Jul 10 2011

Wonderful Webs

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Meet Big Red. She’s our big, bad jalopy of a tractor.

She’s also a bit of an obsession with many city folk visitors. Inevitably, after a few beers slide down guests’ gullets, the tractor will rattle to a start for the much-anticipated tractor rides. I’m not kidding …

And, OK, maybe I am the instigator. It could be my PA farm roots? Or maybe it’s an obscure scientific equation: booze + desert = tractor rides? But that’s not the point. (That’s just me rambling).

A close-up of Big Red. Click to enlarge.

The point is that Big Red had fallen into a bit of disrepair due to inactivity – until this past weekend when Hubs gave her new wheels so he could remedy some storm erosion damage. If you look closely, though, you can see that, even in her slumber, Big Red was supporting quite a bit of life … which leads me to another introduction.

Meet Matilda. She’s responsible for the beautiful artwork adorning Big Red.

I had to come back a few days in a row to “find” Matilda. I think she’s some type of orb-weaver spider. And for you spider lovers – her webs blew away during the storms. (I took these images in May). I didn’t need to feel badly about displacing Matilda when we needed to use Big Red, since Mother Nature had already done the job. Click to see the intricate designs of Matilda's web.

Once I discovered these webs, I went in search of more. And I found them. While they may be covered in dust and in need of some renovations, the webs below are still beautiful in their own way.

Ironically, this web was constructed on one of the sliders in our house-under-construction. Yes, the house project is moving slowly enough to acquire lots of exterior dirt and dust, and also squatters of the arachnid variety. Click to enlarge.

This web, located to the right of the above web, I believe, may be the “new start” – a brand new web – since the original was pretty much destroyed. Look at the detail!

Many people view the web as an engineering marvel – one of the most breathtaking accomplishments in the natural world. So the next time you see a spider web and it reminds you of inactivity or dirty, unkempt surroundings, think about it differently. It’s complex, intricate and delicate. It’s a home, a true marvel.

For Writers: Spider webs mirror the writing process in so many ways. Consider the repetition – the weaving of row upon row to achieve perfection, the connections of one thread to another.

Consider the structural components of a spiral-shaped web: it starts with a line floated on the wind and anchored to another surface, then another line floated to the existing one to make a “Y.” The rest of the scaffolding then radiates out, making a complete structure.

Then consider the natural disasters to the web that make rebuilding necessary. But also realize that within that imperfect mess, new shapes and designs start to emerge. New angles reveal themselves. When you look, you realize something beautiful exists even within the wrecked, “imperfect” web.

Maybe these photos represent the stages of our writing: the careful planning, plotting and setting of the foundation; the sometimes dusty, neglected phase; the work-in-progress phase where we repair and nurture.

And maybe this last photo, by Susan Ujka Larson, whom I met on Twitter, represents the end result: a beautiful revised manuscript worth all the hard work?

How is your writing like a spider web? Do you ever feel like you have to start over – building a new web – or do you simply add on to the foundation you’ve created?

This web photo, taken in the D.C. area, looks so different than my desert webs. Just like the architecture of novels, spider webs have their own unique imprint. Thanks, Susan, for the wonderful image. Click to enlarge..


33 Responses to “Wonderful Webs”

  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    Beautiful photos! And I would DEFINITELY want a ride on Big Red, with or without beer! And as for how my writing is like a spider web? I’m sad to say that these days, my WIPs are untouched enough to gather dirt, dust, squatters AND mushrooms and mildew.

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    Melissa Reply:

    If it’s any consolation, Julia, my paying work is putting cobwebs on my WIP, too. Hard to squeeze in the writing I WANT to do when working from 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. POOPED (and not a night owl)! This, too, shall pass :-).

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    it starts with a line floated on the wind and anchored to another surface, then another line floated to the existing one.

    It struck me reading this (excellent) post, Melissa, that the faith the spider exhibits in floating that first slender thread on the wind is very like the faith a writer has sitting down to start a novel; we pull something from nothing. I love the intricate web. And you are right, we lay down lines and just trust we will know where we are going, based on some kind of instinct. If we lay down enough lines and keep building, eventually we may have a novel to polish. (And we may snare an agent, and some happy readers in it.)
    Lovely writing and thoughts here, Melissa. Good job.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I think maybe YOU should have written this blog; your analogy is excellent and eloquently put! I absolutely love it. And here’s to snaring that agent and eventual readers – that is, indeed, the goal of my sticky web!

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  • avatar Kimberly Brock Says:

    What a wonderful analogy for writing! I love this. The pictures are beautiful and provocative. I’ll be thinking about this for days. And you’ve made me miss my own tractor days, Melissa. Thanks so much for another fabulous post. XO

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    Melissa Reply:

    Your old tractor days … Do tell me more!

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  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Beautiful, beautiful pictures. Webs fascinate me, Melissa, and you’re quite brilliant to make the analogy of their structure (and subsequent restructure) to writing. All I can ever think when I see one of those marvels is how my heart would break to see it swept away, all that work–but sure enough, the spider repairs without complaint, right? I must try and remember this when the umpteenth revision occurs. You may think you can’t dismantle and rebuild your novel again, but you can!

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    Melissa Reply:

    If only I could repair without complaint! So many lessons to learn from spiders…

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  • avatar Susan Larson Says:

    So happy to see my Web photo in your wonderful post. Thank you!

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    Such amazing photos! Spider webs are funny to me. They’re beautiful to look at and I have a fondness for spiders after Charlotte’s Web. But once you walk into a spider’s web, it’s as if the beauty is gone and it’s only an annoyance. Funny how something can be so amazing, yet so frustrating at the same time.

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    Melissa Reply:

    “… so amazing but so frustrating at the same time…” Yet another parallel to the writing life!

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  • avatar Kim Samsin Says:

    I have total spider fear, but I think webs are gorgeous. And all the ones you have here are incredible. Right now my WIP has a few sizable tears in it, but I’ve seen webs in much worse shape that keep catching dinner. Function over form? If it works for the spiders I guess it’ll work for me.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Sorry to hear about your spider aversion; you’re not alone (though I tend to be OK with “most” of them .. tarantulas being my favorites). What a great way to look at the novel as a functioning ‘thing,’ that has a job to do, even if a few tweaks are needed.

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    I’ve never compared a web to a manuscript, but I shall never look at a spider or its creation the same way again. Thank you, Melissa, for always giving us a fresh outlook to approach our writing week!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Happy to help! Maybe it’s just that I’m obsessed with writing and see a “lesson” or a parallel in everything around me?

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  • avatar V.V. Denman Says:

    Just today we were repairing our sprinkler system (again). After testing one station, we discovered a small spider web covered in water droplets. We had to stop and show the kids. Beautiful.

    It reminds me of a day last fall. We were on our way to worship on Sunday morning. There had been a heave dew the night before and every spider web in the neighborhood was all but glowing with water droplets. I never realized how many webs were around. Practically every other house had a huge web across the front yard. It explains why I’m always walking through webs. (That drives me crazy) But it was amazing to be able to see them all at once. God is cool.

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    Melissa Reply:

    It is SO wonderful when nature is revealed for our enjoyment. Did you happen to see @wordsxo’s spiderweb pic today? It’s a dewey one, too. So lovely!

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  • avatar Donna Pridgen Says:

    I love webs! I have spent many hours just observing spiders weave!
    My favorite would have to be finding Webs filled with the morning dew!
    They are the amazing God given architects of design! Nature holds so many secrets that i think we could never know them all!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Agree with you 100% that we’ll never know all of nature’s secrets. I would love to actually WATCH the construction process. How fun would it be to videotape it, then time-lapse it. Hmm… You’re giving me an idea.

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  • avatar Nina B Says:

    Melissa, as usual you provide the perfect metaphor. I definitely look at my writing as web – – – as layers that get built, destroyed, rebuilt, etc. This is great!

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    I love this metaphor! It’s so true that the intricacies and the complexities of webs mirror the process of writing a novel. And despite many, many rewrites, I’ve never felt like I was completely starting over. Webs are resilient–you can accidentally walk through one and even if it’s only hanging on by a thread, it’s still hanging on. I think a good story is like that. Even if you have to keep rewriting, and even if you feel like you’re starting over, if the original vision is still there, then that’s a good enough foundation to keep building from.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Thanks for pointing out the resilience of webs and the way they ‘hang on by a thread.’ I’ve learned so much from everyone else’s observations, too. Vision and foundation … so important.

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  • avatar Stephanie Alexander Says:

    This is a wonderful metaphor! You summed it up so well…the layers of the writing process… and the repairs we all have to go through (the editing process). I can’t think of much to add except agree, agree, agree!

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  • avatar Mahesh Raj Mohan Says:

    Nice topic, Melissa! I get rid of cob webs when I see them around the house (for Feng Shui reasons), and I put the spiders outside.

    For the metaphor part, I like the way a web vibrates with sound or motion. So I like to think that my webs alert me to new ways of doing things, for fiction or client writing.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Another insect-putter-outer. I tend to do the same with bugs – put them outdoors, rather than squish them. Um, except scorpions. I have no problems smashing THEM – very hypocritical of me, BUT….

    I never thought about the vibrations that webs hold. Great insight!

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  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Melissa, I am flying down to get a ride on the Big Red. I know that it will be an expensive ride (the cost of the flight), but I am sure it will be worth it.

    Yes, our writing is indeed like a spider’s web. Row upon row of writing, one thing leading to another. And the final product: the gossamer web.

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    Melissa Reply:

    I LOVE the word “gossamer.” And yes, c’mon down for a tractor ride, girl!

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  • avatar Amber Says:

    As always, I love the visuals accompanying your words.

    There is a spider down the street who constructs a web, then takes it down when the day gets too hot, constructing it again when late in the day when conditions are favorable again.

    Maybe there is a writerly lesson there too. 😉

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    Melissa Reply:

    Now THAT is crazy. I wonder what kind of spider it is? That spider, if he were a writer, would be spinning himself in circles and never getting anywhere… And, well… I guess that is how it goes with writers sometimes, too.

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    Amber Reply:

    I don’t know what kind he was.

    Or maybe, if you look at the web as the process and not the finished product, maybe he is really smart…not forcing himself to weave when he’ll just burn and shrivel. 🙂

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    Melissa Reply:

    Ah, so true… It IS a process…

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  • avatar Kelly Garriott Waite Says:

    Found you through Julia’s site and had to come over. My college roommate was from Warren and I grew up in a tiny town east of Cleveland. Married a Steelers fan, unfortunately and are trying our hardest to get back your way–Right now in suburbia hell on the East Coast.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Hi Kelly. Thanks for stopping by. What a small, small world! So when you say you’re trying to get back my way – does that mean my ‘old’ stomping grounds in PA, or my new home in AZ? Sorry about suburbia hell… NO fun.

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