Five Reasons A Writer should take up Gardening…

1. Ground-work is Essential!

When you’re planting a garden, preparation is vital! When we first moved into our current home, the soil condition was dire. The garden consisted of a patchy lawn, flanked by two strips of dried out, weed-filled earth. I wanted a pretty garden full of flowers. But it wasn’t going to happen overnight. First I needed to roll up my sleeves and get to work. The temptation to skip this back-breaking process would have only cost me more time and money in the long run.

In the same way, writing any kind of story from start to finish takes a lot of ground-work. Inspiration is all well and good – but it’s only hard work that can take a great idea and turn it into a polished story. Different stories require different groundwork: but whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, most stories require the same ingredients – solid character formation, a decent, story arc, rising action, stakes, research. The more ground-work you do, the easier your story will be to write.

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2. A little thing called ‘Patience!’

If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about gardening, it’s this: results do not appear instantly. I absolutely love going to the garden centre and picking up new plants. But often when I get home and place those new plants in the flower bed, the result can be…well slightly underwhelming.

Plants need time to grow, to spread, to fill the space around them. Flowers can seem slow to appear. On many an early June morning, you will find me taking my daily walk up the garden path to see what’s going on with the flowers. Is there any sign of growth? A new shoot on that shrub? An emerging bud on that geranium? Planting a garden requires patience. Progress can seem slow. But one thing’s for sure. It will surely come. If you’ve spent time digging, weeding, watering and mulching, then one fine day – pop! Blooms will appear. Everybody’s writing journey is unique. But most people would agree that learning the craft of writing requires commitment, dedication, and heaps of patience.

3. Community

My gardening efforts have been massively enriched by listening and learning from others. My amazing mum, has passed on heaps of knowledge from her own gardening experiences over the years. More than that, she’s been right alongside me on many occasions, helping me dig up weeds and move things around, giving me confidence and spurring me on. She’s taught me the difference between annuals, evergreens and perennials, shown me how to place things in groups of three, leant me books and shared with me clumps of labour-saving perrenials fresh from her own garden – geraniums and iris and sedums – some of which have come to be the mainstay of my garden.

Gardeners and writers have this in common: we thrive and flourish best in community. (Oh, and we like hot beverages). We love to pass on our passion, our know-how and to share what we have with others. If you’re a writer, make sure you have some writer friends to turn to for inspiration and encouragement. And wherever you can, share! Be prepared to pass on what you know. It goes a long way.

4. Trial and Error

Whilst groundwork is essential, there is still room for a little trial and error. If, when I had first set out to plant a garden, I had merely stared out the window at the cracked, stony earth, too afraid to begin, I wouldn’t have anything remotely close to a garden today. If I had spent years reading a million gardening books, but never actually picked up a spade or fork, I would have been full of theory, but have absolutely nothing to show for it.

My garden is not yet perfect. It’s a work in progress. There are still gaps in one of the flower beds. There are areas where I feel the colours slightly clash, or where a certain plant is not working. But wow! It’s come such a long way. I now have a place that’s pleasant to sit in, where flowers bloom in their season, and where bees and butterflies flit about. I started as a total novice. And I still am, compared to many people. But I would never have gained experience and increased my knowledge had I not made a start. After a few summers of gardening, suddenly you have something to work with. You can move plants around. You can take things out altogether. You can cut things back. You can spot what’s lacking. But you can only do that once you’ve actually begun. So, do your groundwork, but don’t use that as an excuse to procrastinate. Go on – make a start, write something!

5. A Season for Everything

In gardening, there is a rhythm. Gardens don’t always have heaps of blooms and colour. Seasons come and seasons go. Things die back. Branches get stripped bare.

With writing, there are times when all seems to be flourishing and going well. We’ve got tons of ideas and we’re writing heaps, and we’re maybe seeing things come to fruition.

But there are also times when all seems barren and bare, where it seems that however much we labour, our efforts have produced absolutely zero fruit. Rejections. Knock-backs, the nearly-but-not-quites – stories we were once enthusiastic about now hidden away in a drawer, dry and forgotten. Plot holes and hopeless first drafts. Writing can be a hard and lonely journey. But, there is always the promise of spring. Don’t give up, don’t lose heart. You may be going through a winter. If so, be good to yourself. You may need to rest. You may need to wait until the weather improves. Make yourself a hearty bowl of soup and hibernate a while with a good book. Go out for a walks. Watch films that inspire you. Take time to stop and look at the world around you. Spend time with family and friends. And whatever you do, don’t compare your garden to anyone else’s. Your garden, and your writing journey is unique. Remember that in life, and in any creative pursuit worth pursuing, there are seasons, and every season can be both beautiful and have purpose.

The ‘Ten Minute’ Test…

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Lately, I’ve been getting myself in a bit of tiswas…

It’s all to do with time. Or rather the lack of it.

Finding time to write in a very hectic season of life can feel utterly impossible.

Today I almost gave up.

What was meant to be a ‘day off’ swiftly snowballed into a whole heap of chores. I find this happens to me a LOT.

So I said to God – “I can’t do this anymore – this writing thing. I just don’t have the time. Maybe you’ve asked the wrong gal’. Maybe I’ll give it another crack when I retire. But right now, Lord, I just have to let this go. I give up!”

A voice inside me said: “Do you think that life will be any less busy when you retire?”

I sighed. “Lord, will there ever be time?”

I made a cup of tea and sat for a moment and stilled and quieted my soul before God. I sang. I prayed. I surrendered.

I looked out of the patio doors – out into the garden. I could see one of the beds needed weeding and dead-heading. Uugh… Another job I never seem to have the time for.

I glanced at the clock. 2:50pm. I had ten minutes before I needed to leave for the school run…Just ten minutes.

Then I had a crazy idea!

‘Why don’t you set a timer on your phone and see how much gardening you can do in ten minutes…?”

Okay. Sounds a bit bonkers. But I’ll give it a go!

I threw on my coat, grabbed a garden fork and got to work.

And this was the result! Who would have thought that just ten minutes worth of gardening would produce a whole pot-full of weeds, old dead stems and garden waste?

As I tugged out those tufts of Chickweed, and snapped off the dead-wood, I remembered the advice my nine year old had recently given me: “Mum, just try to write 50 words per day. And keep going. That’s all you need to do.”

What a wise little owl! Was God trying to show me something here?

It’s true – I might not have great chunks of time to spare during this season of life. I might NEVER have great chunks of time.

But I could find 10 minutes. Surely?

Just 10 minutes a day.

What a revolutionary thought! You know, 10 minutes a day might just be doable.

And progress, however small, is still progress. In fact, maybe the whole point of progress is consistency – not speed.

I applied the ten minute test to my writing this afternoon. I grabbed my notebook and pen. I set my timer, and guess what? I didn’t just write 50 words. I wrote 140! Perhaps I can do the same tomorrow. And the day after that. And little by little, who knows – perhaps 2022 really will be the year I finish that book?

And I might have a garden to be proud of too.

Enjoying The (Writing) Journey!

As an Early Years Practitioner, there are a few classic Picture Books that never fail to enthrall and delight the children I look after.

These stories are often about very ordinary things, (a little girl and her mummy having tea at the dinner table) coupled with an added twist, such as a tiger knocking on the door and inviting himself in…

One such story is Michael Rosen and Helen Obxenbury’s ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ – the story of a simple family stroll, on a beautiful day.

The twist is, that as the children are walking along, they pretend that they are off to find a Bear! They’re going on a Bear Hunt. They’re going to catch a BIG one!

As their walk continues, they meet LOTS of different obstacles along the way, such as:

  • A deep, cold river
  • Thick, oozy mud
  • and a swirling, whirling snowstorm

Because everybody knows, that every good story must contain OBSTACLES!

And anyone that has read the story will remember the repeated refrain:

We can't go over it. 
We can't go under it. 
Oh no! We've got to go through it! 

It struck me this morning, as I was reading the story for the gazillionth time, that a writer’s journey is very much like this…

As we attempt to write our stories, to dream up vivid characters, to create a solid story arc, to nail the perfect ending, to hook our reader from the very beginning – we come against MANY obstacles along the way.

It can be so hard to keep going when we feel stuck in the thick oozy mud, lost in a whirling snowstorm and totally unable to cross the deep cold river (or face editing that manuscript!)

We journey on, through the ups and downs. We finish our stories. We do our best to query agents, to enter competitions, to send our stories out there.. only to be faced with knock-backs, closed doors and rejection letters. It can feel like an endless journey fraught with obstacle after obstacle, set-back after set-back.

But something within us keeps us going… The sense of adventure keeps calling us onward. The beauty of the journey – the high-point of connecting with one reader – helps us get back up again. The thought that the journey is leading us ‘to catch a big one’ – keeps us pressing on…

The thought that we are doing all we can to use our gift for the glory of God, makes it all worthwhile.

And we know instinctively that there are absolutely no shortcuts. There are no easy routes through. We know, along with all other writers, that:

We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it. Oh no! We’ve got to go through it!

So, at the start of 2022, let’s keep pressing forward. Let’s seize the day. Let’s pull our coats ever tighter around us and brace the wind, the rain, the snow! Let’s say together: “We’re not scared!” and enjoy this beautiful day, this beautiful opportunity that we’ve been given! Let’s enjoy the journey! You never know, we might even discover a bear at the end of it!

The Story So Far

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Hi! My name is Angela. I write stories and poems for both children and adults.

Around fifteen years ago, I began to take my life-long love of creative writing to a new level and started writing Picture Books.

Like in every good story, there have been plenty of obstacles along the way! It’s been fifteen years of stops and starts, highs and lows, plus a few depressing rejections in between! But, thankfully, the story isn’t over just yet.

Some of my Picture Book stories feature:

  • a noisy, guitar-playing goose
  • a squirrel who loses a treasure
  • and a loveable tortoise called Hugo.

Hopefully, one day, you’ll get to read them.

Kids, Kids, Kids!

Besides writing, I’m a busy mum to four growing kids, including a set of twins! I also work as a Child-Minder, specialising in Early Years, which gives me plenty of scope for the imagination! Our house is constantly full of children (of all ages) and there is never a dull moment!

Breaking into Print!

Back in 2015, I wondered what would happen if I combined my passion for writing with my faith. Soon after, I received my first ever YES from a publisher, when two of my short stories, ‘Pitch-Black Patch’ and ‘Hidden Blooms’ were published by Keys For Kids Ministries in their quarterly devotional.

It was so much fun, that I went on to write a few more stories, some of which include:

  • Don’t Forget the Toothpaste
  • Teacups and Trainsets
  • One Hundred Percent
  • Only God Can Do That!
  • That’s Not My Job!
  • and The Doll’s House

I’ve also contributed articles and devotionals for Unlocked, Devozine and Creation Illustrated.

To order your copy, read or listen online, visit https://www.keysforkids.org/

Learning

I love to learn all I can about the craft of writing, and have recently completed courses in Picture Book writing, plus chapter books for older readers.

I have recently discovered and joined an amazing Writer’s Group, called ‘Write For A Reason’ and I am currently working on my first kid’s Novel.

Connecting

I’m a member of the SCBWI and enjoy being involved in the writing community on Social Media. I am a firm believer in learning from and helping to encourage others along the way and love to connect with other writers and creatives.

Relaxing

When I’m not writing, chances are I’m either curled up in my favourite arm-chair, (book in one hand, cup of tea in the other), cooking up a storm for the family, or pretending to be a country singer. I’m also a bit of a novice gardener, and keen wild-life lover.

I live in London with my amazing husband, Nathan, our four kids, two Rescue Tabby Cats, and our adorable Fox Red Labrador, Amber.