Writing Is Like Becoming A Sushi Chef

sushi rolls displayed on wooden platter

Sometimes there is a person in one of my creative writing classes who is obviously very talented.  I can bring to mind one in particular.  You could sense people holding their breath as she read, and often her hands shook.  The writing process opened her up.  She said she had wanted to write for years.  She was so excited about writing that she straight away wanted to write a book.  I said to her, slow down.  Just practise writing for a while.  Learn what this is all about.

In Japan becoming an itamae of sushi requires years of on-the-job training and apprenticeship.  After five years spent working with a master or teacher itamae, the apprentice is given his first important task, the preparation of the sushi rice.

Writing, like becoming a Sushi Chef,  is a life’s work and takes a lot of practice.  The process is slow, and at the start you are not sure what you are making.

Futomaki  (“thick roll” – rice on inside, nori on the outside)

Uramaki   (“inside-out roll” – rice on outside, nori on the inside)

Temaki     (“hand roll” – cone-shaped roll)

That’s how it was for me.  I thought I could jump in and write a book in 6 months.  In fact, it was 14 years and 5 books before one of my manuscripts was accepted for publication.

So cut yourself some slack before you head off on a writing marathon.

Writing is like learning to prepare the rice for sushi:  the apprenticeship is long, and in the beginning you are not sure whether a Futomaki, a Uramaki or a Temaki will be the end result.

17 thoughts on “Writing Is Like Becoming A Sushi Chef

  1. I know what you mean about new writers who are filled with talent. A fellow student had that, a former drug addict who was writing about her former world. The words she picked, the emotion she brought out–amazing. I have no idea if she ever published but it’s a shame if she didn’t.

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  2. Are you still teaching, Libby? The more I write, the more I realise how much I have yet to learn. Because writing is an activity that is so familiar to us from school, work, friendships et cetera, we are sometimes lulled into believing that writing a story or even a novel will be easy – but it isn’t. And apart from all the demands of art and craft and the need to find a subject and a story that can sustain a reader’s interest for the duration of the plot, there is an illusive little thing called “authorial voice” which has a nasty habit of appearing furtively then disappearing again, evading capture. How do you know when you have found your voice? And how do you distinguish it from and reconcile it with all the other voices you conjure up for the characters you create?

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    1. i am teaching from time to time, mostly by invitation at writing retreats. does anyone read your work and give feedback? i find a writing group to be invaluable. i think of it as ‘off Broadway’ and ‘on Broadway’. famous comedians try out their material off Broadway before appearing on Broadway. sometimes it’s hard to be objective about our own work and testing it out in front of an audience can give invaluable feedback. just a thought 🙂

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      1. Thanks for that Libby. When I was writing shorter pieces I posted some of them on my blog and did get some feedback then, but very scant. I have not sought feedback on any of my novels. I don’t feel that they good enough to share but I’m always hopeful that the next one will be. There used to be a writing group in Bondi Junction but it seems to have folded and I don’t know of any other in this area. 🙂

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      2. the NSW Writers Centre at Rozelle lists various writing groups on their website, but the groups meet at the centre. they also offer many writing courses/workshops that give you an opportunity to talk about/read your work. sydney uni continuing education and wea also have groups and run workshops, as you probably know. it helps when you’re part of a writing community.

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