Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Weeding Wisdom

I will get back to David Copperfield, but I was weeding yesterday, and as with the last time I weeded, I tend to philosophize as I pull out the horrid junk out from around my rose bushes. (I shouldn't be that mean when discussing these plants, but they really are annoying.)

If you'd like to read my other entry on the matter, I think it's on my defunct blog, so it's been a while since I wrote on the topic. I am struck, each time I do some gardening, by how informative it is about life--especially about my writing. Here are a few little kernels of what I learned yesterday:

1.  Get a problem out by the roots, and it won't come back. I can't tell you how many times I've pulled the leaves off a weed, only to see it come back in a week, stronger than ever. In my writing, I often tend to lop off a little scene that is giving me a sign of some bigger problem, rather than deal with the bigger problem. When I go back through the novel or play, though, the problem is still there. It won't go away until I take out the true cause, and that requires digging. (It also leads to the next item.)

2.  Get a shovel, and use it. When one revises a novel (or play), one might be more eager to fix a comma splice than delete an entire character, or scene, or situation. One might not want to admit the climax stinks, or that the whole beginning premise is absolutely lame. But if one doesn't take a hatchet to the work--or if one isn't at least willing to hold the hatchet out there, looking for places to hack--the real substantive changes will not occur, and the spine of the work is going to be weak.

My last piece of advice comes thanks to the neighborhood dog, who detests when I am weeding anywhere near the back fence, and thus barks savagely non-stop, hurling himself at the fence (which shudders) when I get quite close to it. So, here it is:

3.  It is very hard to weed with a dog barking savagely in the background. It makes me think of bursts like the NaNoWriMo concept, to write a novel in a month (it's coming up in November). If I have a huge deadline looming, if I feel as if a dog is barking at me over my shoulder, not only will I work less efficiently, but I will be miserable while I'm doing it. That stupid dog made gardening a chore when I normally would like to do it. Surely, after years of living here, it has to know I'm not coming through the fence, and surely I know it won't get to me, but the dreadful sound make me shudder (like the fence), and they set my hair on end. Not a good way to garden. Not a good way to write. 

It's almost fall, almost time for all the plants to take a breather--and that's good, since I have two classes starting in less than a week, and two more starting mid-October. Lots to do!


  1. Well, I don't garden and am not going to start, so I'll have to get my gardening wisdom from you.

    I will note, however, that, though some people do poorly with an impending deadline, others thrive under one. I don't think either is wrong; you should strive to work in the environment that works best for you.

  2. I thrive off deadlines. What I do not thrive off of is screaming deadlines which put me in a panic. Then I start to just see the whole task as a chore... and I do crappy work, to boot.

  3. I have to admit that the NaNoWriMo plan has never appealed to me (and I do thrive, even with screaming impending deadlines). But I don't like it with crafting fiction. In my experience, forced fiction is bad fiction - at least when I write it.

    For others, though, they love it.

  4. I cannot force my writing or it is only fit for the trash bin.
    I have to be in a quiet place with no pressure so I can take that journey into my head and see what I am trying to write. That is the only way I can do it, living/seeing/smelling actual being what I am writing and it comes out well. Any other way it is a complete disaster....