if I may say so, that you are searching for the next level. I believe it is to be found by closing your eyes, keeping things dark, and finding a place that you have not gone before.

    • kingmidget April 27, 2014 at 7:26 pm

      Are you auditioning to be my writing whisperer? 🙂

      Seriously, I think you got a lot of this right. The thing that frustrates me about my current frustration is that I have done some very different things over the past year. Writing a 15,000 word story entirely in dialog. Writing Northville from the first person perspective of three different characters. As well, The Irrepairable Past is a different kind of story. It’s more poetic, more slowly moving, more graceful. The problem is that moving on to the next level is proving very difficult.

      I need to keep pushing though and not relying on what I’m used to, what I’m the most comfortable with and that’s where the struggle is at the moment.

      Thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I’m sure I’ll break out of this. It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to move forward. I like the idea of stepping out and being a little wild. In some respects some of the short stories I’ve posted recently are that. But I don’t think they are enough of that. I need to do something completely different. Completely break the mold. I need to shatter the mold so that it can never be put back together.

      But see above, about the difficulty in taking it to the next level.

      We shall see.

  3. Kirsten April 29, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    First of all, you are absolutely a writer! Second, you have to be the most disciplined person I’ve ever met to resist eating a slice of that yummy pizza.

    This might be a wacky idea. I thought of it when you said you were writing “The short, choppy sentences, frequently incomplete, that has started to fill my writing.” Why not use these short sentences in a poem? My dad teaches Creative Writing at the local college. He tells his students to write down whatever comes into their heads no matter how much they like or dislike it. He also takes some of his writing and puts it into Haiku form to force himself to get to the heart of what he is writing. He then fleshes out the Haiku back into a writing.

    Just an idea. I will be keeping you in my thoughts and prayers to hear your writing whispers!

    • kingmidget April 29, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      All good suggestions. I do think what I need to do is step away from my works in progress and dally in something else for a bit. Just afraid that means my works in progress will never get finished.

  4. Pingback: Why I’m Not Blogging Much | KingMidget's Ramblings

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