Sandra Bell – Creative writing is like making whipped cream

21 Aug 2018 / #Arvon50

Arvon 50

Arvon is 50 this year and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection will be published in our anniversary booklet and featured on our blog throughout the year. The following piece is by Sandra Bell.

I was given a litre of double cream, some honey, a bowl and an electronic whisk.

“Could you make the whipped cream?” A fellow member of the Tuesday night cooking team asked. “It’s the last job on the list.”

“I can’t make whipped cream” I confessed.

“Of course you can” said the centre’s cook. “You just put the cream in the bowl… “I know the theory” I interrupted, “I’ve just never succeeded.”

“We’re all here to learn,” he winked. He pro?ered a glass of Chardonnay and proceeded towards the dining room. I focused on the task in hand.

I put the cream and honey into the large metal bowl and turned on the whisk.  I started at the lowest speed-setting and watched as the cream rippled around the edges of the bowl.  After a time, there was no change and so, I turned up the speed. The cream was responding more enthusiastically yet it steadfastly held onto its original state.

“Nothing’s happening, here” I exclaimed.

“Sure it is.” A team member was peering over my shoulder “Look at the bubbles!”

I could see a few bubbles floating around in the bowl but they were hardly constituting anything of substance. Wary that I might paint the walls milky white, I ventured to press onto maximum-speed and hoped I wasn’t ruining the evening meal for twenty people I’d met only yesterday.

I watched the cream in the wake of the whisk.  It was making more bubbles, yet the consistency remained stubbornly runny.

“This is never going to thicken.”

“Sure it is.  I can see bubbles.”  Someone reassured me.  I looked at the cream in the bowl. It looked exactly the same to me.

Then, another fellow student entered the kitchen.  “Oh, look at the bubbles,” she said staring into the bowl.

“Keep going,” she persuaded. “It can take a bit of time and, be careful you don’t over-do it!” “What do you mean?”

“If you over-do it, it turns out like butter.” “How will I know?”

“You just will.”  She sounded reassuring. “Keep an eye on it because it changes in an instant.”

And so, I did.  And, sure enough, after an eon of whisking, the runny consistency miraculously changed into thick, creamy lava.  I was so excited I nearly forgot to turn o? the whisk.  I had over- done it slightly but not enough to spoil it. And by trusting in the process, I learned that there IS a point at which it is ‘just right’.

“Just like writing,” I concluded:  Have some idea of what you’re trying to do, some theory may help. Have the right utensils and ingredients, ask for help, take advice, seek reassurance, don’t give up and, most important of all, keep an eye on your writing – always.  There may be long periods when it seems as if nothing is happening but that’s when magic is being made. You’ll know when it looks and feels right. My whipped cream is a delight and my writing….

-Sandra Bell


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