Plowing the Page

Plowing the Page

I come from a family of farmers, and though I now live in a suburban setting, as a kid I hauled hay, weeded the peanut fields, planted corn, etc. As a writer, I often think about how similar writing is to the planting/growing process.

I approach a blank page much like a farmer preparing to tackle an unplowed soil. Not all soil is appropriate for planting, but every empty page–digital or physical–holds promise. Through struggle and sweat (and caffeine–sweet tea please), I plow through an initial outline. I tried writing without one, and I ended up lost and having to ask myself for directions. Terribly embarrassing for a man, but that’s another post… Writing without an outline made my rows very crooked, if not unidentifiable. Once the rows are tilled, I plant the seeds of my words. And though I try to be careful as I write–to get the words in the right place the first time, it always requires further care, ongoing tending: weeding (removal of those that choke out the emotional growth in my characters and emotional response of my readers) and watering and fertilizing (adding or modifying them to be healthy)–all in the hopes that the manuscript will blossom and grow into something to be proud of.

Through diligence the wip becomes a w–a finished product that resembles a beautiful field of fully formed vegetation, and as I look across my work, I’m proud of turning a once blank platform into a complete story with complex characters and rich plot–a satisfying journey for the reader. But crops don’t sit on a shelf. They’re meant to be consumed.

And I think that’s where most writers are. I’m not planting a private garden. At its least I want it to be  community garden, shared and experienced by many. At its best, a commercially viable enterprise. All farmers want their crops to be known as delicious or high quality–just like writers. I know my uncles always glowed with pride when they brought in the biggest crop or the tastiest vegetables. The money paid the bills, but there were things money couldn’t do–validate the hard work that went into producing something of value from an empty field and seeds. I pray that the empty page will grow fruitful from the seeds of my ideas into a healthy work that brings joy to others. And eventually, grow into an opportunity to focus solely on the plowing of new ideas.

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