Yes, you’ve read the title correctly. It is not meant to say ‘Needing to Write’, or ‘Heeding to Write,’ ‘Reading to Write,’ or even ‘Bleeding to Write.’
Weeding to write – which is what I’m doing this morning, faced with a garden lashed with imposters.
We sure did love the rain at the start of summer. A good thorough soak that lasted well into the night, and the next day, and the next day again. The sheets of rain kept us from the garden, but from inside we could almost hear it grow. This included all the weeds in Australia.
No biggie – I'm glad for the task. After all, didn't you know that weeding, with all its mundane connotations, is good for life in general and writing in particular?
This is how it begins …
There on my hands and knees, armed with a fork which I will invariably discard in preference to raking fingers, I meet my vexing enemies. Like all worthy opponents, their battle tactics have earned a respectful smirk from me. I am grudgingly amazed by their cunning camouflage, distributing themselves in and around the flowers and plants that most closely resemble them.
So successful that I once cultivated a whole garden bed full of weeds that I thought were violas because the leaf forms were so similar.
So successful that I once added a weed that might as well be hemlock to a mushroom-egg dish because I thought it was parsley.
Fistfuls, finger pinch, nails under the soil, pulling at the base. Tendrils sneaking through this way and that. A small patch is cleared and victory finds a foothold, until I see the next colony to tackle.
Things are not always what they seem. There's a particular weed with leaves like a lily pad balanced on the most fragile of stems - they break away unsatisfactorily when you try to yank it out of the ground. The roots remain buried, ready to sprout again. Determined to get to the source, I dig out ... a jewelled bulb. It seems that some enemies will not go down without tugging at our heart-strings.
I do a bit of acro-yoga to squeeze through a triangular space bounded by the web of an extremely large spider, a thorny rose branch and a gumbi-gumbi tree. I’m now crouched in a tiny spot, weeding like a pro, mulling over a word, a character, some dialogue. I move down the fence and brutally undo the relations between the weeds of our gardens and those of the neighbours. Somewhere in my undiplomatic pursuits, I find the phrase I’ve been struggling to coin.
Some plot lines, however, like the vines of the passion fruit trees climbing up the fence, are too far tangled. I decide to leave them for another day.
Weeding fills my mind with sumptuous words like deracinate, sporific and integument. It also makes me think of less glamorous words like potash, worm juice, pH.
A word latches in my brain and propagates by repetition. Unfortunately today, ‘worm juice’ is on replay.
Eventually, the filling stops. My mind empties itself.
There is only the grappling, the uprooting, the automaton assessment of what can stay and what must go. A beautiful lull. Justs and so’s are hacked away. Adverbs are slashed. Adios, backstory!
Then it fills again. This time, with meaning.
In this hidden spot a few inches from the ground, the garden is ripe with secrets. Petals are unfurling from odd origami folds and katydids are learning different shades of narrative. A slink or two swish their similes about but disappear before I can jump. I spot another clump of viola leaves and add a notch to the story board in my head under the title 'Best Season Yet'.
The buzzing in my brain from what I thought were ideas are actually the cicadas. My back is warm from the sun. Time to take a break. My garden taking shape, and it feels kind of great.
Weeding makes me see the garden more clearly. And by garden, I mean my story. And by story, I mean my garden.