Saturday, February 9, 2008

Dig Those Wells Deep

Here's another one of those stories that make you think. I read this one recently.

'There was once a man who had a farm in the middle of the desert. He got tired of travelling a long distance to fetch water every day and asked God to please supply him a water course closer to home. When God heard his request, he sent an angel to the man, who said, "God would like you to dig a well. If you do, you'll have all the water you'll ever need." Then the angel left and the man got digging.

'Fifty years later the man met the angel again when he got to heaven. The man cried out, "God deceived me! I dug 100 wells all 50 feet deep and never tapped into any water! I just wasted my time.' With that, the angel replied, "If you'd dug just one well 100 feet deep instead of 100 wells 50 feet deep, you would've found all the water you ever needed."

It's one of the best little fables about persistance I've come across. Speaking for myself, I've dug my share of 50 feet deep wells over the years and abandoned them. I'd always get to a stage when, like this man, I'd think, "I'm not tapping into anything here. Time to give up." I've known a few families who have done the same thing in regard to homeschooling. They begin with excited expectations then find the going too hard and send their kids back to school, although it saddens them to do so.

As stories speak louder than other words, I'll keep digging through the dry, hard and rocky patches of those wells that are most important to me. I'm thinking particularly of the wells of homeschooling, writing and prayer. Rocky, hard or dry patches are not necessarily a sign that there is no water down there.

I won't be blogging for the next week because we're off on a short break to the Yorke Peninsula! For anyone who knows the map of South Australia, it's that bit that most resembles Italy, ie. the boot-shaped bit at the bottom. We'll be staying at a place called Point Turton, on the coast. The weather has been milder and we're looking forward to a relaxing time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

This has been our fortnight

Most recently, we just had a birthday! Logan has turned 13. Although he behaves nonchalent about being another year older, I'm treating it as quite a landmark. For the first time, I'm the mother of a teenager. And the night he was born is still very clear in my mind. Although when I think of all the things that have happened in those years, perhaps it hasn't been that fast after all.
Last Saturday night, Andrew and I went to a free concert under the stars in the city, given by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. The white building with all the angles in the background is the Adelaide Festival Theatre, not quite the Sydney Opera House but our version of that landmark nonetheless.

We parked quite a long way away and had a good walk to get there. The River Torrens runs through the city, and those paddle boats lined up there are something every girl and boy has a go on at least once in their lives.

These passenger boats are called "Popeyes" Like the paddle boats, everyone takes a ride on them some time. I can remember going on them with my cousins and my own Nanna when we were all quite small and I think they're still the same boats.

The river is right on the back doorstep of Adelaide Uni so it brings back mixed memories of those heavy days of study. But I enjoyed that walk, then and now.

In fact that's part of the University in the background behind Andrew.

Emma won this great book on Australia Day at our local celebration in the park. She entered the competition at the library and this was third prize. It's full of a fantastic variety of subjects, including biographies of ancient queens like Cleopatra and Boadicea, classic books recommendations for girls to read, recipes, info on how to tie knots and plait hair, maps of different continents and a list of 'current' princesses from around the world, to name a few. In our opinion it was even better than second prize, which was a free pass to one of the local zoos.

On Australia Day, we sat in the shade and listened to some good live band music. We were a fair way back from the bandstand to get clear photos so this one of Blake waving his flag is probably the best taste of Australia Day for the blog.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Ruthless Editing

My dh and ds1 have just borrowed a Lord of the Rings unedited DVD from the library. They wanted to watch all the parts which were later deleted. They'd expected to find a number of extra scenes that hadn't made it to the movie. But there were, in fact, very few extra scenes. Instead, the scenes which were already in the movie had bits trimmed off them. Andrew said that the bits that had been cut out were as excellent as the rest of the movie. But they didn't necessarily carry the plot forward. So while the scenery, characterisation and effects in them were fantastic, they didn't "add" anything to the story but just reinforced what was already there.

I mentioned that in this regard, film editing seems very much like book editing. I ought to know. One of my tasks just recently has been to tackle some of the editing from my recently completed M/S. Even though I posted it to the editor feeling quite satisfied, I'm always amazed by how many snips and trims can be made without sacrificing any story line. Sometimes it's just a sentence here and there, a few "How are yous?" or "thank you very muches." Other times, I've managed to delete entire paragraphs, because I've studied them and thought, "Readers will be able to work this out in their own heads without being spoonfed," or "This is just repeating what I said in the last page, with different words." So far I've managed to shorten the whole thing by 50 or 60 pages just by getting rid of the unnecessary little extras. I've grown to quite enjoy this process.

Early in my writing days, I used to hate it because I thought, "That's goodbye to hours of hard work." And I've had other people tell me that this is the way they feel. But I've come to see for myself that, paradoxically, taking parts away really does add to the story's quality. It tightens the whole thing and just keeps it running so much more smoothly. A bit like pruning rose bushes or grape vines, I think. All that foliage appears green and healthy, but it gives flowers and fruit so much more opportunity to flourish when it goes.

I think everyone needs to do this type of editing, whether you're Shakespeare or a school student. The human brains seems to be constructed so we're naturally a bit too wordy and verbose in the first drafts. That's a good thing because it means that everything we want to get across is in there, and we just need to trim away the extra bits to make it shine. As blog writers I think we all probably go back over each post and do this process automatically. It's just as much a part of writing as typing or scribbling the words in the first place.

(As for what I get back from the editor, the bits that she says need to be cut out disturb me far less than the bits she says need to be embellished or expanded with more words, but more on that another day.)