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.
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.
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.