Writing Lessons from Soughdough

My other lockdown hobby, aside from trawling through Netflix and trying to make my chilli plants grow, is baking sourdough. As someone whose never really baked consistently before (apart from the odd cake), I hopped onto the good old baking bandwagon back in April last year like many other Brits. In doing so, I had to learn from scratch a new skill, one which I wasn’t really familiar with, and learnt a few pearls of wisdom along the way.

How does this relate to writing? Well, I’ve spoken about before the analogy between baking sourdough and writing. Now, I’m back for part 2 of Alex’s stretched analogies blog.

You see, finding a new skill, one I’ve had to start from scratch, has taught me some things that I can apply to my writing habit which I’ve been doing now for decades:

There is always something to learn

When you try a new activity, you’re not going to be very good at it. In fact, I might suggest that you are almost guaranteed to be bad at it, because after all its you’re first time doing something – you’re not supposed to be good at everything first time.

(a fact I try to remind myself on many an occasion).

Learning a new skill takes you back to that point of vulnerability – you don’t have all the answers or knowledge. Maybe you have a few comparable skills you can use, but otherwise everything is completely new.

I’ve found learning a new skill has helped me with my writing because I now look at it not as a skill that I already know, but one I need to continue learning about. There are always new techniques, from books or blogs, on how to write novels and how to create interesting content to engage readers. If I pretend that I’m learning this writing skill from scratch, I’ve found I can learn so much more, and that only helps my writing in the long term.

Things, sometimes, cannot be saved.

Just like the collection of over-proved, under risen, bread rolls that I made a few months ago, there are some projects that simply cannot be saved. No amount of proverbial jam or butter will save them, the only comfort you can take is maybe if it goes in the compost bin maybe the ants will enjoy them.

Likewise, with writing, there are some scenes, or even whole projects, that you have to throw onto the proverbial compost heap for the ants to recycle. Sometimes things just don’t work. And that’s okay, because you know what, everything gets recycled eventually. You never know, in a few projects time the scene that doesn’t quite work now might be perfect for that project.

Change your ingredients, and you’ll get a very different outcome

As part of my most recent flour haul, I got some specialist sourdough flour that apparently helped the prove of the dough according to the Interweb Advice. It encouraged me to experiment with the types of flours I use in my baking, which in turn creates different bread textures and tastes in the final product.

Likewise, if you’re stuck with a writing scene, then change up your ingredients. Change your character traits – if you’re always using one kind of trait, give that particular character the opposite. Add a new element to the scene – a new environment, scenario or magic system. You could even add a whole new character to see how things change.

When writing it’s always important to remember that your skills are constantly developing, and changing the way you approach a new project could unlock new potential in your work.

So writing might not be like baking, but you can learn from anything

As I mentioned in my previous blog on the similarities between baking and writing, having an additional creative outlet that complements your writing is invaluable. It gives you an alternative means to develop skills that can help so much with your creative process.

What hobbies do you have that complement your writing?

Alex.J.Cobalt is a fantasy writer from the UK. When she’s not working away at her fantasy novel series, she posts free flash fictions on her website, along with regular blogs about writing.

Photo by Macau Photo on Unsplash

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