I was at a fast food sandwich shop the other day, and after I had ordered I watched the man behind the counter hurriedly throw together my meal. This involved a number of pauses to ask me what sorts of toppings and preparations I wanted on my sub. Each question was met with a lightning quick execution of whatever sauce or cheese I had requested.
Naturally this made me think of writing.
No, it really didn’t. At least not until later.
I’ve talked on here a number of times about how the craft of writing has come to have almost nothing to do with innate talent anymore in my mind and everything to do with training and cultivating whatever talent you have through use and practice.
That’s the mindset I had when I began to consider the sandwich maker in this light. I don’t think that anyone, anywhere, would equate working at a fast food restaurant with an education in cooking. But I started to wonder if that could actually be happening? Could cranking out cookie cutter sandwiches could lead to culinary expertise?
No. Probably not.
However, I had to wonder what might come of a sandwich maker who paid attention to every detail he put into every sandwich. If every spread was perfectly zigzagged for optimal coverage, and every slice of meat was set down for with perfect placement. What if every bread cut was focused on for evenness and every application of lettuce was stressed for maximum flavor.
Is it possible that the fast-food chef could become a master of sandwiches?
Could churning out endless words of limited flavor produce an author of great skill?
I mean, how much can you learn from the mundane if you really set your mind to learning from it?
I’ve mentioned sushi chefs on here who began honing their skills with years of rice making. Granted, their skills then continued on to choosing the best ingredients and learning an array of processes, so the comparison can’t be made with a sandwich maker who has nothing to do with the ingredients and does the same basic six steps for every sandwich.
But still, how much of what we learn comes from the way it’s presented to us and how much is repetition combined with focus on the actions involved?