Sunday, April 13, 2014

Gardening Your Stories

I spent part of Saturday doing lawn work. I wanted to get grass seed down before it rained that night. I have seen other bloggers compare some aspect of their daily lives to writing, and it seemed terribly philosophical to me. But on Saturday, something clicked, and I could see a type of connection between lawn work and writing. Maybe you’ll see it, too.
Before I put down seed, some of the bald spots needed raking to get up the last leaves that we didn’t get rid of last fall. These were mostly the small locust leaves that got left behind when we were concerned with more visible oak leaves that lay atop them. So, that could be seen as cleaning up the leftovers (unused scenes, dialogue, phrases, sentences, paragraphs) from the last story so that I have a ‘clean slate’ to work with.
There were weeds I wanted to remove; dandelions, clover, crab grass, even thistles. I didn’t get many of them, because using the rake had irritated the pain in my right shoulder, so I decided I would poison them later in the season, once the new grass was established. (It took a couple years, but that’s how we finally got rid of our wild strawberries.) Weeds like this might be compared to those leftover scenes and phrases that you absolutely loved in your previous rough draft, but aren’t going to suit your next story at all. Take the biggest, toughest of these and place them in a file for future reference... you might use them someday. Ignore the rest, unless they actually show up again in a story and again don’t fit. Then you ruthlessly edit them out... again.
I spread the grass seed by hand. I know how to do it that way. A spreader is not a complicated piece of machinery, but I just didn’t want to bother with it. I enjoy writing rough drafts, scattering words across the paper. Editing is filling bald spots, pulling weeds, making the whole thing look better.
Now I’m faced with two to three weeks of daily watering to let the grass grow and get well established. Writing a story takes time. The pervading wisdom is that you write every day, watering those words you scattered across the page until they form a strong, beautiful story.

Everybody dreams of having a beautiful lawn. Personally, I find working with words more satisfying than lawnwork. How about you? Would you like to compare your hobby or vocation to washing the dishes or mopping the floor?

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