It’s a rainy afternoon---a rarity here in Phoenix---and I decide to celebrate by making a batch of my friend Denise’s “Soft Gingerbread.” It’s a recipe I have made many many times, always with complete success. As I read over the recipe I glance at the cautionary note I jotted down many years ago: ‘It looks as though it will overflow while baking but it won’t.”
I assemble my ingredients and think about the first time I made this recipe. During that initial trial, I watched through the glass window of the oven door as the batter quickly rose higher…and higher…and higher. “The pan’s too small! It’s going to overflow!” I muttered to myself. “The texture will be ruined!” I agonized: Should I snatch the batter out of the oven, quickly divide it into two pans, and return it to the oven? Or should I allow it to overflow? Either choice would lead to failure, I was convinced.
Today, as I slide the pan (which as usual is filled perilously close to the top) into the oven, I realize that in spite of my written reminder comment, and in spite of my many successes with this recipe in the past, I am once again afraid that the batter will overflow.
I clean up the kitchen, and glance nervously every few minutes through the glass window of the oven door. And I ponder the parallels between baking gingerbread, and creating a picture book. Having written and/or illustrated around 100 titles, I should surely know exactly how to go about it, and what to expect. Except that sometimes I don't. I can still arrive at the place where I am sure that a word/line/page/spread/project I am working on is not going to work out. And I can be tempted to grab in a panic at what seems the only solution: interrupt its gestation; scrape it into a different-sized genre; hastily stir in a new medium; get out the power-eraser . . .
I take a deep breath. I re-read my recipe and my cautionary note, and decide not to open the oven door mid-bake. I will have faith. And if my current work seems, at this moment, headed for a similar disaster? I remind myself once again: This process has worked before. I will not sabotage it. I will have faith.
I will also have a generous square of warm gingerbread.