writing a cookbook

[Book Ends] My biggest cookbook fear

Book Ends is an occasional series where I share a bit about the cookbook writing process. For even more behind-the-scenes details, plus weekly inspiration for your writing life, subscribe to the newsletter.

I know things are hectic when an entire week goes by and I realize, on Friday afternoon, I never made a cup of tea. It has been one of those weeks, repeatedly, since the end of May, and for reasons almost entirely outside of my control. Such is life, right? 

It had been some time since I sent in my cookbook revisions, and in early June, a yellow padded envelope arrived from my publisher. My book was inside, copyedited. (Big sigh.) One version was printed with the tracked changes, the other without, and I’m currently in the process of reviewing all the notes and making a few final changes before sending it back. The polite letter stacked on top strongly warned this would be the last opportunity to make any significant modifications, for once the book enters the design stage, there’s no going back.

Some authors might be terrified of this kind of moment. A few years ago, I probably would have been, too. But this book has been such a long time coming, I can’t help but feel relief and enthusiasm, mostly.

The last time we talked about the book, I told you the most surprisingly thing about editing was the difficulty of getting back into the swing of things. I had emotionally detached myself after sending the manuscript in, and was basically asked to jump in all over again. A few of those feelings surfaced again for this round, but not as strongly. In fact, I’ve been really delighted by the whole process.

You see, this writing life is often a struggle. Even when we declare ourselves to be writers, when we are actually writing, and feel compelled by a story that needs telling, we still doubt. We still question ourselves. 

But then we have a moment. It might be an hour, or a day. The length of time doesn’t matter so much as the feeling of being entirely happy about our writing.

We need these moments to keep going.

One fear I had about book writing is that because the path to publication is quite long, I was concerned that by the time the book arrived in my hands, I wouldn’t love it as much. I would have moved on from the poems and recipes, or disliked my writing. All the self-doubt was swirling around and around.

But I don’t fear this anymore, because re-reading my copyedited manuscript has filled me with a lot of joy, and even some pride. I’ve worked on this book for almost four years. I’m really, really proud of it. I’ve put my best work inside. I’ve saved stories for these pages. I’ve made the recipes more times than I can count. I’ve created what I hope to be a sacred conversation between me and everyone who reads it. The poems are meaningful, and moving.

Writers, we need these good feelings. It is not selfish or indulgent to be proud of our work. It is a reminder of the goodness writing brings to our lives.

So even in the midst of my sideways spring, during a week I didn't drink one drop of tea, I sat down at my dining table and spread out the manuscript. I was reading only the poems, matching them to the original printing, to check for errors. I flipped three pages aside, then realized this was the type of task absolutely perfect for tea. And I finally turned my kettle on and let the water boil, and I passed the time, poetry swirling in my heart, finally glad about something.