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