Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Everything I need to know about writing I learned from gardening

Actually, probably not everything. Grammar, for one.

Most of my yard is filled with perennials but there are a few spots I leave for annuals. This year I'm so late that I just put in some gazanias this morning.

The work wasn't too bad. Those places have been turned every year for my annuals, and are mostly filled with top soil and those little white spots that come with the potted plants. But the pots this year are of a different size, wider and not as deep, so I had to dig wider, into the clay parts of the ground.

So of course, I thought of writing, about how much easier it is to do things that I've done on a regular basis (dig through dirt that had been dug regularly) but those parts that are left to their own (densely packed and very stubborn clay) are a lot more difficult to tackle.

Then I dug another hole and found some fairly thick roots running through it, and I wondered which plants they belonged to, and whether it would be okay for me to pull them out or if I should dig around them, in which case I'd have to reposition the drip holes. It's not a big deal, just
a bit of a pain.

So, of course, I thought about writing, about how surprises often pop up and we have to go through these different decision-making processes.

Then my shovel bent between the handle and the working part. This is the second time it's happened. I thought I'd bought a much sturdier shovel when the last one bit the dust (is this a pun?) and it looks like it may do the very same thing.

So, of course, I thought about writing...

Maybe this is when you chime in and tell me what you learn from your experiences doing yard work and such: roots and foundation, and sweat and weed, shade and part-shade, spades and trimming.

Love to hear your gardening lessons.


MG Higgins said...

So many gardening anecdotes, so little time! Just this morning I was pruning a large butterfly bush, transforming it from messy shrub to shapely tree. Which is exactly what I'm attempting to do with my current rewrite. (From messy to shapely, that is.)

(Totally off subject but my word verification characters spell "pokeywog." Heh.)

Solvang Sherrie said...

I have a black thumb. I hope to God my books turn out better than my garden!!

Kelly H-Y said...

I love gardening ... really enjoyed this post and the comparison to writing!

tanita davis said...

The one thing I've noticed in gardening that kind of freaks me out is how weeds ...morph, to look like the legitimate plant in the bed, to avoid detection and extraction.

There's a parallel there to life, I know, but in writing, it makes me realize how often plot lines and characters masquerade as the Real Thing when in fact they're fakes of what should really be there, and when I'm further along in the manuscript, to where all of these things should be "bearing fruit," as it were, and I find instead that I still have a mess of greenery that is sucking the life from the story -- then I get ticked off, and have a serious weedfest.

Learning to identify the real story before you get too far is a good thing that I wish I could learn more readily, because more often than not, I have to go backwards, and rip-rip-rip out those weeds.

Delete, delete, delete. My favorite little button.

Good luck digging in your clay. Add some amendment, so that while you're not looking the soil will loosen up and worms will come and do your aerating for you. (I think reading lots of books must be that passive amendment process... those books will percolate and inform your creativity, plot-building and storytelling skills later on.)

Word verification: wrisish. Sounds like the sound the shovel makes when it bends.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Fascinating post, Yat-Yee. I like to think of the roots embedded in the soil as the backstory we don't need to tell but it needs to be underneath the story, grounding it, giving it nourishment.

Yat-Yee said...

Your analogies are priceless. I knew I'd get some gems when I put out the call! Love the worms and the soil amendment/reading. And yes, those obnoxious weeds that look so much like the real thing: we have those bind weed things with the pretty little white/lavender flowers, that are choking everything to death!

And of course the roots as essential back story that doesn't need to be seen.

MG: I have two butterfly bushes too. Trimming and shaping trees and stories, love it.

Sherrie: black thumbs huh? Is that from tool mishaps? :)

Kelly H-Y: welcome to my blog. I am actually a reluctant gardener, although every time I drag myself out there and my hands are in the dirt, it is very settling and satisfying.

John the Scientist said...

The last time I worked in the yard, I wound up whacking 2 snakes with a shovel. That is either a metaphor for getting rid of characters that have to go, or eliminating distractions so you can write.

Not sure which.

Yat-Yee said...

I want to whack two snakes on the head! Or maybe only if someone else gets rid of them afterwards.

How about one snake represents characters that need to be eliminated, and the other one distractions?

Nandini said...

Don't have time to get into all the priceless lessons gardening has taught me, but here's a couple off the top of my head.

The main thing is patience ... and perseverance. You plant the bulbs in fall so you can have flowers in spring. Sow the seeds in spring for a fall harvest. There is no hurrying it. It takes time. There is no choice but to do do the work and wait. Sometimes things happen you hadn't for seen. Early frost, scorching sun just when you forget to water. So easy for weeks of work to just vanish. But you always learn something from it.

And then there is the sheer joy of being in the moment and living at the pace nature intended.

To hear me go on you might think I have a fabulous garden. But no, sometimes you have to make the choice to *not* garden so you can get that draft done ;-)!

I still love it though ...

Yat-Yee said...

Nandini: patience and perseverance, these I need. And I need them NOW!

Andromeda Jazmon said...

I've been working in my garden instead of blogging or doing grad school homework this past week. Somehow it's more satisfying lately. I think I need to give myself a break and follow the joy...

The most annoying thing in my garden is all the roots from the established trees & shrubs. I can't dig a hole to put in new flowers without having to battle the old roots. I think that has parallels to my psych/spiritual life as much as to writing...

I took out two butterfly bushes in order to regain enough sun to replant a section of garden in perennials and annual flowers. I still have a couple tall purple butterfly bushes along the back side of the fence, but now I have a much better garden overall. It's a great place to sit in the early morning, while still in shade. The biggest flaw in my garden is that 8 years ago, when I moved in here, I planted everything I could find that would spread and fill in. Now I have competing invasive plants like English Ivy, honeysuckle, rose of sharon bushes, and vinca. I am constantly pulling those out in order to find some room for flowers. It's a question of balance.

That is pretty much how my writing life is too; should I put all my poetry right up on the blog for instant gratification, or should I take the time to revise, refine, submit and hope for print publication with delayed gratification? I need more long term planning and a balanced picture of the whole thing in order to really create my best work.

Saints and Spinners said...

My mom told me that when they're kept under control, weeds can be good for a garden because digging them up brings up the minerals to the surface. That gave me a new perspective on weeds. Oh yes, and life too.

Yat-Yee said...

Weeds are here for a purpose: a new thought, but certainly one that makes sense. Will remember the next time I'm weeding or when I complain about whatever thorn I have on my side.

Andi: I have my vinca and russian sages and black-eyed susans taking over large chunks of my backyard as well and I keep wondering what I should do with them because they can look so untidy.