“Ef you strike a thorn or rose,
Ef it hails, or ef it snows,
‘Taint no use to sit an’ whine,
When the fish ain’t on yer line;
Bait yer hook an’ keep a-tryin’-
– From Keep A-Goin’! by Frank Lebby Stanton
In anything you do – job or pastime passion – if you hit a rose or thorn, keep a -goin’, as the poem says. In writing, that is doubly true. You have to keep a-goin’. If a blank page is staring you in the face, keep a-goin’. Crank something out. There’s plenty of time later to sit an’ whine, then change your mind and go back over.
If you are working on a letter, family history, a poem, an essay or book, you may write a few lines, think them great, only to have to cut them later when you discover they may be great writing, but don’t fit your message or theme. Keep going and rewrite. And take what doesn’t fit, cut and paste it somewhere, use it in some other piece.
The following is an example from my writing. I thought these lines were great and I worked hard to hone them. But then I discovered they didn’t fit in my novel, “Jackson Flats.” I have saved them for another day, another novel or, yes, this blog.
I post them here as an example of my message this morning:
The bug bucked along before coming to rest on a grassy knoll. Jake cut the engine, listened as it clunked to a stop. Comforting silence followed, broken only by a lone cardinal, trilling as it flitted along stranded fence posts.
Arms raised, he muttered words of thanks as a surprising breeze fondled him. It aroused his nostrils with its sharp fragrance. – chlorophyl. Quickly, though, the heat came on again, oppressive, deadening. Dust and pollen seemed to mass in his mouth and nose, almost choking him.
After wheezing and coughing a few times, he breathed easy. But he felt dismay as he gazed down the life-draining road he had just left. Bowing to a sudden desire to stretch out this respite from his hellish crossing, he strolled among the corn, where memories popped up of a farm-nurtured childhood. Suddenly, a curved leaf flew up and slashed his face, a painful reminder of how unkind a leaf cut can be, especially when sweat runs into it.
He daubed blood with thumb and forefinger and stared blankly across the road, where yellow butterflies wavered in the breeze and bumblebees hovered, then darted away. A meadowlark’s mellow whistle – see-you, see-yeeer – drifted across blistered asphalt to taunt him.
“I’m free,” it called. “I’m leaving, see you.”
Nearby, another bird, a white-throated sparrow, thrashed dust in two-legged thrusts as a column of stilt-limbed killdeer skittered into hiding. Jake watched their evasive maneuver with envy. He wanted to run, hide.