Spring arrived yesterday. She was all, "Don't fuss. I'm fine as I am. Oh, but a glass of water would be nice. Poland Spring if you've got it. Ice and a slice of lemon, please. "
Hello, high-maintenance season!
Why do we trip over ourselves to welcome her? She's capricious. One day dawns sunny and clear and the next churns with storm clouds. Temperatures reach for the eighties and dive bomb into the thirties. She'll threaten drought and send twelve straight hours of rain. And she never stops tinkering with humidity levels.
Ah, but she doles out delicious rewards. In Houston (that's zone 9b, aka "humid, subtropical" to you) redbuds are in bloom, azaleas have morphed into living, oxygenating pom-poms of pink, purple, and white, and bluebonnets dot highway medians.
In return for this bounty, all spring asks is that we weed, work compost into the soil, fertilize, mulch, prune, trim, bundle, haul off, apply fungicide, check for scale, dream of lushness, and gird ourselves for disappointment.
Gardening and writing have a lot in common. All writing asks is that we bring experience and imagination to the table, ruthlessly cut flabby sentences and paragraphs, feed the muse, edit some more, guard against self-indulgent passages, keep distractions to a minimum/welcome distractions as fodder, dream of bestsellerdom and gird ourselves for rejection.
Writing beats spring in the capricious department. One day, we have so many ideas, we pick and choose among them. The next, we rewrite the same paragraph too many times to count, making it worse with each revision.
Seeds, like ideas, must germinate. Some get optimum growing conditions yet fail. Others flourish despite poor soil, parching wind, and pests.
Gardeners prepare the soil. Writers plot. Both supplement as needed.
Drought is gardening's equivalent to writer's block.
Almost every growing season, one plant succeeds dramatically. A gardener may rejoice in its blossoming or see it as a bully determined to choke out the others. He'll give it free rein or cut it down to size, and that decision determines how his garden grows. So it is with stories. Will a writer allow one character to dominate or insist on an ensemble piece? Will what was envisioned as romantic suspense be permitted to tilt toward pure suspense? The writer decides, and that decision may shape a career.
Writing bills itself as low-maintenance. All a person really needs is a pencil and paper, right? Ah but a laptop's a time-saver, and a netbook's nice for travel. Conferences are essential for networking, and membership in at least one writers' group is oh-so-helpful. WiFi's a must because we must connect to the wider world. Then there are the rituals: a lighted candle for some, a playlist on the iPod for others. Some of us take coffee in our "lucky" mug, and others require a tall glass of Poland Spring water, with ice and lemon, please.
Gardeners put in extra-long hours in springtime, but the work continues all year. Likewise, a writer's job is never done. Admit it, gardeners and writers, we like it that way.
Me, I've got to write a scene in the work-in-progress. Afterwards, I'll weed like crazy. Oh, and I have pruning to do and must carve out quality time for compost.
What about you? Do you see parallels between gardening and writing? What are you planting or plotting at the moment?