19 October 2011

Writing Wednesday Weeding Whimsy

Do you weed? I hate weeding. But I'm trying to challenge myself on that mind-set. I've challenged myself on lots and lots of mind-sets over the past few years. I now know that I can read and follow directions (I knit lace!! I bake complicated tortes!!); I have discipline (I sit everyday! I write most days!), I don't lose things - I never did but my family thought I did and so I thought I did.
This weeding thing is related to another mind-set I've had - that I like the beginnings of things but rarely finish them. That is absolutely not true of me any more. I finished the Dublin Marathon 9 years ago - hmmm...the date was the 27th I think of this month. I have finished three novels. Beginnings, middles, and ends. I have had successful gardens, though not this year, and I've finished lots and lots of other things too. I've got an old dog! I never thought that would happen but it has. I've lived in a house longer than I thought possible, and longer than I've lived anywhere. My guy and I have been together, as of this year, longer than any other relationship with a guy-type that I've had.

Back to weeding. I hate weeding in my garden and I hate weeding in my writing. Or I did. Now I'm changing, as I said. (am I stressing that too much do you think? does it mean I doth protest too vociferously? don't you love that word?) Even more than weeding, I have challenges with thinning - as in thinning out this row of carrots. A couple of years ago I tricked my gardening self by buying seed tapes of carrots - voila! Pre-thinned. It worked a treat. But I can't do that with my writing. I can't imagine what the equivalent of seed tapes for writing would be. I suppose an editor that looked at your messy manuscript every day and just weeded out all the little shoots that weren't going to go anywhere, or were but had to be cut back because EVERY idea can't be in one book.
That is the problem, right there! Why can't every idea be in the book? Well, because it wouldn't be a story, it would be an encyclopaedia or a rainy day book or a pillow book or a terrible Roman a clef but it wouldn't be a real novel.
And it goes to the same part of my heart that asks me - why can't I go down every road? Why can't I have every possible job that I want? Why can't I live everywhere but still have best friends, old dogs, long-term relationships and so forth?
I'm an experience slut. Yep. I am. And in some essential way that is why I like writing. I can pretend that I'm every character with zillions of different jobs and husbands and dogs and boobs and problems and babies and, well, experiences.
Why not?
Back to weeding - I used to not be a good weeder - see - that right there is bull-pucky. Of course, I was a good enough weeder - there isn't anything hard about it. It's like my first husband used to say "oh honey, you make the best popcorn!" Can you see anything wrong with that statement? Of course you can but it sucked me in for awhile. So - I could weed - I just didn't like it. I would say that I couldn't tell the weeds from the perennials. Why shouldn't weeds live? What makes them less lovely than the flowers? But now, I'm liking it. I'm liking thinning and weeding and supplementing the earth with lovely compost and seeing the crop through to harvest.
Every day that I revise (and that is most days of the week including holidays) I'm enjoying the discipline. The more I weed and thin, the more I want to do. I'll have a bloody poem soon!
So dear readers, if you have some mind-set that you believe about yourself (I'm no good at plots and structure - I hate dialogue - themes evade me) dig into those weedy mental roots and get them outta there!

Here is a glorious wild weed photo for you all.


M.J. Nicholls said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M.J. Nicholls said...

Interesting you put the jobs and boobs before the children, what does that tell you about your priorities? I like the term "weeding" for editing. Every I know uses "cutting" which is way more negative. How about "pruning?" Or "topiarize?"

Jan Morrison said...

Yes it is! In my real life I have kids, step-kids and grand-kids. In my real life I have disappointing tits so...in my imaginary land, kids aren't up there but boobs are!
Pruning is good, not sure about topiarize - might be better for poetry...

Anonymous said...

Jan - I love that weeding metaphor! One of the things I've found about metaphorical weeding is that the more we think about how much we don't like to do something, the larger and uglier that task looms. Not easy to get past that in weeding or revisions, but if you just get to it, you often that the job's not so terrible.

Jan Morrison said...

Thanks Margot. I'm like Chauncy Gardener (remember that movie with Peter Sellers?) and can talk gardening into anything. And I'm really liking revisions these days - still unsure if I'm actually up to weeding - I'm usually a-let-the-flowers-duke-it-out sort of gal.

Unknown said...

This is such excellent advice. I am one of those who make an outline, begin writing the novel and then never finish. I tend to let things get in the way like children, husband and students. :P

However, I want to turn over a new leaf. I am going to pick one of my many works in progress and just stick with it to the end. Wow, that felt good!

Liza said...

Yep, I'm a lousy weeder in my garden. As for writing...I love the writing, but I think I like the weeding more. I am at 42K and struggling with the current WIP, but I do want to get it done so I can give it the huge overhaul I already know it needs! Lace and complicated torts? You are my hero!

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, Jan, we are such kindred spirits. I'm a slut too... erm... an experience slut, I mean... my FOMS... I want to do it ALL... and I would LOVE it all in the book...

I love Mark's term though... topiarize... that implies shaping it into a creepy animal to scare people instead of making it all proper... I like that A LOT better!

(This tendency for weeds is a huge reason I write fast--it keeps them to a minimum in the first place)