Mind the Gap

The distance between idea and execution can be a source of frustration — or of inspiration.

Many of you will know the feeling: you decide to cook something you’ve never tried before (say, pumpkin pie). You find a recipe online, accompanied by a photo of a beautifully lit, perfectly plated slice. You follow it to the letter. It comes out… okay. It might not be a cake disaster — your friends are eating it — but it’s obviously not the Platonic Ideal of pumpkin pie, which is, of course, what you were aiming for. Maybe the center is a little runny, or the edges a bit burnt. There’s a gap there, somewhere.

This example came to my mind because Thanksgiving — and its endless parade of pies — is two days away (if you’re in the US). But I’ve also been thinking a lot about this execution gap after chatting with Deb Perelman, the prominent food blogger behind Smitten Kitchen, for a recent Discover Q&A.

If you don’t know Smitten Kitchen yet, Deb’s Thanksgiving recipes are the perfect introduction to her site.

One of my favorite aspects of Deb’s food blogging is how her recipes (and their accompanying photos) give off the air of flawlessness, while her storytelling brings to the fore all the kitchen disasters — minor and catastrophic — she had to plough through on the way to perfection. She touched on this dynamic when talking about her writing voice:

I think of creative pursuits — anything from painting and writing to synchronized swimming — as an ongoing struggle to close a gap between your idea for what the painting, essay, or routine should be, and how it’s in fact coming out. The more you work at it, the closer it gets to what you have in your head. The more you work at it, the easier it gets. If you’re reading your writing and it doesn’t sound like what you wanted to say, the way you wanted to say it, keep at it until it does.

Hear more about the creative gap from the one and only Ira Glass.

This is great advice — but also an invitation to reflect. For this week’s challenge, tell us a story — in words, sounds, images, or any combination of media — about the struggle to close the gap between an idea and its realization. It could be about a time when you succeeded, or failed, or got stuck somewhere on the spectrum between these two extremes. It could be about helping another person close their gap, or about the people, artwork, or experiences that inspire you to work on yours. It can focus on a time when you decided to push through — or a moment in which the result was satisfying despite falling short of your initial vision.

I look forward to seeing what you come up with this week.

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  1. I am having a “Thanksgiving Festa” at my newly-owned olive farm in Abruzzo this week. I am not sure that everybody invited from the local village and area will understand what this American holiday really means and entails in my own country. Americans have the full day off and generally the rest of the weekend whereas the next day here will be the same as any other. So I have made it more like an open house where they can come in and just have a drink or they can come and eat the dinner. I would’ve made the food anyway.

    I’m curious to see how it goes and whether I can change perceptions over time…will they grow to love Thanksgiving as much as I do? While my country is certainly not a perfect place, and as a Mexican-American from the Southwest, I realize that the holiday has its issues, Americans have turned this into a day of gratitude. And I think that that is good.

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  2. Really great blog, but, this is why I don’t bake, because it never never looks like what it is supposed to. But I have been trying to write creatively, and hope I continue to improve as time goes on. So thanks for the inspiration to continue.

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  3. This gap of mine is not about cooking or the glass ceiling, but rather about love, life, and death. From being raised in an orphanage, to the death of my grandfather, the death of my daughter, and the silent suffocation of anxiety and depression, those three things changed who I was and yet paved a path to all that was good to come. Dwelling on all that loss clouded my judgement and goals in life, like a weight on your shoulders you just can’t brush aside. I felt like a prisoner in my own mind until I let go of those losses. I closed the gap between what was and what is, then focused on what I have gained instead. This gap is a Life’s Lesson. http://wp.me/p86n4Q-14

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  4. I love this – I have experienced this gap numerous times trying to to projects with the kiddos that we’ve found on Pinterest. Right now I’m just getting my blog rolling and I’m finding that every time I write a post I feel like I’m getting a little closer to what I want to say and how I want to say it. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  5. An idea I had for a book was something I talked about with everyone who would listen to for a few months straight. I outlined in my mind how I would find the time to write and what research I would need to do. This idea of mine was the only thing I could think about! And then I got pregnant. You can imagine what a 180 my mind did after I saw that little line on the pregnancy test. Needless to say, the Book idea has been on the back burner since 2012. But, my blog is my current obsession now and it is thriving! It brings me endless joy much like a child. Cheers to writing that book (someday)!

    #Inspiration #MindTheGap

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  6. I don’t really cook simply because I’m scared to cook. I set two microwaves on fire! Once when I was making ramen noodles (I forgot to add water to the bowl) and once when I was making ravioli in a can. I forgot that you have to put the ravioli in a bowl or something so I ended putting it into the microwave in it’s tin can. The sparks were glorious!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This was a really awesome post! I think it’s important to realise that the gap between expectations and reality is often a normal process 😊

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  8. My gap that I am struggling with is the notion of writing a novel. I have all the thoughts and ideas that swim in my head but when it come to the actual pen to paper thing that is when I bomb out totally. The words that were there just disappear and what I put down is insipid and really only worth of a school type essay. So I have decided to try my hand at blogging. Maybe this is what is better for me. I have started 2 blogs, the one is called Ode to Life on https://judy64.blogspot.co.za/ This is just about the basics of my life and whatever I am thinking of at the time. The other is a travel blog with a difference. https://grannyonthemovesite.wordpress.com/ So maybe the blogging will close the gap that I am struggling with to make my thoughts into solid visual words.

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  9. This seems to be my theme of the week – check out today’s thoughts on the topic with an added bonus of Pixar’s adorable animated short that fits the theme perfectly! 🙂 ://kurilane.com/2016/11/23/outside-the-lines/


  10. I love this! I recently bought a crock pot (I am 26 years old), and have been having so much fun with it. Up until the last two years, I NEVER cooked. Ever. I was always terrified of it, for no real reason. My dishes never come out beautiful, but they taste awesome, and that’s good enough for me. 🙂


  11. It’s not just that way with food i feel it’s also that way with like crafts. You see a picture of something you really like and you try to do it yourself it never comes out looking that good. Kind of like getting your hair done i can’t ever fix it like they can.


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