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Keeping the Oven Door Closed
I’ve been baking today—a cold rainy Sunday at home practically demands some sourdough, provided you remember to liven up the starter on Saturday night.
But I’ve also been writing, trying to get my mind and words around a big project that I’m not ready to talk about yet. I’m remembering the wisdom and older writer once shared with me that the key to doing your best work is “keeping the oven door closed”—not letting the heat out of your ideas by talking about them too much or letting a good book die the death of thousand cuts, piecemealed out in short articles or social media posts. Conversation and short-form work is great, but sometimes you have to be careful to keep something back, to let it finish baking before it’s ready to give away.
In that spirit, here’s a short meditation in verse:
Keeping the oven door closed
Is not an act of modesty,
As if temptation to display
Unfinished loaves or to revel
In their doughy recesses
Might somehow overtake you
In a quiet, messy kitchen.
Neither is it Solomonic
To let bread lie undisturbed,
As though common sense commends
The eating of raw yeasts and grains
And casting out the baker’s work
To stave off the steaming crumb
Spread with salty butter and jam.
But virtue remains in waiting
Until all is done and cooled,
The better to slice and share,
For hunger that lets heat fly
And haste that misses the signs
Only pushes back the meal
And thwarts the project’s end.