Saturday, June 25, 2016

In the Weeds


Sometimes I am a liar when it comes to talking the Joy of Revision with my writing students. 

You can do it, I say. You can write a book. Write a messy first draft. Figure out what you have and what you need. Revise. Rinse. Repeat. 

I show them one of my drafts as an example. An array of colorful post-its. 

Look! It's not so difficult! Sometimes it's even fun! And my students nod along, inspired, I think, to try it for themselves. 

I do the same kind of thing when I talk about my garden. I post glorious close-ups of my veggies on social media. Lovely cauliflowers and darling pea pods and gorgeous purple cabbage.

It's not so hard to grow a garden, I tell my friends with less greener thumbs. Scatter a few seeds here and there. Water. Weed.  Repeat.

Okay. I don't completely lie. I admit to throwing out entire chapters, to fighting resistance each morning and girding myself to settle down to my day's writing 

to battling slugs 

But I tend to do this in a funny way. Glossing over the sweaty details. Joking about the actual WORK involved, the TIME

The worm that ate the hell out of the cabbage growing right next to the lovely cabbage picture above. 

The days I sit in front of my computer writing and rewriting the same paragraph a hundred times and then scrapping the entire thing. 

The caterpillars on my kale

The mornings I rant and whine and moan to my critique partner, 

the self-doubting--and sometimes, self-loathing

The creepy purply mold on my cauliflower

The times when I've finished up a revision of a revision and think what I have is the best piece of writing I've ever done and I send it off into the world and it sinks like a stone, unread--  or worse, read and passed on

and I wonder how I will ever find the energy or courage or discipline to start writing another story

The pathetic patch of cilantro after a heavy rainstorm

But, somehow, I do begin another story

Because it is what I do

It's what I do. 


  1. Comments acting funny today, so this may be a repeat--feel free to delete if it is.

    I am in a "caterpillar on the kale" phase of revising, too. Frost said, the only way out is through, which is very caterpillar-like, but doesn't make it any easier. :)

    1. I like knowing that other writers go through this too. Just part of the process. Like insects eating my vegetables!

  2. Gonna go with Beckett here: "Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

    1. I am working my way toward Fail spectacularly :)

  3. The funny thing is: Why do we ever expect it to be otherwise? Life is never perfect and rarely simple. Yet we have an endless capacity for surprise that nothing in it is simple either--gardening, writing, relationships, politics, parenting. I suppose because the process (of doing anything) seems so absurdly inefficient. I think we should make a T-shirt: "Writing: A hot mess. Just like everything else in life." ;-D

    1. I agree. I don't know why I am surprised either. If it was easy it wouldn't be any fun. :)