Sunday, May 13, 2012

The AHA moment!

GARDEN DATE: 2012.5.6
I’ve underestimated the weeds and work and overestimated my stamina, which means I’m woefully behind in my schedule. I’ve not completed the next leg of my weeding plan to reach the sitting area.  
Planning my garden work reminds me of outlining my book.  I usually underestimate how much I have to write and overestimate my time. I’m almost always crunching as I get closer to deadlines.

I’ve learned through gardening, not to expect one season a garden to make! Gardens are works in progress—exactly like books. Editors demand deadlines and so books cannot be tweaked as much as gardens.
Before I begin a book I develop a loose outline with points of where I want to be with the story, time-wise or story-wise. I walk the story through my head, just the key points.

In my garden, I want the entire path before I begin to develop a plan on weeding, pruning, and mulching. All this has to happen before a plant or seed goes into the ground.
I have an idea when I’m writing of how I want each segment to look, just as I have ideas on how I want each part of my garden to look. Does it happen that way? Not usually.

In the garden, I look for spots where I can develop an ‘aha’ moment. My neighbor and fellow gardener, Robin, so named the little areas where I’ve placed a pot on its side at the base of tall peonies and next to bushy yarrow, or the circled a birdbath and new plant with small  rocks. In order to lay those rocks around the birdbath, I had to first weed that section of the garden.  The pot on its side has been there all winter, waiting for the yarrow and peonies to grow up around it.
I try for those ‘aha’ moments in my writing; a piece of business that stays with the reader for later examination. I may tuck a turning point clue into the ‘garden’ of the story. And so stories go, some need extensive preparation to get the ‘aha’ just right, while others have an ‘aha’ that’s been lying in wait for the story to grow and expose it.

What impedes my garden and writing schedules? Distractions, new ideas and review. How sweet, a robin is splashing about in the birdbath. Wish the top were more secure. It’s not a tight fit since it’s not the original top. Fortunately, the robin is light enough to safely bathe.
After four hours of weeding, I had to stop working before I finished the piece I’d set as my goal. I became distracted by a patch of weeds outside my designated area but that garden seemed in more urgent need of weeding.
Stories do that. I set myself a goal and an arc that I’m going to hit and then I realize there is a notion, a storyline that must be written NOW or it will become overrun by exposition. While I was weeding I thought of a way to take up more garden space and keep the weeds down and clear area for pots in the garden. I plan to plant cascading petunia in the center pot and let the plants trail down the slope. The cap is an old birdbath that broke over the winter a few years ago. Never throw away garden pieces. Never throw away old stories, pieces of dialog, and interesting names and ideas. You never throw away a ‘pot’ that didn’t work somewhere else in the story. I hope this will be an interesting ‘aha’ moment  once it is planted. It’s a wonderful idea but it took me away from the weeding plan.

Sometimes, I’m plotting along and new idea invades my process. I have to stop and fiddle with it and it just right. You combine a couple of things you have lying about in other manuscripts and it is---a new idea!
Forging ahead requires looking behind. That backward glance shows you what you missed. How could you miss a Maple sapling, two feet tall when you pulled the wild garlic and chokecherry starts growing all around the young tree?

When I read what I’ve written the day before, I find saplings of too much narrative sprouting where there should be dialog. How did I miss several boring paragraphs? Too anxious to move on weeding, writing? Not expecting a sapling, hiding in plain sight? It happens…and so does the compost pile. But that’s another story!