Tuesday, March 18, 2008


Rose Prunings

Rose clippings w daffs

One Third of the Rose Clippings from this Spring

We've just finished the 'editing' season for our roses. You may call it pruning at your house. Trimming begins here around Valentine's day and continues until we drop from exhaustion or blood loss, which ever comes first.

Despite dealing with thorns, pruning is a meditative process for me because we hand prune, one branch at a time. One branch times the dozens we may take from a shrub, times the number of roses we have. That's why we call it pruning *season.* This is never completed in an afternoon. The idea is two fold: to increase the health and vigor of the roses first and foremost. Second, to keep the roses from becoming out-of-control monsters that eat neighboring plants, pathways and people.

The same thinking process I use in pruning the roses, I can also use in 'pruning' a written piece. I've even used this system to help me plan a scrapbooking page and a flowerbed or two. I dare say you could use these thoughts to edit your schedule or goals list.

Got your clippers? Let's get started.

First, look for dead wood. Any canes that froze out or are broken or damaged goes. That certainly applies to writing. Any sentence that doesn't fit the overall theme of the piece or any sentence that is dead needs to be removed. Be honest with yourself now. These are the easiest pieces of your creative effort to remove. Be tough and get started.

2. Any branches that shoot from one side of the rose across the middle get trimmed. I want to open up the inside for better air flow. In the same way, an idea that takes your writing in a different direction from the overall piece needs to find a new home. While trimmings from the roses get tossed, an idea trimmed from your writing may need to be filed for future reference. You do have a 'compost' heap for extra writing ideas, right?

3. Remove twiggy growth. Clean up the weak growth on your shrub. The same applies to your writing. If your point isn't strong, if it isn't supported, if it just doesn't belong, snip.

4. Next, step back and take a look. Check the overall height and shape of the rose shrub. Is the plant lop-sided now? Are one or two branches reaching over a pathway? Is it simply too big for the space? In the same way, is my written piece too long for the editorial requirements? Two thousand brilliant words will not make an editor happy if he or she asked for twelve hundred. Am I making the point I want to make in my piece? My fiction especially tends to be full of rabbit trails and dead end paths. Decide what the point of the scene or article is and trim away all the excess matter.

When in doubt, I take it out.

Okay, not really, but I'm learning. Just like every creative parent, I fall in love with my lil' darlin's. I've learned to be ruthless with my roses because they grow faster than weeds in my Texas climate. Sometimes I feel like a tamer facing down raging lions in my garden. I've also learned in my writing that less is more. One of the hardest lessons I had to experience as a writer was that seventy five percent of my wonderful, incredible, and fascinating words and research would NOT end up in the magazine article. Ouch!

Poetry teaches us that fewer, but well chosen words make a larger impact. In scrapbooking and photography, we understand that two or three wonderful images are easier to enjoy than a dozen mediocre ones.

Now it's your turn.



clip, or

rip something


If the process draws a little blood, that's okay. You'll be stronger for the struggle.

4 Other Creative Souls are Saying:

Joel Quile said...


You know I'm saying this with all the love I can muster...but I couldn't resist it...

I just wanted to point out that your longest blog post I've seen to date is one on "editing" LOL!

The only thing more ironic is the fact that your "editing challenged" preacher is calling you out on it!


DebMc said...

Ahem...Joel, you should have seen this BEFORE I edited. LOL!
P.S. I think you might have missed a couple of posts from last summer and fall. Wordy, I was.

Tim said...

Sometimes the hardest part of life is taking responsibility to trim out the unnecessary. Thank you for encouraging us to make the world better one limb or one word at a time.

The Raabs said...

Thanks for this one. I can apply it in so many ways:
1. to my writing, no matter what kind (sermons, articles, creative, lessons, songs, etc)
2. to my life in Christ - some things just need to be taken out. We need to focus. But this is not done in a day - it is a season!