I am the itch.

Writing is Like Making Maple Syrup

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the process of writing. Moreso about the process of editing / revising, and what constitutes “good” writing, or even “good enough” - mostly due to my being one of the submissions editors for the forthcoming tdotSpec Magazine.

And then I remembered something someone told me once about the process of writing that stuck with me, something I think perhaps one of their English professors in university told them. Or maybe they came up with it originally themselves, even though they’re didn’t consider themselves a writer per se.

That piece of wisdom that has stuck with me and keeps me going is this:

Writing is like making maple syrup.

Think about it. About the process of making maple syrup. There is a lot of complexity, and a lot of work to be done there - tapping all the different maple trees in the sugar bush, hooking up all the hoses, collecting all that sap into the sugar shack - a lot of sap. But that’s not even the important part. After comes the most important part: reducing all of that sap down to what you really want, which is sweet, sweet, syrup. The sap from the maple trees is boiled in an evaporator, and the steam carries away most of the liquid until you are left with only delicious concentrated sugary nectar to pour over your pancakes.

On average, there is a 40-to-1 ratio of the amount of sap that has to be collected to be reduced down to an equivalent volume of syrup. So for every litre of syrup you make, you have to collect 40 times what you actually want! And on top of that, sap comes from maple trees very, very, slowly: each tap yields about 10 gallons of sap (or, said 40L) over a 4-5 week period of the ‘sugaring season’. So, doing some simple math: that’s about 10L per week, or only a paltry 100mL per week per tap.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

Quality takes time.

Creating something good is difficult.

If it weren’t, everybody would do it.

You’re going to have to write a lot, to make only a little that’s any good. That’s okay.

Most of what you write you’ll revise, edit out, or even throw away. That’s okay too.

Writing is hard. And sometimes in order to boil something down to the really good stuff, the stuff worth keeping, you have to do a lot of hard work. Or be really patient. Or both.

It’s okay to get frustrated. And it’s okay to write a lot that’s not very good, or that maybe you think is not very good, at least not right now, because it’s all part of the process.

Because it will get better. You’ll take that something that’s not very good, and boil it down and boil it down and boil it down into something that is.

Watch the steam rise into the air. You’ll be tasting the sweetness of great writing and success soon enough. All it takes is patience, hard work, and a lot of revising.

Keep at it.

- itch