In reflecting about writing, I discovered a few parallels between my gardening
and my writing.
For years, I insisted I was not a gardener. When we bought our house 7-1/2 years ago, we eyed the backyard garden as a treasure. After only a couple summers, weeds had completely overrun the corner wildflower garden; we started over completely and planted a forsythia shrub there. (I plan to add a low-maintenance climbing rosebush there soon.) With the guidance of my grandma-in-law, I have experimented, failed and tried again, but I haven't given up and am pleased with my gardening experiments overall. I constantly edit my garden layouts and scheme how I can fill space with low-maintenance perennials that bloom throughout the growing season and that decorate my garden with a variety of colors and textures. I spend hours gardening. I may not know the names of the pretty flowers I admire as I walk through my yard, but I am a gardener.
For years, I have considered myself a perpetual learner. I have often said that I would love to get paid to be a fulltime college student, adding, "I'll even write papers and take exams!" Despite my enthusiasm for paper-writing, I had never considered myself a writer. In my previous book publishing career, I met many editors who were also writers. "Not me," I'd say. "I'm a reader." Now I suddenly spend hours writing. I write and rewrite and tweak adjectives, adverbs and sentence structure. I write about how to make learning, exploring and sharing a part of everyday life. I am a writer.
If a plant doesn’t work where it is, or if I don't like the color balance of the landscaping, I am no longer afraid just to move the plant. I don't worry about when you're "supposed to" move or divide plants. (I'm a bit impatient.) I will just move a plant when it's convenient for me.
If a sentence or a word doesn't work where it is, or if I don't like the balance of the paragraph's structure, it's easy to cut and paste to rearrange text. As an experienced editor, I find that I'm not afraid to delete my own words. This week, I deleted a composition five minutes after posting it. After rewriting the last paragraph, I reposted the piece. I'm not afraid to edit and rewrite.
When I first started gardening, I had specific ideas for using flowers of only one or two particular colors in each flower bed. Somewhere along the line I realized that a variety of colors add interest and make the garden even more beautiful.
I try to sprinkle variety into my conversational writing. I try to alter sentence structure. I love thesauruses.
As low-maintenance as I try to keep my garden, it still needs a little weeding, a little watering and some cleaning out. I have even been known to add plant food to my vegetable garden (but that's typically a little too high maintenance for me).
Writing, too, requires attention and time. So far, I have fed my writing habit by following links on twitter—where one can discover an abundance of mind-provoking tidbits—and by jotting ideas in a cute flower-covered notebook I carry almost everywhere.
During my yoga classes at the gym, the instructor offers options of poses at different levels, advising each of us to take the pose to the level of our individual ability on that day. She reminds us that we are practicing yoga. So I practice yoga along with practicing mothering, wife-ing and being.
And as I practice exploring possibilities, aesthetics and balance, I practice gardening and writing.