Tag Archives: always be writing

Metaphor Monday: The Unmown Lawn


First of all, is it “mown” or “mowed”? Auto-correct liked “mowed” over “mown” but doesn’t like either “unmowed” or “unmown.” What up with that? Anyway.

Not to harp on a theme, but we’re still getting settled in the new house, and one thing task that I was particularly avoiding was the mowing of the lawn.

Big deal, right? It’s a lawn. You live in suburbia, you pay your dues. You handle it. Grass. Mower. Gas. Summer heat. Suck it up, sweat it out, keep up with the Joneses, and mow it.

Problem is, the lawn at the new house is about three times the size of the lawn I’m used to mowing, so what was once a 25-minute job to be breezed through in between sips of coffee on a Saturday morning is now a capital-C Chore requiring over an hour to complete.

Okay, so great, it’s going to take longer than I want to do it, but the new house saves me on the order of four or five hours in weekly drive time, so again: the price you pay.

But if you’re a regular reader of the blarg here, you know that no seemingly mundane task, no apparently benign situation has proven to be quite so simple. Just so with the new lawn.

The front lawn is blanketed with this lovely stuff — I don’t know a gopher’s arsehole from a chipmunk’s elbow when it comes to anything green, so I’m gonna say it’s BERTUCKY FLUEGRASS — soft and springy underfoot. The word “lush” comes to mind. If they could make this stuff into carpet, I’d do the interior of the house in it. Surely this is the grass that adorns the lawns of heaven.

Then you hit the backyard and you step into the untamed Amazon rainforest of grasses. Gone is the delicate bedding of greens whose clippings waft away like angel dust on a celestial breeze. Here, instead, is a tangling thicket, a countlessly-armed kraken of grasping blades and shoots into which, once your shoe disappears, you wonder if you will ever see it again. Whatever’s back here (and again, not knowing anything about grasses, I’ll just call it DEVIL-FESCUE) grows about four times as fast as the Bertucky Fluegrass out front. The terrain is less gently-rolling-possibly-part-of-an-improvised-golf-course-green and more sheetmetal-poked-up-from-beneath-by-demons.

Furthermore, when our move was delayed for first a few days, then a few weeks, the owner of this house, fed up with the process (rightly so!), folded his arms and decided not to bother mowing the grass any longer. So the Devil-Fescue got up to knee-high in some places.

So. Suck it up and mow it, right? Well… if you’re a frequent or even only sometime mower of lawns as I am, you know that with your standard, run-of-the-mill, welcome-to-the-suburbs Saturday-special lawnmower from the Home Depot, you know that the secret to successful mowing is to not allow things to get out of control. Get after it weekly, keep it from getting overgrown. Because once it’s overgrown, god help you. Clippings from the Devil-Fescue will clog your special little mower in nothing flat. The tall grass will snarl the wheels. You’ll be getting the workout of your life on your pull-starter arm while breaking your back to flip the thing over and pull the cut grass out of the blade and the vent, all while the rain is starting to fall and the neighbors are laughing at you over glasses of wine they spent the last twenty minutes chilling on their back porch.

Which is, of course, exactly where I found myself. Because make no mistake, mowing a lawn in such a condition is awful, but every day it’s allowed to fester beyond that only makes the job that much harder. Comes a point where, no matter how daunting the task looks, you have to bite your lip and accept the back-breaking task before you, or let it go forever. And given that we’re new to the neighborhood, it seems a little early to go giving the finger to the HOA at this point, so there I was.

The parallel to writing is obvious, right? You treat the writing like a devotional, returning to it regularly much the way you return to cutting the grass once a week. Keep the Devil-Fescue in check and don’t allow it to grow to strangling height. Do it regularly and the job is easy: You carve your neat little lines in the lawn, or if you’re fancy, you do it on the diagonal (or if you’re me, you mow around the outside in ever-shrinking boxes, like a game of snake that’s doomed from the start. Boy, I wonder what that says about my psychology). You put it off, and the job becomes untenable.

The longer you stay away from writing, the harder it becomes to go back to writing. Or to any thing, I suppose. You reach the point where you either go back to it in an epicly (epically?) traumatic battle of wills, or you let it go forever.

Or you move back into an apartment and never have to worry about mowing a stupid lawn again.

Not pictured: running out of gas 2/3 of the way through and cursing the entire observable universe. Note the dead heaps of Devil-Fescue and the wheelbarrow I overturned after running entirely out of fargoes.

Mondays are for metaphors! Every week, I’ll pick a thing and compare it to another thing. Probably writing, since that’s what this blog is about, but who knows? Metaphors are awesome. Alliteration, doubly so. Got a suggestion for next week’s metaphor? Drop it in the comments. And yeah, I’m a day late today — you’ll see why below.


Kicking Myself (Working as Intended)


I thought things were going to calm down in the wake of the musical, but no, life is still zipping along like that length of chain hanging off the back of a semi going down the freeway, striking sparks and scaring the hell out of everybody in the vicinity.

The house is up for sale, and every now and then we have to drop what we’re doing and go somewhere else for a half hour at a time.

I’m back to work on the novel project, which comes with its own particular well of all-consuming gravity.

Then there’s standard end-of-the-school-year stuff: meetings and grading and panicked students banging on your door and the parade of deadlines and activities leading up to summer.

And, oh yeah, let’s not forget the unceasing face-palmery of the current scene in politics, from which there is no hiding, only the sweet release of occasional naps.

It’s the perfect storm of Things To Keep Me From Doing Things Tedious And Easy To Forget, which is exactly what I’ve been doing. Luckily, a few months ago, I created a tool to give myself a good kick in the donk every now and then: my Story Submission Spreadsheet.

There I was, checking my e-mail and firing up the ol’ computer for a perusal of the day’s events ahead of a thirty-minute work session on the novel (that’s about all I can muster these days, alas — and I have to defend it with the wrath of a cornered honey badger), when my spreadsheet automatically opened in my second tab. And there, in bright, glaring red font, was a badge of shame — the day count since my last submission. 36 days. Over a month.

Yuck.

I grimaced and bit my tongue and made to close the browser window … then didn’t. Instead, I reached for my 2017 Guide to Literary Agents.

A quick dive into the listings later, and I’ve got another query out there in the world, another chance for my work to see the light of day, another chance to share some of my blather with some unsuspecting reader somewhere else in the country.

Which is exactly what I intended the tool to do. Shame me into action.

Last time life piled up like this, I went for, oh, I dunno, maybe six months before it occurred to me that my novel was gathering dust waiting to be submitted again … which shields me from rejection letters, sure, but which definitely isn’t moving me any closer to where I want to be.

So. For once, planning ahead and sinking in a bit of time on the front end pulled my back end out of a slump.

Now if I could simply get struck with a bolt of inspiration to help me untie the knots in this chapter of my novel, things would be … well, not great, but maybe a little less stressful.


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