Thinkin’ on Thursday: Thinking about Success…Failure…Starting Over

Easy as A, B, C . . . from BB

(In part excerpted from “Dig In,” by Christine Clark, in The Writer, May 2014)

Ruth Reichl had been writing for years as a restaurant critic for both the NY and LA Times and had authored cookbooks as well as several best‑selling memoirs — the latter, often touted as reading “like novels.” She was also the editor‑in‑chief from 1999 to 2009 for Gourmet, which closed abruptly, as did many struggling magazines. She was devastated and felt like such a failure that the almost 70‑year‑old magazine would close on her watch and fire 60 people.

She got grounded, she claims, by going into the kitchen and discovering her mantra: Appreciate little things every day. Then she has turned to writing a novel — and that’s what her book was about.

At first, she knew nothing about “characters” — and struggled because of it — in her first novel, Delicious.

For her second novel, she swore she’d “[figure] out who all the characters are . . . know their back stories intimately.” She now finds switching to novels “taxing but rewarding.”

Asked if her next novel will be easier, she said novelists all tell her “it never gets easier. They all say you reset, you go right back to zero.” She also acknowledged that “If you think you’re going to get to a place where it’s perfect, you’re not.”

As for something else she says you can’t know until you’ve written a book is that “it’s never done. There’s never a point where you think, ‘Oh, now it’s right.” At some point in the process, you just have to acknowledge that it’s finally “done” — perfect or not.

Coming from a theater background myself, I found it enchanting to discover that when she was a food critic, she often dressed up and took on another “personality.” I loved that idea, and thought it would be fun to dress up myself — as one of my characters — and try it out. Another thought: supposing one of your characters dressed up and pretended to be someone else?

Either of the above ideas might give an interesting twist to what you’re writing now. Want to try it out? I dare ya!

See you next for Spellbinder Saturday!

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