Muffins are easy.
That being said, there’s an art to muffins, even the simple kind that come in a fat-paperback-sized box and ask for only eggs and milk.
The first rule of muffins is don’t overstir. Mix the batter just enough to moisten all the particles. Leave it oatmeal-ly—cottage-cheesy. Too much stirring leaves your batter flat, your muffins tough, so leave some lumps.
The second rule of muffins is to let it rest. Once you’ve understirred them, leave the bowl on the counter. Walk away and let the ingredients perform their alchemy while the oven preheats.
Finally, don’t overfill. Batter to two-thirds of the muffin-cup should do it. Too much and you have a sloppy mess burning across the top of your pan and the insides of your muffins will be underdone.
So what does all this have to do with writing? Because it occurs to me that writing can be a lot like making muffins.
You’ve got to have the right ingredients. Plot and character are your flour and sugar; the proportions of each make it literary or commercial, depending on the sweetness. Don’t be snooty; even the premixed kind can be a delight. A caution on the ratio—too much experimenting and they aren’t muffins any more—they may not even be edible.
Baking powder and eggs are your scene and setting. Without them, your story is flat. Get them right and the texture is divine.
The flavor is you, your voice: be it tangy-sweet, nut-grainy or perhaps even salty.
The mixing is your editing. You must apply a judicious hand—one that knows when to stop and when to let it rest. You don’t need to know the chemical equation behind it—it doesn’t matter if you can tell a dangling participle from a split infinitive—not if it feels right. The most important thing is that the ingredients are there. And of course, you must never forget timing.
Writing is not so easy as making muffins. Me, I tend to overstir and get impatient sometimes. What about you? Do you have a recipe you use time and again? Are you guilty of overfilling? Do you vary your proportions or experiment with new flavors?
I can’t say if I’m any closer to finding the perfect recipe for writing, but I do know the timer’s going off and my blueberry muffins are done. And it looks like these, at least, turned out okay.