Friday, August 6, 2010

Friday Challenge - to reap and glean

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)

Reap \Reap\, v. i.
To perform the act or operation of reaping; to gather a harvest.
They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. --Ps. cxxvi.5.
1. To cut with a sickle, scythe, or reaping machine, as grain; to gather, as a harvest, by cutting. When ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field. --Lev.???.
2. To gather; to obtain; to receive as a reward or harvest, or as the fruit of labor or of works; -- in a good or a bad sense; as, to reap a benefit from exertions.
Why do I humble thus myself, and, suing For peace, reap nothing but repulse and hate? --Milton.
3. To clear or a crop by reaping; as, to reap a field.

glean \Glean\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Gleaned; p. pr. & vb. n. Gleaning.] [OE. glenen, OF. glener, glaner, F. glaner, fr. LL. glenare; cf. W. glan clean, glanh?u to clean, purify, or AS. gelm, gilm, a hand?ul.]
1. To gather after a reaper; to collect in scattered or fragmentary parcels, as the grain left by a reaper, or grapes left after the gathering. To glean the broken ears after the man That the main harvest reaps. --Shak.
2. To gather from (a field or vineyard) what is left.
3. To collect with patient and minute labor; to pick out; to obtain.

So, to my dictionary I went. What is to reap and glean? I think I know but I want further clarity. And why? Dear reader, I want to give you an exciting challenge today. It is, like my plots and stories - atmospheric and wandering in my mind. I think I know what it is and yet, it alludes me. I want to understand something in the process that I'm involved in (revising for plot, structure and mostly clarity) that is almost seen with my naked eye but needs go deeper to really see. If I know that I'm looking at a boat on the horizon I can pick out its mast, sails and perhaps even prow. But if I'm unsure what I am seeing it could as easily be a gull riding a wave, or a bit of trash tossed overboard by those who don't seem to ken that this is their place.

Reap would be the first action we have to take. We have written a wonderfully shitty first draft in a mad passion OR we have overheard a snippet of conversation which has caused our narrative compelled mind to think 'aha - there's a book in there' or we've had a dream. So we have something to harvest, to reap. If we are at the beginning - the raw beginning having had the dream or heard the snippet - we reap that source for all that it is harvest in it. We go behind it, as it were, and follow the lines of our thoughts and find what is to be pulled out of the ground and brought in to the harvesting shed. All the fragments of thought, of the knowing we might have about this story, all that is obvious. In revising our first draft we will make a good clean sweep of the field of our manuscript - we will - like the Bible tells us - not go into each corner of the field?

The Reaper by Vincent Van Gogh
Then we might put the manuscript or the idea aside for a bit - let the field rest for a day or two and we will rest too. We will rest as we think though - our minds will not rest from wondering 'is this all that I can get from that idea, that first run through?' When we cannot bear the torture of our forced confinement for one more moment we will run down to the field and begin the process of gleaning.

Now a word on this - this is too different processes. In days of old it was often the men who reaped and the women who gleaned. From what we now know about the differences in the minds of men and women this has a perfect logic. Reaping is 'good enough', it is very energetic and uses the big muscles and the grand gestures. Gleaning is persnickety - it is with extreme attention to detail that we glean. So our reaping mind and our gleaning mind must be different. We can do this! We have both of these abilities and if one is stronger than the other, well then we must exercise the weaker of the two. The gleaner will go to the dream, the snippet, the first draft after the reaping has been done and notice the bits that were dropped by the heavier machinery of the reapers. This is meticulous work and you might think as you do it - oh, who cares if this is the exact word I need - this one is close enough. That is the mindset of the reaper and must be firmly shown the gate at that point. Every cut down bit on the field must be examined for its usefulness. Every seed must be closely looked at - is this a weed seed or something for the mill?

The Last Gleanings by Breton Jules

The Challenge - The challenge is to go to a project or part of a project and decide what is needed at this moment - do we need to reap or glean? Or do we need to rest so that the unsettled can settle and the workable may sit on top of the torn ground for us to see easily? I will give you an example. In my wip I keep coming to the same spot and churning around. I'm going to go to it today and see if I can discern what the correct action might be. If I've done the wrong thing - gleaned before I properly reaped - well then I have to go back to an earlier draft of the chapter and go at it again.

Please let me know if this metaphor is helpful to you in any part of your work. It sprung free of other sources in my mind and I am in the testing stages!


Helen Ginger said...

My mind got stuck on this: They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. That's because what I had always heard was: That which you sow, so shall ye reap. To me those are opposites, and it totally stopped me. But...I digress.

I've been pondering a manuscript I wrote long ago, have tinkered with it, cut, slashed, edited. Yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany and realized it needs not tinkering, but a major overhaul, so now I'm pondering that.


Talli Roland said...

This is a great analogy, Jan - thank you. And I love that Van Gogh photo.

Jan Morrison said...

Hello Goils!
I am writing this downstairs where my desk has migrated. Migrated! Hell! It was lugged out the back door and down the stairs to the garden and in the workshop door. And the bed that was here made the reverse trip. Then SP cleaned my computer and put it together for me. Yay! All this to say that I'm writing you facing a different direction with a different view (garden, wood pile, chickens) and it is all very bizarre.
Helen - yes - I think that is what I'm doing with this one piece. Probably tossing it after gleaning a few good phrases - because of the discombulation I am not sure if I will get to it before I leave for my conference on Monday or not...
Talli - Thanks - I love anything that man put a brush to.

Hart Johnson said...

This is fabulous, Jan (and I LOVE that VanGogh--he is a favorite of mine anyway, but that is a great one)

I think, while as a WRITER, I am a reaper... able to execute the grand plan... that STILL major editing is also reaping, and all but one of my projects (possibly all) need this. I know my only fairly clean WiP has been extensively gleaned, but the reaping was probably where I should have started.

You forgot the men and big toys thing... that would be a primary reason men reap... gadgets and sharp stuff. Women are content to have more hands-on contact. Men like their toys (and are afraid to get too close)

Timekeeper said...

I got lost in the male mind searching for results like a blind dog at a outdoor barbecue. Gleaning is over my head. Maybe what I feel about my picked on, poked at, dissected and moved around manuscript is why I have the compulsion to keep sharp objects away from my ears.
Good post and wonderful pictures.

Jan Morrison said...

Tartlette - why yes I did but as my one is out as I write this cleaning chicken shit out of the coop that I MADE him build and I'm in the cool basement typerwriting away - I decided that I wouldn't go there!
As I said, this is a new metaphor for me and needs some polishing - some gleaning perhaps? So, I too have been getting lost in it...

Timekeeper! I love that blind dog! So evocative, so damn on! And the reason gleaning is "over your head" is because you're looking for it in the wrong place my dear blind dog - it is under your nose - on the ground...

Tabitha Bird said...

Interesting what Helen said about sowing tears and reaping in joy and those that show shall reap being opposites. I thought of both those scriptures too. But to me they piggy back one another. You may sow in tears, but that does not mean you are 'sowing tears'. You can sow good things into your life and still have that be a painful process. I know. I wrote a memoir about it :) Yet I am now beginning to reap in joy. I know thus that what I have sown is what I am reaping. As far as my work is concerned. I try not to over think things with my writing. At least not in those precious first draft stages. My current WIP gets worked on when I am not editing the first 'paper baby' I tend to just ell myself a story and enjoy the process of being my words' first reader :)

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