Cake Mojo.. sometimes overwhelming and often elusive, it is the thing that we all blame for our lack of motivation when we are tired and drawn out. It is the thing we search high and low for and the thing we mourn for when it abandons us unexpectedly right before a major project. Why does it disappear and what really makes up our Cake Mojo?
As with all things in life there are peaks and troughs, highs and lows within our emotions, our productivity and also our success. Losing our love and motivation to create cake art isn't immune from this rollercoaster, in fact I suggest that it has the front seat on the ride. Being a creative medium and something that is so closely tied to our emotions and emotional well being, Cake Mojo is in the very front of that rollercoaster, ready to plummet down the drops and through the loops before most other things. The issue we have is how to manage it, how to ensure that it has its seatbelt on tightly and it keeps all limbs inside the carriage. To do so we need to have a good look at what effects it and what we can do to control those influences.
Now, I am just speaking for me and my experience. I am sure others in the industry have other opinions or ideas, all being perfectly valid and true to them. But to me, I have found that there are four major influences on, and often killers of, Cake Mojo. These things overlap and interact with each other continuously (and annoyingly!) and I believe they are:
- People; and
I don't think people outside the industry fully appreciate the amount of pressure we place on ourselves and the amount of stress that, for example, a wedding cake can induce. It is just cake right, no big deal? How hard can it be?! Well, it is the idea that your creation is the centrepiece for an event, the last thing people see on the night, the only real thing other than the wedding dress that people judge, talk about and remember... it is pressure. The idea that so many things can go wrong even before you get it into the car for the 10km/hr drive there like your 100yrs old... it is pressure. Is the cake the right colour, the right flavour, oh god did I match those flowers perfectly to her bouquet? So an error in any of these things won't, despite our popular belief, cause the sky to fall or swarms of locust to appear, no one will die and life will continue for all of mankind BUT it sure as hell doesn't feel that way at the time. So what do we do about it? How do we handle the pressure? Although I must admit that I still feel like I want to vomit and/or die (never sure in which order!) right up until the cake is set up and done, I have learnt some tricks to ease off the pressure and stress, somewhat...
1. Be organised - keep records, keep an eye on dates, start early and be prepared with ingredients, equipment and know your plan of action in all types of weather.
2. Prepare for the worst although acknowledge it won't come - have a back up plan, pack a repair kit for the drive, troubleshoot about how you can "stick a flower on it" if needed, anticipate surprise and it won't be a panic should it happen.
3. Be kind to yourself - back yourself, know your abilities and strengths and play to them, take some time for yourself and celebrate your achievements.
4. And remember it is cake! You aren't making a real car or spaceship, it is made from food, not cement or steel, there is truly a real art to creating things from cake and sugar, appreciate the medium but know, it is cake!
Exhaustion comes from pressure too and it often manifests itself in stress and sometimes the want to just light a match and walk away. We all juggle life around our businesses. Whether we juggle family, other work commitments, study, whatever the balls are that you have in the air, they all matter and they all add weight to your shoulders. Know your limitations. If you aren't able to squeeze in that last order, don't. If your body is telling you to step back and rest up, do. If the thought of turning our oven on one last time this week makes you break out in a sweat, don't. It doesn't matter if it is a friend asking, if you can't do it without pushing yourself to the absolute limit, don't. There is always The Cheesecake Shop! No amount of sugar and flour, or cash for that matter, is worth your physical or mental health. You need to take a break from all things sometime and its important to take time away from even the things you love occasionally too. Use the time to recharge but do it BEFORE you burn out. I know those of you who know me and are reading this are laughing at me, "like you ever say "no" to anything Zoe, look at the mess you are just this week!". Yes, I know.. but I am trying! I am trying harder than ever to know my limitations and to work within what I comfortably can. It is hard, especially as a mother, to learn to put yourself first and remember what is really important. I am working on it.. we all need to, and that's my point! Hey, I reckon at this stage of life in the cake world, if you aren't on first name basis with your UberEats driver then you are doing pretty well (and much better than me!).
People. Well, love them or hate them there is nothing, and I really do mean nothing, you can do to control them, how they think, what they say or what they do. What you can control is how you respond, how you behave and how you feel. All industries have underlying issues in politics and competition, ours is no different. Sure there are plenty of people out there who are self motivated to the point they will destroy others without hesitation and those so self interested that they don't see the world around them. The good thing about our industry is that these people are few and far between. We've all been to school and done our time with the mean girls and bullies. All I think now is what a waste of energy it is and how sad their lives must be. Although it is not difficult to let their noise interfere with our creative flow, we need to remember that we have no control over others. The only thing we can control is how we let it interact with our lives and how we allow them to make us feel. I read something a while back that said "no one can make you feel inferior without your consent" and while I tend to roll my eyes at all of those memes with pretty fonts over a beach sunrise, I tend to have to agree with this one wholeheartedly. Don't allow others to make you feel anything other than that you are more than good enough, in cake and also in life. Don't let the nay-sayers nay-say - it is their stuff not yours. Negatively and doubt from others can be a great motivator, use it. Surround yourself with gorgeous cake friends and listen to them when they tell you that you are good enough too, let them help you hold on to your mojo, use them for inspiration. Let those who are determined to destroy things for others destroy only themselves. Grab some popcorn if you must, but do it from a distance, emotionally and physically.
Even with the whole "sticks and stones" mindset, often the comments from people do get through and it can often lead us to doubt ourselves. Are they right? Are the veins on those flowers really that biologically inaccurate that the bride won't enjoy her wedding cake and it will ruin her entire life? Of course not. The truth is, she wouldn't have asked you to make the cake in the first place if she didn't think you could! The truth is, you've more than likely exceeded her expectations because you have been so organised and so wonderful to deal with that you have saved her so much stress and worry. The truth is, you have undoubtedly baked a cake that everyone loved and enjoyed.. in fact, there was very little left at the end of the night because it was so delicious. Back youself! I say this all the time to my students and cake friends. We need to learn to know that we are good enough, more than good enough. That we can really do anything we put our minds to and that we've got this. When we start to doubt ourselves and question our abilities we start to sabotage ourselves and the results follow. When we stop thinking that we can do something we lose the desire to do it. It is human nature that we avoid things we are likely to fail at so it is therefore pretty logical to think that our Cake Mojo will up and leave should we start thinking we are rubbish and have no skill. I know, I know, this is easier said than done and the idea of thinking you are the absolute best at everything can be equally destructive (we all know those people right!?). What we do need to remember however is that when our self doubt creeps in, and it will, that we can shut it out again with confidence in our abilities and achievements. I am guilty of self doubting BIG TIME, am I seriously good enough to be doing whatever? Often I answer myself with probably not.. but then I look at what I have done and where I want to be, and hell, if I have done that then I can do it and I will kill it! Look at where you've been but focus on where you are going - know you have the ability to take it wherever you want, leave self doubt behind. Believe you've got this and then you'll have your Mojo too!
You know all of this really flows back to maintaining a level of OK. Making sure that you have balance in your life and that you are in control (of only the things you can!) and that you are putting emphasis where it is needed and on what is really important in your life. We lose our Cake Mojo when we let our guards down, become disorganised, flustered, stressed and when we lose our focus. Sometimes a little interference with transmission of the bigger picture is necessary to allow us to retune and reprogram. It will pass, it always does, but what we need to keep in mind is why the test pattern appears and with that comes the know how to quickly reposition the cables for clear viewing once more. It is difficult and often not fun but if you have the tools you need and the awareness to pull through, focus can be restored, it will lift your creativity and well, game on!