How Writing Isn’t Like Yardwork

I was raking and hoeing yesterday, preparing the back yard to seed it for the winter. My wife had already put one garden to bed. As freezes are striking, she’ll probably put the other to bed this week. Meanwhile, we have before us the question, should she plant garlic and, or, onions for winter? Probably so, but we veered away from the subject into collateral discussions before a decision was found.

Back in the yard, thinking about trimming back trees and bushes, I wrote in my head, as I often do when doing something that doesn’t require focus and will let me think about other things. Often, I think, writing is a lot like yard work. You’re always pruning and weeding, considering what’s been done and what else must be done.

But in yesterday’s internal dialogue, I realized how flawed that was. Yard work is continuous; it changes with the season, but you’re always out there, forever doing things. Plants grow, not only in the yard, but in the yards around you. Volunteers arrive, and trees grow taller and fuller, changing the exposure to the sun. Weather changes, like the super-hot summer of twenty thirteen, and the super-frigid winter of the same year, damages and kills plants. These need addressed, as much for fire safety as aesthetics.

Which is why novel writing’s comparisons with yard work should end. Eventually, I finish a novel. It becomes published and goes out into others’ hands and minds. The yard is always being attended; it’s only completed for a brief cycle. Although a novel may feel like it’s taking forever – this one of mine is now in its fifteen month of writing – I know it’ll be done someday. Then I’ll begin another, and it’ll feel like yard work again.

But it’s not.

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