When an aging septic system backs up into the house, metaphors for writing abound. Waste solids accumulate underground like ideas in a writer’s head. Eventually they surface. The sludge or manuscript stinks. Ernest Hemingway told a young admirer, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
To clean up the mess takes more than a scrub brush or spell check. You have to figure out what isn’t working. Even with the aid of a plumber or critique group, the answers can be elusive. Promising suggestions yield dead ends. No, last winter’s freeze doesn’t explain a blockage that recurred in August.
Fixing one problem reveals another. The digger you deep, the more likely you’ll find troubles no one suspected. Who imagined a second tank lurked deep within our septic system? Who guessed one minor character created a major plot hole, or the historical mystery revolved around a technology not yet invented? With underlying issues resolved, we’ve put off till next spring deciding how to repair our landscaping. Polishing a draft, too, must wait till the major fixes are complete.
9/19/2022 09:52:41 am
I immediately see Mickey Mouse as the Sorceror’s Apprentice pulling up bucketfulls of unwanted stuff and depositing them in the living room. Clearly you need spell check to undo that unwanted behavior.
9/19/2022 08:40:12 pm
Pretty accurate image! Except for it being the furnace room instead of the living room. If only spell check could undo it! Fortunately for us, there are competent country plumbers hereabouts who know how.
9/19/2022 03:37:32 pm
THAT does NOT look good ....!!!
9/19/2022 08:42:35 pm
The indoor part of the adventure didn't smell good, either!
9/23/2022 03:53:41 pm
Excellent metaphor for so many things: memory, first drafts, 10th drafts, and plumbers as critics...yeah, this is a mucky, dreary business sometimes...hey, where's your novel at? I have vivid memories of different scenes, and that dyslexic scribe! Git that thing out!!!!
9/26/2022 09:27:44 am
Hey Gregg, so great to hear from you! That novel is sitting in a box on my office floor, alongside another box with its yet-to-revise sequel. They may both stay there; we'll see. And yours?
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I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.