Writing Is Like Popcorn

Image by E Photos on Flickr

I heard a great analogy at a writers conference last year that I found interesting.

There are two ways to make popcorn. The first is to get out a pan, drip in a tiny bit of oil, set a kernel of popcorn in, and heat it until it pops. Then, spread butter and a pinch of salt over the popped kernel, and set it in a bowl. Repeat the process until you have all the popcorn you want.

The other way is to get out a pan, pour in the oil, and add a large scoop of kernels. Then heat it until most of them are popped. Then spread butter and salt over the whole thing,

The second way may not be as specific and precise, but the result is fantastic. Sure, there are kernels at the bottom that don’t get popped, but that’s okay, because the kernels that do pop supply you with all the popcorn you’ll need.

So what’s this got to do with writing? Some authors take the approach of writing a book, perfecting it, polishing it, shopping it around, editing it, and working on it until it finally gets its big break. Then they start another book. This works well to get a good, solid, successful book published.

The other approach is to write and write and write, revising, submitting, and constantly trying knew ideas. This person will write scads of books, most will get edited, many will get shopped around, and several will be published. And usually, this is the person who ends up having 20 books published in his/her career.

Both work, though the second is often more likely to have faster results and lend to a more thorough career, with more variety.

What about you? What’s your approach?


About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Debra Erfert
Debra Erfert

I had my teeth cleaned yesterday, and the sweet hygienist asked me if I had popcorn for breakfast. Of course, my mouth was wide open at the time and I had to wait to tell her that I ate Kettle Corn after dinner the night before, but I had brushed my teeth before going to bed, and I had brushed them again before coming to my appointment that morning plus flossed the heck out of them. There shouldn't have been a kernel alive--anywhere--in my mouth! That aside, I pop more than one kernel at a time. I have--to date--13 books written, and while not all of those are ready for publishing, I can't sit around waiting for that one big break and not write that next idea. I'm currently working on number 14, and a Christmas short story for an anthology while book 12 is being considered by a publisher.