Being a writer, I noodle with words. Being a gardener, I mess with dirt. (When the writing stinks, I economize and noodle in dirt but that’s a whole other blog). Writing and gardening have a lot in common.
My basil, for instance, started life in seed form, the same way my stories start. Late last winter, I prepared the soil, scattered the seed, put a warming pad underneath the flat and left it to germinate. A few weeks later, tiny pricks of green poked through the soil. The basil was up. Optimism propelled me forward.
Kind of like the propulsion at the start of a book when I’m exhilarated by the rush of creation, in love with my characters, and dreaming big dreams.
The torture comes later. I accidentally tortured the basil when I put it in the greenhouse too soon and murdered a few seedlings. A month or so later, I tortured it on purpose when I put the seedlings outside to harden off.
It’s a lot like the torture I inflict on my characters. Torture them at the wrong time and the pacing suffers. Torture them at the right time and the story gets stronger.
As I write this, summer is (in theory) in full swing. But my basil is pouting. It’s not happy with the daytime highs. I don’t know if it’s going to take off, if that basil-soaked dream I had back in February will materialize. I might be processing quarts of basil pesto for winter or I might be plucking a few puny leaves from spindly stems and calling it a year.
Kind of like what happens after I write the book and send it into the world. I can’t control whether it’ll get a warm reception or a cold one. Whether it’ll fly into the hearts of readers and go into a second print run or whether it’ll languish on the shelf only to be remaindered.
There’s a lot I can’t control. Weather. Slugs. Reviews. Sales. It’s all, much to my disgust (what was God thinking?) beyond my sphere of influence.
All I can do is accept a few basic truths. Manure happens. Revisions and weeding are necessary. Trends come and go but a good story, like a beautiful garden, is always appreciated. Showing up – regularly – is 9/10’s of the battle. And the fun is in the doing. Whether I’m messing in the dirt or noodling with words.