Make it You


There are stages in creativity where you Make it Yours and Make it Theirs. The magic happens when you "make it you."

The first two stages are conscious.

At some moment you decide to leave the path. Maybe you're making a recipe that calls for an ingredient you don't have.

"I'm all out of lemons," you think, "so what should I use instead?"

Lemon is there as an acid and it provides brightness so you look for a vinegar you might use in its place.

But then you realize that you need to adjust the type of oil you're using and maybe the herbs that go with the lemons won't be appropriate with a vinegar based dish.

You've made it yours - but it required some thought.

We had friends over for New Year's Eve. Some love meat and one was vegan. There's no way for me to make a beef dish vegan so after an eight hour sous vide I happily seared it in butter and herbs.

The recipes for the non-meat dishes also called for butter. But that would take a dish that would otherwise be vegan and make it not vegan. There's no reason not to replace the butter with olive oil and make other adjustments that make this an invisible substitution.

I considered my diverse audience and made it theirs.

One day I was steaming mussels and I turned to see Kim climbing onto a chair to get two wine glasses. She poured us each a glass of wine and handed me the bottle.

"To make the risotto and to deglaze the pan for the main course," she said.

I'd been doing some things without noticing but she knew the sort of cooking I reached for when we were going to have company over.

It's like that transition from first driving to experienced driving.

When you first learn to drive a car it seems overwhelming. There's so much to remember. So many rules. So much to keep track of.

Then one day you notice you're driving without stress. Without thinking about all that's involved.

You're still not there yet.

One day you go to pull over and someone honks at you. They were in your blind spot and you didn't notice them there.

Your world is tuned and you bring consciousness back to your driving but it's a higher level consciousness. You don't think about signaling for a turn - you just do it. But suddenly you're more aware of other drivers. You watch them and make sure they see you. You don't sit in their blind spot.

You are now a driver. You have made it you.

The same is true of any creative endeavor.

When I write, I'm thinking at a much different level than when I first struggled to get words on the page. I write differently than when I first started violating rules and finding my own voice. I write differently than when I first thought of writing for others.

I still think in words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs but I also think in scenes.

It's hard to explain the difference between "make it yours" and "make it you". One feels conscious and deliberate and one just seems to happen.

You keep writing and keep writing and suddenly you know not to sit in your reader's blind spot.