Self-Editing or Chopping Back the Thyme

I think the place I’ve learned the most about writing is my own backyard. I don’t mean that in the Dorothy, click your heels and say there’s no place like home, way. I’m fairly stuck right now. I know what has to be done, but it’s really hard. It means inserting stuff in a couple of million places. It’s right. But not easy.

What do I do when I know something is going to be just awful? I stall. This morning I realized the herb garden, where I have a carpet of creeping thyme growing between pavers has grown out of control. So, I grabbed the hedge clippers and started hacking–searching through the turf for concrete blocks while trying not to split a buried soaker hose that makes the whole thing possible.

My back and hands are sore, but an hour later, the hardscape is visible. The soaker hose is on and the bird in the nest above is chirping at me in high alert. Why is this about writing? It reminds me that, no matter how bad the task, the reward for chopping back the thyme is an improved story. Everything must reinforce the snapshot of the landscape. If a stray lambs ear–despite its feathery beauty–falls out of the line, I clip it back. Is this what Hemingway meant by killing your darlings?

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