Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Necessity of Fresh Eyes

I'm giving in to the idea of self-sufficiency.

Yes, I know I can buy my own pickles cheaply. Yes, it does make my kitchen hot and steamy when I'm canning. Yes, sometimes things go wrong and shit explodes everywhere and you end up with welts. But I'm still very into the idea of making my own food, and its not because I want everything organic or that I'm afraid of chemicals and preservatives.

It's because I want to look smug when the end of civilization comes and I'm doing alright :)

Recently I decided it was time to expand from vegetables and canning into an herb garden. I had a nice spot picked out in the side yard and was waiting to borrow my mother's tiller to make the dream a reality, when ugly necessity reared its head.

I have a stone path following the fence around my pond. The area immediately to the left of the path has been a weedy, troublesome problem for three years, mostly because the rocks themselves sat there for a good long while and encouraged all kinds of weed growth and simultaneously discouraged mower blades.

So I got the tiller, and prioritized. The weeds were an eyesore, a shoulder-height testament to my inabilities as a lawn owner. The combined energies of my wrath, a mower and a Mantis took the smirk off their little green faces, but by then I had realized that I didn't have any grass seed and wouldn't have time to get any until the weeds had recouped and mounted their second assault. Meanwhile, my herbs were setting on the back porch, drooping dejectedly as they waited for their home away from Lowe's.

I got all pouty, drank some ice tea, and my mom came over to see how the herb garden was coming. I told her all my problems - the feisty weeds, the depressed herbs, the unbroken lawn waiting to become a garden, my lack of grass seed. She looked at me and said:

"So why don't you just put your herb garden in the ground you tilled up instead of grass?"

And the clouds parted, the Hallelujah Chorus played, and I saw all the advantages: I could harvest my herbs from my little stone path, I had much easier access to water than in the side yard, converting that ground to garden meant less mowing around the steeply sloped banks of the pond, and... (BONUS) it was already tilled, I wouldn't have to buy grass seed, and my herbs would be happy.

The only addition my mom had was, "Well, duh."

I needed mom's fresh eyes to alert me to the lack of common sense I was displaying, and sometimes we need that in writing too. As writers, we'll have our heart set on certain actions, dialogue, even events, that simply aren't what's best for the story itself in the big picture.

We need our beta readers and crit buddies to say to us, "Hey, why not try this?"

And, if they tack on, "Well, duh," try to remember you love them for a reason.

8 comments:

Pedro Ramirez III said...

Indeed. We must be arrogant about our ideas, our writing, but not always.

Robin Weeks said...

Every beta reader I had pointed out a well-duh in my book that everyone else missed. Lotsa fresh eyes are lotsa better. :)

(When the world ends, I'm letting my gardening/canning/food-storage guru MIL and my hunter/gatherer hubby take care of me.)

cherie said...

Ha! So true. Thank goodness for moms, friends, beta readers, crit partners, etc.

Masako Moonshade said...

This is fantastic, and it's so true. I'm starting to grudgingly accept that about writing, but the fact that it applies to pretty much everything else is one of those little-known facts that I, at least, keep forgetting about ^^; Independence is fantastic, but it shouldn't lead us to isolation from new perspectives and new ideas.

Thanks for the post~

Yvonne Osborne said...

Fresh Eyes! Right on. You couldn't see the solution right in front of your eyes. But our mothers always can. (And our readers) I made bread and butter pickles last week and today I'm blanching and freezing green beans, and yes, I'm afraid of chemicals and pesticides and herbicides and endocrine disrupters and on and on and on. I will have food lined up when the industrialized factory Monsanto farm collapses around us. Looks like you will too.

Mindy McGinnis said...

Pedro - Yes, although I would say "confident" rather than "arrogant." Sometimes it can be hard for us to take advice from others - sometimes doubly so if it turns out they were right and we were wrong about where our own story was going.

Robin - I've got a hunter-gatherer b/f. I watched him skin and butcher a deer last year. Now THAT was an education.

Cherie - Thank goodness indeed! I honestly would not be agented if it weren't for my circle.

Masako - That's absolutely true in so many ways. Being independent is awesome - right up until you realize that you've alienated yourself :)

Yvonne - I will, for sure! I'm starting a root cellar this year and planning next year's garden around crops that will keep well down there. There is a large measure of comfort in the idea that I can walk downstairs and find what I need for dinner, and I provided it myself!

Jemi Fraser said...

This line ... "It's because I want to look smug when the end of civilization comes and I'm doing alright" makes me wonder if perhaps, just maybe, you write dystopian... :)

Totally agree! Fresh eyes help enormously. I just wrote a thanks to my crit buddy that started with "D'uh, why didn't I see that..."

Mindy McGinnis said...

Jemi - Ah, yes.. I busted :) But I *thought* dystopian before it was cool ;)