On President’s Day we had our usual “Chosen Family Dinner” with our neighbors and my contribution was this Ina Garten appetizer. It was fabulous. Not light, but fabulous.
I’ll tell you right now, I’m terrified of phyllo dough. Terrified! So terrified that I have never, never once in my life, made anything edible with phyllo, and if a recipe calls for it, I move on and try to find something — anything! –— else. I made a really good, reliable crab dip at the same time, in case the phyllo-thing didn’t work out, but it did work (I was, frankly, shocked) so I took both appetizers for dinner.
So much for the request from our host: “I’m making XX. Can you bring a light appetizer?”
Since when is phyllo dough and cheese and crab, light??
I’m reading Phillip Lopate’s TO SHOW AND TO TELL. In the intro he writes: “What makes me want to keep reading a nonfiction text is the encounter with a surprising, well-stocked mind as it takes on the challenge of the next sentence, paragraph, and thematic problem it has set for itself.”
Problems? Surprising problems? Kind of like trying to make something, anything. with phyllo dough?
Every day when I write/edit, I have the same issues. Will this work? Or maybe this? What if I spend all this time and money and energy, and it all goes wrong? What if I can’t shape it and make it fucking work?! Ahhhhhhhhh!
What will happen if I come to the end and, in the last nanosecond, realize what an amateur nobody I am and that what I’ve made isn’t the least bit palatable?
Fear of the phyllo. Fear of failure. It’s all the same, isn’t it?
You know, if we spend all of the time and money and energy and it doesn’t work, well, it just doesn’t work. We won’t know that until we get there. So in the meantime, it seems a far better use of time than watching Desperate Housewives, yes?
So we try, and if it doesn’t work, we try something else. It may be a whole different book, but at that point after the years spent for both of us, we may just feel relief to move on and put it away for our next better idea.
And so it goes.
And so it most definitely goes.
People are always talking about the show but the tell doesn’t get enough attention. Show without tell is like stuffing without phyllo. I’ve always liked Lopate.
I’ve always liked Lopate, too. The wise, even-tempered sage. When I went to AWP for the first time, we were the only 2 people in the hotel dining room for breakfast at about 5:30 a.m. He was having his coffee, reading the paper, then the minutes passed and the writers and groupies tumbled in and he was swarmed with them. He was gracious, but you could see his disappointment that his quiet morning was over.
Whoa, there, Chatty Von Chatterson!
(that’s what I get for asking a yes/no question)
Sorry, let me rephrase. You captured my fear of writing, publishing, and phyllo so neatly that I was rendered incapable of doing anything else but nodding in agreement. True story.
I’ve rendered Indy speechless? Wait. I’m writing this down. Too bad you can’t replace the time wasted writing a bad scene or a bad story or a bad book with a finely baked crab dip.
Or maybe you can.
Three months of bread baking following a [crisis redacted] says you can.
Is that the Ikea effect at work again? I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I do like Lopate’s term, “well-stocked mind.” I suspect he doesn’t suffer fools or polemicists gladly. No one should have to.
I believe it IS the Ikea effect, yet again. I remember back when I used to get Lopate confused with Lee Gutkind, but no more.
“Fear of the phyllo. Fear of failure. It’s all the same, isn’t it?” Yes, it is all the same. I often harken back to the words FDR spoke: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Try considering FDR’s statement as purely literal: if it’s truly only the fear that we are afraid of, what else is stopping us?
Anyway, I spent a good part of January and February paralyzed in fear. I’m coming out of it now. So, I know how you feel.
Have you ever read Steven Pressfield’s THE WAR OF ART?
Wow. So very true, the fearing of fear itself. I’m off to look into THE WAR OF ART!
I find TWOA very inspiring. I’ve read it probably three times through, bits at a time, because it’s organized to digest like that.
In the meantime, onward! And f**k fear! 😉
Yes, same thing. I have no words of wisdom on this topic, as only yesterday I backed away from something I wanted to do because I was afraid. I suppose in the end we eat at the table we’ve laid. I’m glad yours had phyllo on it.
I think Les has a great example above: all we have to fear is fear itself. This is so true in soooooo many ways. And I know, somewhere in the ancient recesses of mind, that anytime I’ve worked through fear and gotten to the other side I’ve looked back and thought, “What in the hell was I so afraid of?”
Sometimes we cheat. Sometimes we say “Screw the phyllo; I’m gonna substitute with a thin layer of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough.” And we sleep better that night with no one the wiser.
Ha! Sherry, I thought of you today when the dog trainer came. In 2 hours, I feel like this woman saved my sanity. My new/old dog Annie will become less anxious when I take serious charge of this pack. More work to come, obviously, but at least I feel like I have some tools.