Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Girl Who Waits for Peas

Post by Jennifer

Often when my eyes get tired of proofreading or looking at my computer screen, I'll step outside and sit on the little bench in between our raised garden beds and stare at my peas. Now that we've put our tomatoes out, I'll stare at those too, but mostly I stare at the peas. (And yes, before they came up, I stared at the soil where I'd planted them.) Gardening and writing have always seemed to go hand in hand to me, though I've never really analyzed why I think that, other than having a vague notion of peaceful fruitfulness.

But lately I've been a little troubled by the seeming lack of similarities between the two. Is this connection just another dearly held assumption I will have to let go of? For example, I planted my peas, and now all I can do is wait. Sure, I water and I stare, but no matter what, the inevitable outcome is my waiting. Eventually though, they'll grow and blossom and the fruit will ripen and all will be well.

My writing is not like that. If I wait, nothing happens. I not only have to stare, I have to be the soil and the plant, photosynthesizing and reaching upward, wrapping my little tentacles around the fence and climbing--or rather, give life to the characters, trouble them terribly, and make it all mean something without looking like I'm trying. Perhaps that's actually why I like to garden--the plants take care of all the work themselves, naturally and seemingly without effort, if slowly.

Then I realized, my stories are never done after the first draft. And even if I go back to them the next day, I won't have as much to add as I would have if I'd let it sit for awhile. The stories, no matter how long I may have been thinking about writing them, never seem to flesh out their root systems until I get that first draft written. I like to think of them that way--the story taking hold in my subconscious mind and action taking place that I can't see. I know it's working because at the most unpredictable times, some little blossom of truth in the story just pops out--something that wouldn't happen if I'd tried to rush it.

I've tried to send out stories without giving them time to ripen; it's just not productive. I need to remind myself that my garden and my stories will both take all the time they require--this isn't a supermarket where everything is always in season, I have to take my time and be patient with my peas and myself. Perhaps there is some peaceful fruitfulness in there after all.

What are your thoughts on gardening and writing?


Kerrie said...

Great analogy Jennifer. Gardening and writing have so many similarities. I like what you said about how unproductive it is to send out unripened writing.

Kay said...

There are lots of ways to put your brain in neutral. Staring at flowers and other plants, bugs, etc. Mine is petting the cat (my muse) in the mornings while staring at my coffee.

Linda L. Henk said...

Part of my morning routine to invite my muse is to wander through the garden with my morning coffee. I notice all sorts of things, descriptors. Once I've said hello to the plants, it's like I give myself permission to sit and write, sometimes about the garden.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I grow a tomato plant much like I grow a manuscript. I'm always fiddling with the poor things, pinching here, deleting there. It's a wonder either one survives.

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