Friday, July 15, 2011

The Art of Picking Raspberries

Raspberries from my in-law's garden.


Today I picked raspberries for a chocolate trifle I'm bringing to a family reunion tomorrow.

I had quite a large container to fill, and as I went along, burrowing through the prickly branches for the ripe berries, I couldn't help but think how much raspberry picking is like editing a story or a novel.

I picked off one section of bushes until I was sure I'd picked all the ripe berries there were to be had and then I moved on ... only to come back a little later to the same bush to find many more plump raspberries, sometimes whole handfuls of them, under a leaf I hadn't lifted before.

Editing is like that, too. We think we're being so thorough, but when we come back even a day later, there are a whole new host of details to tinker with.

Which makes me think that good stories are like living things, just like raspberry bushes: they become complex all by themselves. We plant them and nurture them, we pick them as clean as we can, but there's always more to find in them. As readers, we want stories that leave our hands stained, that are sweet on our tongues. We want the experience. As writers we need to be thorough, but also forgive ourselves for our errors and oversights. We need to realize that, just like raspberry bushes, there's no way to completely tame a good story.

I'll stop mixing metaphors now. Additional thoughts/ramblings? Any raspberries in your future?


  1. Those look delicious! I could definitely use some fruit right now... Seems like all I eat lately is Hamburger Helper and Soup! I need something green and some nice red fruits! Did you take that picture yourself? It's gorgeous! Sounds like fun ;)

  2. As I read your post I remembered that wonderful book: Blueberries for Sal! Glad you didn't run into any bears or other critters who like raspberries!

  3. Spot on. I lovelovelove fresh raspberries. Grandpa's are not quite ready though ...

  4. I love this comparison! It's so true that you always find new stuff while editing. Whenever I go through a first pass, I think, "I don't know what else this story needs." Then, when I read through it again, I find all those things I missed.

    Thanks for sharing! :)

  5. Um...let's see if I can extend the metaphor...maybe there's such a thing as picking too many raspberries, you'll never be able to eat that many or if you do, you'll make yourself sick...Okay, that didn't go where I wanted it to. Must be getting sick of editing. LOL!

  6. A raspberry is also the sound we make by sticking out the tongue and blowing really hard. That's a great metaphor for what comes off the end of my pen sometimes! But then, as you so beautifully point out here, editing finds a way of quieting all that until what's left is only a smile. Maybe sometimes even a tear.

  7. I'm picking raspberries right now! Well, editing. :-)
    But you're right. Everyday I see something new to tinker with.

  8. I love this comparison! It's so true that we discover things, small things, big things, with each read-through. Not even when a book's published is a writer ever completely done tinkering.

    (And the raspberries look absolutely delish!)


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