Writers and gardeners have much in common. I know because I am both.
I love growing things from seeds, both as a writer and as a gardener. My husband and I experimented with a patch of mostly green weeds that pretended to be grass in 2020. I decided to plant a wildflower garden instead of mowing weeds. The idea bloomed at the start of the pandemic. It was perhaps my greatest, certainly happiest, achievement during the pandemic besides surviving.
Writers and Gardeners Do a Lot of Waiting and Digging
Before working the soil, I ordered wildflower seeds from Eden Brothers. I highly recommend them. My husband rototilled the front patch of weedy grass several times. Just as writers discover new twists to characters or plots, he discovered, just beneath the surface, buried asphalt remnants left behind years ago by the wonderful workers who paved a road in this little piece of paradise in which we live.
When the soil was finally fine enough and free of most rocks, I tossed the seed mixed with sand. We stomped it in place. For writers, the first draft is where we toss our rough ideas and stomp them into place.
We waited some more.
Gardeners and writers do a lot of waiting.
In March 2020, everyone learned to wait. We’re still waiting, however, our waiting contained a promise of flowers that year.
The neighborhood walkers in 2020 watched and waited with me as they passed by the dirt field each day on their daily walks. It seemed like months before the seeds sprouted, then grew and bloomed.
“I see some flowers!” neighbors finally announced to me of their private discoveries. The flowers waved at us each day. First the little candytufts. Then lovely gloriosa daisies, lance leaf coreopsis, lupine, blanket flowers, and black-eyed Susans. So much happy yellowness popped their proud heads to be noticed.
One subtle thing I love about flowers: they don’t discriminate. They smile upon everyone.
Our neighborhood priest, Fr. Tom, makes the flower garden his minimal turnaround point while walking Grace, his golden lab. “Gotta get to the flowers.”
“Next year will be even better!” I promised to those who stopped to compliment the wildflower garden and spoke of how much joy the flowers gave them. We all needed some joy that first year of the pandemic. The work of building that garden produced a double joy within me of making my neighbors happy.
The following year produced an improved field of flowers. Shasta daisies showed up while the candytufts were nowhere to be found.
“Did you plant more flowers?” several people asked.
“Nope, they just reseeded themselves,” I said, a short answer for the truth. Some perennial wildflower seeds take two-to-three years to germinate and flower. The same holds true for writers and their books.
Their comments gave me an idea. I loved those flowers so much that I removed some of the dried blossom heads and scattered their seeds on a cleared area in my backyard. I spend more time looking out the backyard, so why not enjoy them there, too?.
Parallels: Seeds and Stories
If you’re a gardener and a writer, you already know the parallel association of seeds to stories.
An article, story, or book takes more than a little work to bring to life. Rototilling is research. Purchasing seeds is similar to purchasing books or magazines which often give us seeds of ideas for new stories to write. Stomping the seeds into the ground is perhaps like outlining or scratching out the beginning of a story or plotline.
Watering is writing. You can’t grow a garden without water and you can’t grow a book or a screenplay without writing.
Weeding and pruning is editing.
And dead-heading spent blossoms is how we reseed our stories into new articles, blog posts, and future writing essays or books. Repurpose each story or article you write. When you do this several times in new periodicals with creative twists and refinements, you grow your own garden of published works from the hard work of that first imagined piece where you broke ground and grew an idea.
Gardeners and writers. We do much of the same kinds of work. If you’re lucky like me, you get to do both. After all, a writer needs to get off her duff from time to time.
I have a new bloom in my book garden. My first picture book for children. It grew almost the way some flowers show up in my yard from a seed a bird dropped. A true gift from God to bless all who love a little child in heaven. Look and see if you can find the hidden dove on each page of The Light We Cannot See.
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