How is writing a novel like growing an ear of corn?

I wish I had a time-lapse camera attached to my kitchen faucet. That way I could catch the day-by-day growth of the corn in my neighbor’s garden. Every morning over the last couple of months, since he planted his garden, I’ve watched the corn inch its way higher and higher toward the sky. This week, after being away for several days on a writing retreat, I swear it’s as high as an elephant’s eye.

neighbor's corn
And I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if I could have a time-lapse camera attached to my writing desk so I could see that, day-by-day, page-by-page, my novel was reaching toward its own version of bright blue sky.

In the mess of all the revisions, it’s easy to forget that growing anything, an ear of corn, a short story, or a novel, is a day-by-day affair. Especially when you can go to the grocery store and find an abundance of fresh corn, two ears for $1.00 and they’re practically giving away vine-ripened tomatoes.

12543I just finished teaching Word by Word, a Class on Writing and Life in which fifteen students and I worked through Anne Lamott’s book, Bird by Bird. Throughout the six weeks of class, we were reminded again and again that it’s the daily practice that matters; going to the writing desk every day, not with the idea of finishing so we can be published and our lives will suddenly be star-studded and brilliant, but doing the work on a daily basis because we’re writers and that’s what we do.

I hope you’re enjoying the abundance of summer where you live. I hope you get all you can eat: fresh corn, peaches so juicy you have to stand over the sink to eat them, cherries and cucumbers and cantaloupes and so much squash you can tile the kitchen with it. And if this doesn’t sound too corny, I hope you’re feeling that same abundance of language and ideas and possibilities as you go daily to your writing practice.

2 thoughts on “How is writing a novel like growing an ear of corn?

  1. My time lapse camera came in the form of notebooking. Every time I forced myself to tackle the novel, I had something to say. Finally I did a guided meditation and deleted that ms. (mess) — and the other ones hiding in my disks. How could someone as impatient as I attempt something as monotonous as a long piece of work! Not only was I bored, the characters left and the ghosts supposedly haunting the works just sort of fizzled out and exorcised themselves. When I deleted I did a good job, notebook pages included. Even the awesome amazing and beautiful more recent writings — if I did it, I will do it again elsewhere.

    Time lapse indeed. Had I heeded my own angst and agony I might have taught myself something.

    Happy squashing — I toss my spaghetti squash with fried sweet onions and garlic and pour spaghetti sauce over it. When I’m not busy eating huge Okanagan cherries. Ah maybe I should have been writing a cookbook. A 40 page one. Quickly.

    • Hi Linda,
      I like that: time-lapse camera is your notebook. Yes. Should we congratulation you on the End of the Novel?
      Thanks for the recipe for the squash. Sounds delish. Enjoy your cherries while you may.

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