Finding my way through my fiction and through my gardenBy Meredith Cole
The other day a friend remarked that it was funny, seeing that I was a mystery writer who killed people in my books, that most of my Facebook posts were pictures of flowers in my garden.
It didn’t seem strange to me. Gardens are, after all, bloodthirsty places. Plants, bugs, and animals are all battling for supremacy, and plants are always turning brown and dying. Gardening is also full of disappointments, so it’s certainly not for the faint of heart or the squeamish.
I knew I wanted a garden when we lived in New York. Surrounded by concrete, we dreamed of having a green space of our own. But I didn’t know how obsessed I would get with plants and flowers once I had my own garden. Fifteen minutes quickly turns into hours as I hack at weeds or dig up our lawn to put in more flowerbeds.
Gardening is a great contrast to writing. I’m on my feet rather than sitting in a chair, and I’m outside instead of inside. I may be stuck in my story, but there’s always plenty to do in the yard.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that gardening and writing have quite a lot in common, too.
They take patience.
Did I mention that gardening wasn’t for the scared and timid? It isn’t. And neither is writing. It always takes way longer than you think it will to finish a book, and then far too many rewrites before your editor/agent/readers say it’s good and you feel that it’s really finished.
Like gardening, I start various projects only to see them wither on the vine. It wasn’t the right spot or the right time for the idea or plant to flourish. If you don’t want to fall into complete despair, you move on to another idea or try a different plant in that cursed spot. Eventually you learn something or you get lucky.
Experts are helpful. Sometimes.
I used to think that if I could just find the perfect writing book or class, I would somehow figure out how to write a novel. But I never did. I just had to keep trying things and figuring it out myself.
Gardening experts are useful and can share their expertise and advice. But in order to figure out what works in your yard, you just have to try things. Sometimes you’ll fail, but when you have a success you feel like a genius. Or like you have a green thumb.
You have to do it for yourself.
Only a few times in the past few years have I looked at my yard with total satisfaction and been eager to show it off. The rest of the time I see the flaws and I’m busy trying to fix bare patches in my yard. So if I relied on the admiration of strangers to make gardening worthwhile for me, I would have quit after that first spring so long ago. Same with writing. You have to develop a thick skin because not everyone will love what you write. You can’t write simply to hear applause.
I love seeing crocuses bloom and trees flower, and plants thrive. But I realize that I love digging in the dirt and dreaming of what I’m going to plant even more. In the end, it’s the act of gardening and writing that give me pleasure in the end and inspire me to give up hours of my evenings and weekends