When my children were small (very, very small) I started baking. I did lots of cooking actually, because it gave me an excuse to lock myself away from them and listen to NPR. Everything was from scratch. The book I read most those days was The Joy of Cooking which I still think is the best cooking primer in the history of ever. I made all kinds of things, but what I was serious about, really serious about, was bread. We had expensive taste in bread and very little money, and so, the baking: hard rolls, pita, a nice baguette, and sourdough--every week, the sourdough. I rarely bake these days because I don't have so much time, and also, I like to fit in my jeans.
But yesterday, I just wanted bread, and the sourdough starter was already active from last weekend's pizza rolls. I didn't measure the flour or the water or the salt. I didn't time either rise. After this many years, I know what a good dough looks like, how it smells, how it feels. And I think, this is what writing is like ultimately. We study our way into it, count our syllables, plan our rhymes, but eventually, it becomes about instinct. We feel the words in our mouths. We still have our failures, of course: the ending that doesn't land, the loaf that won't rise. I won't argue that it gets easier. Most days it still feels hard, but it doesn't feel like work in the way it used to.
Also, the bread was amazing. It was so, so good.