Monday, June 20, 2011

Editing the Turnips

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?


Laila Knight said...

I haven't messed with turnips at all, but I did plant some tomatoes,and my WIP is suffering through extensive revising.

Dean K Miller said...

In the garden boxes, some onions a few peppers and my tomato plant, which suffered a flooding and now seems angry at me. I'll take solace in the over-burdened apple tree, should the tomatoes reject my second attempt at love.

In writing, I've gone with a tractor/back hoe to clean out the weeds that I'd ignored for so long. Sure the plots are much cleaner, but they look so thin and frail. Maybe a little chicken poop can fetilize them to grow....

John Paul McKinney said...

Jenny, What a great analogy and so visual that I'll never forget it. Like you, I enjoy both gardening and writing, but I have a hard time thinning either. Thanks.

Edna Pontillo said...

Excellent analogy. And since I don't like turnips, I sure as heck don't want to be cultivating them. Thanks!

Jenny said...

Laila, good luck with your revisions. And your tomatoes.

Dean, I've been tempted to resort to a little organic fertilizer for my writing, too.

Thanks, John Paul and Edna. (BTW, I only like raw turnips.)

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