Friday, January 6, 2012


My daughter thought she would improvise a double boiler by putting one saucepan inside another.  I guess the combo worked fine as a double boiler, but when it came time to separate the two pans...STUCK!  When I Googled "separate two stuck saucepans,"  I discovered that this is an all-too common problem. Suggestions for separating the saucepans fell into two categories:  The Hammer and Tongs approach (tapping...pounding...bashing); and the Fire and Ice approach (heat the outer pan while simultaneously cooling the inner pan---one will expand, the other will contract---Presto!  at least in theory).
A manuscript can also get STUCK:  The plot twist just won't come straight; the clunky transition refuses to glide and dance; the perfect word will not make its appearance on cue.  Most writers---including myself---have tried the Hammer and Tongs approach, or the Fire and Ice approach, on uncooperative manuscripts.  But we have some additional techniques at our disposal, which could be put under the heading of the Sideways approach.  I've used several variations over the years.  Put the manuscript in a drawer, mental or physical, shut the drawer tightly and with vigor, and ignore the manuscript until it calls to me in a loud voice.  Put the manuscript in another room, mental or physical, and do something else like bake or hike---but keep the door open in case of promising noises.  Keep the manuscript in the same room with me, but stop staring at it head on---instead stay aware of it out of the corner of my eye, using only peripheral vision, as one does with nervous animals, or hard-to-see stars, and wait for it to relax and change when it thinks I'm not looking.  In my experience, the gentler Sideways approaches are more effective than the Fire and Ice or Hammer and Tongs approaches.  Just this morning it happened again as I was brushing my teeth:  something slip-slid in my mind, and a manuscript that had been STUCK became UNSTUCK.
As for the saucepans---they are, at the moment, and despite all attempts, still Stuck.


  1. Great post! I really think that you made a great comparison between the pans and a manuscript. I have a few stuck manuscripts right now, but my pans are just fine!

  2. I love this Wendy! It describes perfectly the process I'm going through in revising my book right now. Of course, this is an academic book, and Coriander keeps saying to me "why don't you write a real book?" 11 year olds are so honest!

  3. a wonderful post. good luck with the pots. and hooray on unsticking the ms.

  4. Enjoyed this, Wendy. I, too, favor the sideways approach.