My Auntie’s Lemon Pickle And Writing

Today I received a jar of galgal pickle, lovingly made and sent to me by my mom’s sister, Geeta masi, all the way from Amritsar in North India. The galgal is a large, thick-skinned, cold-hardy lemon that grows only in the winter. It’s neither pretty nor pert, but bake it in the sun a while – and wow.  Writing books is a lot like making lemon pickle. You start with a raw, inedible idea and you do the long, hard work of preparing it. In the case of galgal, you have to wash, cut, and dry the lemons, ginger, and chilies, and then stuff them into a big jar with salt and spices. Lidding the jar at this point will cause the pickle to rot. Instead, you cover it with a cheese cloth and bake it in the sun. This is the critical step, for the sun wicks away the moisture, breaking down those raw lemons into soft, pliable pieces which can then steep in and soak up all the flavors.

Likewise, you have to let your manuscript sit for a while. This is where patience comes in. And trust. You’ve done your part, now you have to trust in a force beyond you, like the sun, to do its part. It’s easy to think, my book is done, time to sell! But it’s too early to lid it and send it on its way. Beware of rot! When my books haven’t had time to pickle, the characters are too raw, connections aren’t made where they could have been, and there’s too much extra moisture in the pages weighing them down. I’m grateful for the time my stories have had to marinate and rest, and for the passing of days that have compelled them grow more potent. I’m grateful for the ways in which this painstaking process has allowed layers to be revealed, for the needless to be wicked away, and for inspiration to seep in. In the end, the hope is that reading my finished book will be a captivating experience, powerful enough to make your nose run and eyes tear up. Just like my auntie’s lemon pickle.

 

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