Well, I entered the Central PA Writing Contest. I have been laboring over the essay for a good week.
It got me thinking about how brewing beer is like writing an essay. I decided to write about the 40/40 Pennsylvania Microbrewey tour that I did this summer, so beer and writing were both on my mind.
The first aspect of good writing like good beer brewing, are the ingredients. Essentially, the best way to have a chance in writing something interesting is to choose an interesting topic. I know that this may sound obvious but think about all of the bloggers you know who really don’t write about topics that are of interest to others. Instead, they write (and maybe I write) about stuff that is boring and mundane. Most people have enough of the boring and mundane in their own lives, so reading about another’s is just punishment.
The second aspect of good writing is to take time. I just got finished brewing a Belgian Quad and it was a long process. The Belgian Quad needed to age properly. It is interesting how much my essay changed in one week. I struggled with the flavor of the essay…was I trying to be serious and profound or just fun and whimsical? In the end, I struck a balance, like one does with malt and hops, to even it out. Writing should be entertaining, especially since a lot of people don’t read for entertainment as a rule. It is hard to compete with movies and cable television. Writing may not be as sexy, but I can be seductive, and provide sustenance to our souls.
Rushing writing, like bulldozing through a beer recipe by jumping steps and not structuring the process carefully, creates a jumbled essay that can get incoherent. It is wise to have one major idea to communicate, just like a beer should have a distinct flavor. I tried to give myself enough time to allow for writing and revision, but I made a glaring error in the first sentence of the essay. I accidently deleted “I” when attempting to make the essay fit under the 1500 word limit. I fear that my essay now doesn’t stand a chance to win and it is too late to submit it to get postmarked by January 17 (which is the MLK Holiday).
I discovered the mistake too late. I barely got to the post office in time…and when I was there, I was stuck behind a lady who was mailing differently weighted envelopes to Germany, a whole stack of them. I was there for at least 15 minutes as she and the postal clerk worked through the pile. Haste makes waste, as it is said. True enough…hard lesson for me to stomach. I looked over the essay several times and just missed the mistake. Like a beer, share the essay with others and see what they think about it. We are often blind to the flaws from our own hand.
Lastly, enjoy the writing. Being craft-like can be painful at times but keep your eye on the final product. Savor your creation. If you don’t essentially like writing, don’t do it. Write for yourself and in your own voice. Not every essay will resonate with everyone. If it does, you are a genius. Better aim to cultivate a loyal audience rather than pleasing all. Microbreweries have unique tastes unlike Bud and Miller. Not everyone like hops, but some do. Write for those who enjoy your style and make it easy for them to find you. If you don’t write consistently, your audience will move on to someone else who does. If you are too hard to find, like that special brew, most people will settle for less, no matter how good you are.