Archive for 'fallow season'



Writing in the dark
by Jessa Slade on January 25th, 2010

Currently working on: Brooding
Mood: Broody

Last year, the grapes tried to come in the house.

XY bought me a couple gorgeous Interlachen grapes for my birthday three years ago, and last year, they really took off.  They ran up into the birch tree and across the porch.  They tangled in the yuccas and wrapped around the sun shades.  When they started scratching eerily at the front door on windy nights, we knew they had to move.

So this weekend, while they’re dormant for the winter, XY whacked them back and transplanted them to brand new holes on their very own trellis, where they can run this way ‘n’ that way without opposition.  XY also moved the fruit trees to accommodate the new grapes trellis.  One of the roses, a lilac, and a bunch of perennials had to go to make room for the fruit trees.  It was cold, wet, muddy work, and the front yard looks like a cemetery with its piles of dark earth and skeletal plants. 

Tonight, when we took Monster Girl the dog for her walk, we paused in the 5 o’clock, low cloud darkness to stare at the wreckage, and it was hard to believe spring will ever come.

 At some point in my writing, I always feel like that.

field-of-words1

There always comes a time in my writing when the story is out of control.  Tendrils are choking the life out of anything nearby.  Too scraggly and unwieldy and ugly, my writing begins to creep me out.  The darkness descends.  The winter of our discontent, indeed.

This is my fallow season.  Since the cycles of my writing echo the seasons in my garden, I’ve learned to apply a few rules to both.

1. Just cut back the dead wood already.
I have roses that bloom through November.  At Thanksgiving, they still have buds forming.  But invariably, sometime in December we finally get a hard frost which kills the last blossoms.  The buds blacken and slump on their stems.  The surviving leaves give me (false) hope that I’ll get another glimpse of pink.  But no.  Really, there’s nothing to do but get out the clippers and whack everything back to sturdy greenery.  That first cut is the sharpest, but the harsher I am, the more lush and vigorous the blooms are the following year. 

2. Lay the ground work and run the guide wires now.
I read a garden book once that said you should always put your 50-cent peat pot in a five-dollar hole.  I get impatient (and cheap) and am sometimes tempted to skip ahead.  But there’s no rushing the prep work.  So now I start by honing the spade and invest time in reading craft books and taking workshops that can make me a sharper writer.  I dig a deep and rock-free hole of prewriting.  I string my story arc wire on securely concreted plotting posts.  And I turn my well-aged compost into a hot and steaming muck.

3. Nurture the seedling.
Good God, but a seedling is so small and pathetic.  With only two baby leaves, I can’t even tell the peppers from the potato, the carrots from the kohlrabi.  And knowing how long it will take before harvest, sometimes it seems so pointless.  But I have faith that if I put a tiny toilet paper roll anti-slug collar around them, if I spread the compost thick, and thin the weeds, if I water them regularly with my blood, sweat and tears (minus the cliche), in the end — The End — I will hold the fruits of my labor.

Sure, it’s a dream.  But it’s always easier to dream in the dark.

Do you have rituals for the dark and fallow months?  Or do you vegetate?