The past few weeks I’ve been engaged with trying to research and write an article for a local/community print paper. Like other stuff I write, it was intended to be about something local plus a kid’s activity, but unlike other stuff I write, there is a long lead time—two weeks.
Really, I should have done something simple, like write about how to make your own butterfly net, about the butterflies in the OpenSpace behind my home, their entomology, or the native plants they like to eat.
Or about the nasturtiums that grow wild here, picking them and making a salad.
Or the fennel that grows wild—and how it can’t simply be picked and used like the domesticated variety.
Instead, I had to research an obscure artist, throw in references to shovel ready projects and the W.P.A, Russian religious separatists, and urban homesteading.
All of which actually would have been fine if I had allowed myself enough time to write the thing. Instead, I got sidetracked—or should I say, engrossed—in Sanborn maps, the local history of backyard chimneys, and brands of watercolor paper. Plus, M went out of town for a few days and then it was Father’s day. I got it written, and it’s good, but not what it could have been. Something I remembered while writing—and that I’ve remembered while watercoloring—is the need for warm up. May arm literally becomes looser the longer I paint, so that the 2nd or 3rd watercolor is axiomatically better than the first, even if the light shifted and I ran out of blue paint along the way.
Writing works the same way. Someone once called it “the importance of the shitty first draft, and it’s a lesson I seem to need to learn and re-learn over and over again, perhaps even every day. It’s the difference between decent and very good. Practice mastery.