Untangling the tangled.


    To the person who has never seen or made one of these before, this probably looks like the craft project of a three-year old preschooler. 

     This messy looking thing is called a bird nesting globe, and it was made by someone who hasn’t been three for a very long time: me. I’ve been attending various bird/nature classes at an ecospirituality center not far from where I live. It is an amazing place with 70 acres of trees, trails, small cottages to rent for a day or a week, and a staff that puts on many such classes and educational events throughout the year.  

     We filled the center of this ball with torn balls and shreds of cotton batting, short strands of yarns, twine, tiny fabric scraps or strips of denim and wove it in and around this varnished grapevine globe. I tied a long length of twine to the top of the globe and hung it high up in the white pine trees close to our bird feeders. Very soon the birds will come and pull these materials out through my well-intentioned aid and carry them off to build their nests for this season. It’s going to be a lot of fun watching for new nests around the yard to see if they contain any of the familiar materials gleaned from my tangled “mess.” 

     Several weeks back I asked a competent writing buddy if she would lend a sharp eye to two pieces I was getting ready to submit to a writing competition. I was fairly pleased with the first one, but the second story was proving a struggle for me. She agreed, and a few days later the two pieces came back with WORD Track Changes all over them. 

     I studied everything she’d indicated, and agreed with much of it—not all, but much, so I tore back into the tangled messes she’d returned to me. The one I thought was fairly well done, really wasn’t after I reviewed her marks. I went back to the drawing board with both of them and many, many hours and a couple of days later they both had grown up substantially, and I was satisfied to submit them for contest consideration. 

     Very soon lots of birds will hover around that newly hung nesting ball, venturing in closer so they can pull out what they think they can use for their nests. They’ll fly back to where it is under construction and they’ll peck, poke, prod, weave and arrange until they are satisfied that they have the result they want with which to start their new project: the next brood in their family lineage.

     We really do want our work to come back full of track changes, challenging questions as to why we did something—or didn’t—and conspicuous grammatical errors pointed out. It is the only way we improve. 

     If the wrens, finches and sparrows can confront a tangled mess of yarns, twines and fabric to produce an effective nest, we as writers can do the same from highly edited copy of our work. 

     It should never be about supporting the ego. It should always be about writing better.