Weeding the Garden: Returning to writing

columbine.JPGThe garden is in – well the veggies are. There are a few flowering plants that still need to find a home and there is plenty of weeding to do. As a gardener we know there is always plenty of weeding. There are two kinds of weeding. The first is a deep dig and throw out lots. This is the weeding when we have left the garden sit over the winter or to long into the spring. This work takes days or weeks to pull things back together.

The second kind of weeding is the light day to day work where we clip around the raised beds, pull stray weeds and dig the “cute” little yellow flowers that like to pop up in the middle of the yard no matter what you do. This is maintenance for the garden.

This work is just like my writing. There are days when I just read over things, change a few sentences or correct all my spelling errors (at least try to correct them all). The light weeding.

Then there is the time when I must sit down for the deep clean of a piece. The deep weeding work of writing. This is where sentences get thrown out or paragraphs get moved from place to place or the chapter order gets moved.

This part of writing I find really hard to do. I get stuck in my first draft and can’t see my way out to a new point of view. It is hard to let go of sentences you like, just like a plants your like but now have to many of them.

Sharing with a writing group can help move me off point and get me seeing new things. Also putting the work away for awhile and them returning to it much later gives it a new look and makes it easy to see what is making sense and what just needs to go. This is true with both writing and gardening.

The main idea of my writing piece has been planted and I have let it sit for a few months, again a bit like my garden. Now is the time to go back in for the deep weeding. The changing of sentences, chapters and looking at the whole story to see if it hangs together.

So as I move into lighter garden work I will dig deeper into my writing and see if I can make sense of my little novel I have been working on.

All this rambling about gardens and writing has me wondering about our students and if we help them think about giving their writing time to grow. Do we show them how writers leave their work sit for awhile and return to it later to re work it? Do we ask them to return in the fall with last years writing journals so they can bring their old writing forward? ( or do you save their journals to pass on to the next teacher?)

What do you do at the end of the year as your students leave for summer?

  • Do the writing journals get passed on?
  • Do the journals go home with the hope of summer writing and drawing?
  • Do we ask our students to return in the fall with their writing?
  • Are we modeling this part of writing for our students?

I don’t think I did this well for my students and now wish I had! How about you?




About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in journals, Reflection, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Weeding the Garden: Returning to writing

  1. Great post about two things I love – writing and gardening! You made some great analogies.
    I have a third grade writier’s circle during the school year. I do not have one for fourth grade, so I do not seem my students again. However, a few of them have contacted me via email and google-docs for continued writing encouragement and suggestions. It is a great feeling to know a student wants to continue to share their writing with me, and for them to know I will read it and continue to encourage whether they are my student or not.

  2. I love this idea of light vs. deep weeding and how it relates to writing. Such a great metaphor, Joanne.

  3. This is a great analogy, Joanne! At my school, students store their work in their Treasure Chest, which is a simple manilla folder that they have decorated to reflect their personalities. These are referred to and reviewed often during the year, but they get sent home and hopefully saved in a parent’s treasure chest, not the recycling bin.

  4. Wonderful metaphor, Joanne. I have both types of weeding to do! I send home my Kindergarten writing notebook in the hopes that they’ll keep scribbling ideas throughout the summer. Love it when they return as First Graders with something they wrote over the summer.

  5. arjeha says:

    I think that sometimes with time constraints we don’t always allow our students the opportunity to deep weed their works. How unfortunate since that is something writers do.

  6. lindabaie says:

    Love the post and the analogies to different parts of gardening, Joanne. My favorite part is talking about time and the need to give students to really attend to those “different” kinds of weeds!

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