Wednesday, August 17, 2011

A Month of Fridays continued...

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!


Clarissa Draper said...

I have never heard writing talked about in this way before. It's a good idea to go back and see where you've went wrong, especially when stuck on a certain chapter--maybe then we should have gleaned instead of reaped.

Jan Morrison said...

Clarissa - I just read it again - I remember when the idea came upon me and I think it needs further work - I suppose that the idea itself was a reaping and now I need to glean for the jewels in it! Ah well -metaphors always break down at some point.

Margot Kinberg said...

Jan - Funny this was your post for today. In the manuscript I just finished, I had to actually do both. The kernel of the story was a good one. But so much was chaff that I had to go through both of those processes. Painful, but worth it in the end, I think.

Majid Ali said...

Please for Christ sake help this poor boy from Haiti