Raise your hands: how many of you have dreamed of writing a book? How many of you have ever wanted to raise chickens? As a writer and a farmer, I was struck by the similarities.
Oh really, you say? Come on, that's got to be the farthest stretch imaginable…
As a writer, you come up with this wonderful, gem of an idea for a book. It's amazing, and you love it, the same way a farmer enthusiastically goes through the hatchery catalog in spring.
“Oh look,” says the farmer, gazing at the Silkie hens and Roosters. “Romance chickens! I’m a gonna get me somma them.”
“Fan chickens! Look, there’s Lando Molari and Vir from Babalon 5,” the farmer points out Polish mop tops to his wife. “Just what I wanted.”
“The classic Western Rustic” or “Rhode Island Red." The farmer envisions a Western Saloon style coop, complete with swinging doors. Much the same as the Writer is envisioning their take on the genre and begins to plot their novel.
Just like that, those sweet, fluffy chicks arrive and all is wonderful in the first few heady days of coaxing the little buggers to eat, drink and thrive. They grow or they die and the farmer agonizes over each death. Ever had to cut a character that wasn't working out? The grief is real, my friends.
Soon those cute chicks turn into problematic adolescents. They peck at each other. They don't do what you want. Those nest boxes the farmer built? They scorn them. They are developing nasty character traits not unlike the ones the characters in the writer's book insist on developing. Sometimes they haunt, perching on the bed late at night waking the poor writer to complain about their dialogue. If they WERE chickens at least you could eat them.
Then comes the day no one can stand either the book OR the chickens. The farmer is tired of trimming wings so the birds don't fly off on their own (yes, chickens DO fly), tired of feeding and feeding- will these things ever lay eggs? Will they ever establish a pecking order and get along? Plus there's the enormous amount of excrement to shovel.
The writer feels the same way. How many words do they have to trim? Will these characters ever follow that painstakingly detailed outline? How many edits do they have to go through? Am I ever going to make a profit on this thing?
But soft! Anon, that magical day arrives! The farmer holds their first egg in their hand, the Writer grips the cover of their first novel and all those cloudy days that came before are forgotten. Eggs feed us. Books eventually do too. So we begin the same process all over again, because each special brilliant idea, each fluffy chick, is priceless.
Now don't get me started on turkeys. Ever seen Jurassic Park? Enough said.