I have an obsession with metamorphosis, the transformation of an identifiable object or idea into something different and new.
On my farm, mountains of manure transform into rich, dark soil, which I spread on the fields and pastures. Have you ever smelled composting manure? Have you ever breathed in the aroma of rich, organic soil? The difference between the raw material and the final product is enough to make anyone believe in magic.
Every year I marvel as seeds I plant in that soil transform into seedlings, and the seedlings into crops.
As a writer, I transform my words all the time. I prune, tighten, expand them. I delete. I rewrite. The final versions can seem as different from the first drafts as my rich soil is from the crap it started from.
Most of the time, the words I delete disappear into the abyss of my computer, gone forever as if I had never written them. However, when I workshop a draft or share it with a friend, I sometimes print a hard copy.
The act of printing these (often terrible) words is an acknowledgment that I wrote them. I can see the sentences, smell the ink, and feel the weight of my ideas before I hand them off to my beta readers. Those pages come back to me marred with corrections, with entire paragraphs slashed through, and with notes and questions scribbled in the margins.
Years ago I started re-purposing edited hard copies of my writing in a way that honors the time I invested in those sloppy, clunky first drafts. I tear the pages up into small pieces and put them in a blender along with flower petals and herbs. Sometimes I toss blueberries in for color. I pour hot water over the scraps and blend it on high until the paper and organics reduce to a slurry that resembles an unappetizing milkshake.
All those ideas and phrases I once thought were so clever, reduced to sludge.
I pour the mixture over a screen and let the water drain through. I place a second screen on top and roll it with a rolling pin until the slop is compressed into a thin layer, which I peel away and blot with heavy paper.
I place the wet pages in the microwave and heat them on low until they dry. The process is slow and labor intensive.
One sheet at a time.
The newly transformed paper, flecked with flower petals and herbs, emerges sturdy and gorgeous. The feathery edges and warped surfaces ensure that each page is its own work of art, never to be duplicated.
This what my ideas smell like, I think, as I hold the still-warm pages to my face. Blueberries and basil and wildflowers infused with hope and fear and self-doubt. [Read more…]