Friday, July 20, 2012

Entry # 78 - "Tomatoes As Writing Metaphors"

June 2012 - My Tomato Plants Loaded with Abundance
How, you might ask, are tomatoes a useful topic for a writer's reflections? It seems to me that growing tomatoes is somewhat like writing.  Most writers, like gardeners, begin a project filled with excitement and hope for the possibilities of the pending results - whether it is a hope for produce or a story. Then the reality sets in - with problems to be solved - perhaps major plagues like - drought or plot inconsistencies or tomato blight, hungry squirrels or a character who is talking too much and taking over the story.

Metaphors begin with experiences, not words. Connecting the dots with metaphor involves a transformation, a creation, a metamorphosis of one thing into a new thing, a concept. Here with the tomato metaphor, we have a chance to create something out of nothing but an image that connects.

What seemed so promising...ALAS! Two Weeks Later
Nature is full of information that is not verbal, until we somehow find words to describe what our senses have observed. An image doesn’t have to be fancy or pretentious – it can be made up of the mundane details around you – but connected to the fanciful or complexity of layered meaning.

A metaphor is a bridge between two ideas that, at least on the surface, are not equivalent or related. 

Drought, Squirrels, Blight Did Their Work
The first draft and many subsequent drafts of a story are required before the idea or hope that the writer (or the gardener) had can become fully realized. (So I have hope for next year.)  

Flaubert was said to spend sometimes as much as a week writing a perfect single paragraph.

And This Was Salvaged From the Wreckage
-->Poet Donald Hall, poetry editor of the Paris Review said in a newspaper interview that it took him three-to-five years to get from his idea for a poem to the finished, published work.  
Or to speak in metaphor, as Annie Dillard did here:  
“When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of the words is a miner’s pick, a woodcarver’s gouge, a surgeon’s probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject?  You will know tomorrow, or this time next year.”

And finally: 

“The trick of reason is to get the imagination to seize the actual world—if only from time to time.”           ----Annie Dillard from An American Childhood

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:

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