Not too long ago I tackled one of those (kind of miserable) projects to which there is no alternative but hard work. I had to remove the grass that had grown for years between pavers and was progressing to cover the walkway completely. The only way to remove said grass was to get down on my hands and knees with a couple of sharp turf knives. I’m not fond of chemicals and with this kind of growth? No alternatives to using muscle and making sweat.
I decided to spend an hour every morning, an hour that coincided with consuming my second cup of coffee, on hands and knees and getting the job done a bit at a time. That way my back could recover after each foray, I’d feel accomplished for the day, and the job would, in fact, get done. Eventually.
It took me about two weeks all told, but I’ve removed the grass, and I can assure you it won’t be allowed to regrow there. The path looks terrific and I enjoy walking on it again. It frames my garden as it should. It feels nice underfoot. I’ve saved something I almost lost.
As with all things in life, metaphors to writing abound.
That grass was really stubborn. The knives had to be re-sharpened every day – sometimes twice a day (thank you, DH). Some places had to be dug deeper and deeper – the roots had become entwined and grown right under the pavers. Sometimes the grass pulled up in a long intact piece, like peeling a banana – especially where it had grown across the rocks so the roots had no soil.
I’ve been struggling with a revision of a piece that I adore but that I wrote a long time ago. It needs a lot of work. The roots of words, in places, have dug in deep. In other places, the roots are so shallow they have no foundation. The story and the character had both disappeared underneath a pretty but choking mat of wordy growth. It’s been hard for me to find my way and re-expose the stuff that’s important.
I’m figuratively on my hands and knees and my back gets cramped, and I have to stand up every so often and take another gulp of coffee. I can only work on this for so long before I need a break.
Yet, bit by bit, little by little, the pathway is reopening. My story is revealing itself again after having nearly been smothered. I have to remind myself that this is painstaking work (just ask my back) and that it will take time, but that each day brings a new revelation, and each effort exposes more of the story and more of the character, and eventually, when I stand back, I’ll be delighted.
And that’s the way we writers roll, do we not?
(ps in case you’re curious: I was told that white vinegar spray would kill grass just as effectively as a commercial herbicide – and it does! It’ll be very easy to spray the new invaders now that I’ve done the hard work.)