All writers have a process that allows them to create. However, the art of "Writing" is often mistaken for that "Process." Hopefully this blog explains the difference, and inspires people to develop their crafts, become writers, or just keep on writing.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Storytelling and the Pączki

I am putting together this piece just prior to the beginning of Lent, when all of the fasting and personal sacrifice begins in the run-up to Easter. Now, I am not a practicing Catholic, nor do I adhere to strict religious fasting doctrines, so do not think this will be a piece about this holiday season. Rather, this will be a discussion of my most favorite part of the pre-Lent season - the pączki - and how it helped my writing.

The pączki (mispronounced as "poonch-ski" by most non-Polish Chicagoans) is more popular in Chicago and other parts of the Midwest as a pre-Lent tradition thanks to the significant Polish population. On the Tuesday before Lent, plenty of people buy, distribute, and subsequently eat these heavy, fruit-filled pastries with all the vigor of someone about to give up fun foods for the next six weeks. They are like filled donuts, but heavier and with a lot of freedoms regarding carbs and calories. We Chicagoans, particularly the ones with a Polish heritage, love them as one of the great seasonal treats. I had eight this year. I regret nothing.

Now, honestly, this might seem like an odd topic for a writer's blog. It is, but regular readers know that I often take long walks on my way to the point, and I always get there. My point here is that when I write about the beloved pączki, I should incorporate more than just the fun facts about it. I need to express my passion for the topic, my deep appreciation for the underlying story behind this lovely pastry, and at the very least, write whatever I am going to write with the subject in mind.

When we write, our words are more than just explanations. They are the conduit between what we feel and what other people will read. If the reader doesn't feel my obsessive love for this pastry, I have failed. If the reader walks away thinking I will need to hit the gym after eating so many pączki, well, they're right, but they are at least creating deductions from my words and my feelings.

So how do we do this as writers? Well, first, we need to immerse ourselves in what we wish to write about. If we want to write about a day in the park, it might not hurt to go to the park first, or recall previous walks, or dig up fond memories of days past that prime the mind for writing about the subject. Should we wish to write a scary story, might it help to put ourselves into that mindset? Watch Halloween (the original) or read a quick ghost story? When we get our mood wrapped around what we want to write, it influences our writing in ways we can't fully appreciate, but our readers sure will.

In preparation for this piece, I got my pączki fix on, picked out a graphic among a wide variety of tasty pics, and thought for a minute about the history of this pastry. These came about as a way of using up all the last things that would not keep through the Lenten fasting season, so they got cooked up and feasted upon in those last few days before Ash Wednesday. Obviously, worrying about food spoiling during Lent is not a big issue nowadays, but the tradition still carries through, and every year around this time the sales begin and I can once again revel in my delight regarding these treats. And if I did my job right, you all felt that in my writing, and maybe learned a thing or two as well. Who knows? 

Now off to the gym - at 400 calories apiece, I have a lot of treadmill time ahead of me.


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