Friday, 10 October 2008

The parable of the pebbles – Nick Green

Wandering on the beach, I pick pebbles off the sea shore. They looked like colourful jewels, all glistening, so I give them to Mum to put in her pocket. Later I turn them out on the floor of our hotel room. Oh no – what happened? My sparkling stones are now lumps of drab rock.
A few days later we meet the man on the promenade. He is selling string bags of pebbles that look as bright as my own stones used to be. Yet they’re dry. How did he do that? I polished them, the stallholder explains. I put them in a tumbler with sand and gravel and grit, for hours and hours, until they wore totally smooth. And now they look as fresh as when I first picked them up.

Perhaps I’ve merged two separate holidays in this childhood memory, and perhaps the actual dialogue wasn’t quite so loaded. But I did collect pebbles, and I did meet the man with the polished stones, and I still remember.
Pieces of writing are like those pebbles. Pulled fresh from the sea of your mind, they’re all shiny and enchanting. Time passes, and they look like rubble. Polishing is what’s needed – not to change what you’ve created, but to put it back the way it’s meant to be.


Anonymous said...

Wow Nick, that is a fantastic analogy. The pebble in the water is like how it is when the idea is in your head, so beautiful. Then the drab stone is what your first attempts are, when you try to put your idea on paper. And then, if we're lucky, eventually we get to those beautiful sand-polished gems.

(I wanted a rock polisher when I was a kid. As a parent, we got one... it has to run for a MONTH to make the stones that shiny... but they sure are pretty when the polishing is done... if only the same will be true for our stories!)

LynnHC said...

Lovely analogy, Nick - here's to a pocket full of shiny pebbles for all of us!

PS I remember collecting pebbles...disappointment when they went drab - so I varnished the buggers! Now - I hope that doesn't have implications for my writing...

Anonymous said...

when my father in law died i was sad for my children, his grandchildren, who would never get to know such a wonderful man. then we discovered, everywhere, in the secret drawers and boxes and coat pockets, pebbles that he had gathered and polished. treasure that would always be there for his grandchildren.

Col said...

A good analogy: also expressed in the excellent Studio Ghibli film, Whisper of the Heart, as Shizuku attempts to write her first ever story, and Grandfather Nishi explains that she will have to polish it like the gemstone hidden in the geode he shows her.