I was out working in my garden yesterday, trying to get it semi-tidy before the autumn rains set in. I know it’s still August, but the chilly wind and low-angle sunlight made it feel like fall. (Fall and spring have always been my favorite seasons. Thus me moving out to the Pacific Northwest rather than Colorado, wherein fall and spring are each one week long.)
Anyway, I did some much needed pruning and brush-clearing in my large and absurd yard. And thoughts bubbled up in my head, like they do when I’m doing repetitive physical activities (Julia Cameron calls them “Artist Brain activities”). I was thinking about how well writing practice and gardening parallel each other. Gardening in the Pacific Northwest is easily a year-round endeavor. (Unconvinced? Check out this, the most awesome PNW veggie gardening book ever!) Writing is a year-round endeavor. Both have seasons of more intense labor. Both require daily maintenance for best results. Both can be kept up surprisingly well if you spend half an hour every day at them*. Noveling is more like upkeeping the whole damn yard: epic, takes a long time to come to fruition. Short stories are like container gardening: attention must be paid to each plant’s exact location. Poetry is like bonsai: every twig matters.
Now, with this beautiful metaphor and all, there comes reality. In reality, my morning pages** are like the stack of unturned compost in the corner of my garden. The chaos that is most of the overgrown herb beds is like my novel draft. The two functioning (ish) vegetable beds are like the chapters I’ve revised. For both my novel and my garden, it’d help if I really did work on them daily and keep the big picture in mind.
So, the nice metaphor is not necessarily ruined by the desiccated wasteland that was my lawn and the undealt-with piles of branches from my pruning efforts…neither my novel nor my yard are particularly well-maintained at the moment. And that’s okay. Because I’m working on both of them. Every damn day.
*Writing advice from my two favorite writers:
**I write brain drain journaling for half an hour every morning. Julia Cameron calls them “morning pages.” They are important. Now, if I could manage to work on the novel for half an hour every day too, then that’d be closer to Terry Pratchett’s plan.