Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

[Wyrd Words Weekly] - Getting your hands dirty

Published 10 months ago • 1 min read

Hello Reader,

At this time of year, there’s always a bit of garden dirt underneath my nails (and likely in my hair, on my jeans, maybe even on my face). That’s usually because I’m spending a lot of time doing this:

But you know me, this message isn’t really about gardening. It’s about writing. Or, more specifically, about revising. About digging in and getting your hands dirty in your creative life the same way you might in the summer garden.

Almost every writer I’ve ever met can write a beautiful sentence. They can create a metaphor (like getting your hands dirty), craft an image of a radiant sunset behind majestic cedars or the smell of fresh-turned earth on a warm spring day. A smaller number of those writers can not only write a whole manuscript, but revise it to make it something that works not just at the sentence level, but as a whole.

To do that, you’ve go to revise. Shannon Hale describes her writing process this way, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The building of the castles? That happens in revision.

I don’t want to mix too many of these metaphors, so I’ll adapt Shannon’s idea to the garden. Writing may be putting the shovel, and even the seeds, into the soil, but the watering, fertilizing, weeding, and pruning are all a part of revision.

I spent all of 2022 and a good chunk of 2023 trying to craft some fairly intricate flower beds and the Siren song of a new story idea called to me each time I lost focus. Because when the flower bed contains more weeds than flowers, it feels a whole lot easier to work somewhere else in the yard than it does to go through the pain and boredom of pulling out those weeds.

But weed you must. And prune. And fertilize. And drag the hose. Because that is what it takes to make a beautiful garden as surely as it takes revision to make a beautiful book.

So instead of starting a new story, I sat back down at my desk, opened my story, and worked through the revision until it was something I was truly proud of, until every entry on the knock list had been completed. Even though the sun was shining and there was a flower bed out there just begging for me to come out to play.

The results were hard-won, but oh so worth it.



PS - An early draft of this essay first appeared in No Blank Pages in 2019.

Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Julie Artz helps writers who dream of a life spent telling stories that matter slay their doubt demons so they can send their work out into the world with confidence. An active member of the writing community, she has volunteered for SCBWI, TeenPit, and Pitch Wars and is a member of EFA, the Authors Guild, and AWP. A social and environmental justice minded story geek, Julie lives in an enchanted forest outside of Seattle, Washington, with her husband, two strong-willed teenagers, and a couple of naughty furry familiars. Check out her weekly newsletter, Wyrd Words Weekly, and subscribe today.

Read more from Julie Artz | author, editor, book coach, dragon

Hello Reader, Recently, I listened to a podcast with “Deep Work” advocate Cal Newport that talked about the impact of social media, email, and, more broadly, distraction has on our creative work. But he also mentioned a philosophical war of sorts between Deep Work denizens and those who adhere to Mihaly Csikszentmihali’s theory of "Flow" or what he calls "optimal experience." In a world obsessed with these sort of ideological cage matches, I often start thinking in the dialectic—what if it’s...

9 days ago • 3 min read

Hello Reader, It's been a busy spring around here! I offered my first-ever free three-hour workshop to the public. I migrated my course materials to a brand-new platform with robust features to support writers. And I even spruced up my look with a months-long rebranding process. Then last week, we onboarded the next cohort of writers to the Wyrd Writers Collective. I'm absolutely energized by all of this, but I've also been woefully neglecting my novel. It can be so hard to prioritize our...

16 days ago • 3 min read

Hello Reader, One of questions that emerged from Story Scaffolding Live! last week was around a question that appears in my course materials and those of other writing coaches as well, as well as on several editor and agent submission forms: Why are you the right person to tell this story? I love asking this question because it gets to the heart of your bigger "Why" for writing the story--what it means to you on a personal and emotional level, moving beyond the events that happen in the story...

23 days ago • 3 min read
Share this post