Post by Jenny
I finally got around to editing my turnips last week. No, I haven’t been gardening without my sunhat, nor have I genetically engineered a new variety of super-literate root vegetables (but how cool would that be?). By “editing,” I mean thinning.
My thumb is only the palest shade of green, but I know the gardening basics. First, the seeds are planted. If all goes well, they sprout. Next, they must be thinned so they have room to develop. I never really enjoy this part of the process. Unlike yank-it-all-out weeding, thinning requires thought, which invariably means I will over-think it. In fact, the whole process reminds me of editing. To understand why, replace every ‘sprout’ in the following two paragraphs with the word ‘sentence.’
When I see a plot of sprouts, I feel proud that I helped them come into being. They look so nice all together in their neat rows. But I know that, without thinning, they will never reach their full potential. So I must get down and dirty and examine each sprout. Some sprouts are obviously weak and underdeveloped—they are the easy ones to remove. Other sprouts are strong and healthy, and their only problem is overcrowding. If the sprouts to either side are fine specimens, too, but doomed by close proximity with their neighbors, how to decide which sprouts stay and which go?
I try to choose the strongest sprout, the one with the best chance of success. Sometimes, it comes down to guesswork. Other times, I have a good feeling about a particular sprout and can’t bring myself to remove it. But that doesn’t mean I won’t return a day or so later, reevaluate that particular sprout, and decide it has to go. Kill your darlings, folks, and pull out your superfluous sprouts.
What about the stuff that gets removed? Well, I’m a firm believer in recycling a good sentence, should the opportunity arise. And as for the baby turnip greens…I tossed them in a mustard vinaigrette, and they were very tasty.
Have you done any thinning out lately? In a manuscript or a garden?