Lessons from Chickens #2

A few years ago, on a gorgeous fall afternoon, I came home to a horrific sight: a yard full of chicken feathers. So. Many. Feathers. I feared the worst: that one–or both–of my chickens had been attacked and killed by a predator. In a panic, I ran around the house to search for my girls. When I found them, they were happily scratching the ground, without a care in the world.

My panic didn’t end, though. Oh, no. One of the hens looked dreadful. Once a beautiful bird with shiny black feathers that shimmered in the sunlight, she was now nearly bald. I sent pictures to a chicken group on Facebook, begging for help in diagnosing the horrific disease that had befallen my cherished chicken. Needless to say, I was mocked mercilessly. I didn’t mind, though, because my chicken was fine. She was merely molting, a totally natural process. Shedding old feathers to make room for new ones.

We now have four hens in our flock. Two of them are currently molting. Black and red feathers are scattered among the fallen autumn leaves. The poor girls look pathetic, like zombie chickens that have clawed their way back from the grave. But I no longer panic at the sight of them. Before long, they’ll have beautiful new feathers, and no one will know how terrible they looked before.

Lessons from Chickens #2:

I struggle with first drafts. It’s hard for me not to edit each scene before writing the next. I want things to be perfect and hate myself when they’re not. I’ve been told countless times to just write the darn thing and clean it up later. Don’t get it right, get it written. You can’t edit a blank page. I’ve heard all the adages, but it was only a few days ago that I really got it. By watching my zombie chickens in the yard.

First drafts are like a molting chicken. Rough. Pathetic. Bald in spots. But the next draft? Okay, so it may still be pretty rough, like a chicken that’s mid-molt. But eventually I’ll reach the stage where my manuscript gleams like a full-feathered chicken–and no one will ever know how rough it was before.

“The first draft of anything is shit.” Ernest Hemingway

 

 

Lessons from Chickens #1

If you had told me a few years ago that I would have chickens in my backyard, I’d have laughed in your face. I was a busy trial attorney who barely had time for a cat. I certainly wouldn’t have farm animals.

But here we are. I love having chickens. I have four laying hens and each have their own personalities. One is bossy, one is lazy, one is sassy, and one is really, really dumb. But I love the little dinosaurs — and not just because they each lay an egg a day; that’s just a bonus!

It’s amazing how much I learn by watching the silly creatures. So, I’ve decided to have a regular blog topic called Lessons from Chickens.

(Seriously, if twenty-something Ash traveled to the future and saw me (us?) now, she’d think I (we?) had been abducted by aliens.)

One of my hens is broody. She wants to sit on her clutch of eggs until they hatch. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize how babies are made. No rooster, no babies. Every day I take her out of the nest box and remove the eggs. Still, she won’t give up. She’s the Scarlett O’Hara of chickens. There will be more eggs to sit on tomorrow.

Lesson #1: Give it your best shot, but if/when it doesn’t happen, move on. Know when to walk away. As a writer, that may mean admitting that the opening to your novel just isn’t working. Perhaps it’s time to scrap a secondary character that you absolutely love but isn’t doing anything to further the story. It may even mean shelving your book entirely. Maybe you’ll come back to it in the future. Maybe not.

So, what do you think, friends? Is it time for you to let something go?

“Do not count your chickens before they are hatched.” Aesop