Tuesday, June 21, 2011


"The Flower Garden", acryllic, by D. Lacey Derstine
I’ve been having fun finding and pulling weeds from our perennial flower garden, and I can’t keep from thinking how similar it is to “weeding” a piece of writing. What I’ve noticed, once again, is the way weeding the garden gives the flowers more room to be the center of attention. Getting the wild stuff out of the way creates open spaces around the flowers, thereby drawing the focus more fully toward them. When the garden is packed full with both flowers and weeds, nothing is especially conspicuous or striking, but when the weeds are gone and generous spaces of soil surround the flowers, the flowers can flaunt their beauties freely. Next year, I must often remind my students of this basic principle of gardening, because a similar rule applies to their writing. It’s hard for them to realize, but deleting the unnecessary words is just as important as writing the necessary ones. Or, I might put it this way: in composing a good essay, de-writing is as indispensable as writing. When a student places a special truth in a paragraph, it’s crucial that there be “open space” around the truth so as to make it more prominent, and the open space is gained by getting rid of any useless, weedy words. I’ve been freeing up flowers these days by digging out the weeds, and next year I’ll show my students how to give emphasis to the special words in their essays by weeding out the needless ones.

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