I’m kneeling in the dirt. As I’m pulling weeds and trimming plants, I get into a rhythm. I feel like my grandma except I don’t have a big straw hat. I keep going. I can smell the thyme below me and the lemons above. There’s something completely gratifying about working in a garden. Your mind’s at ease so it’s as if your brain opens up and takes a big breath. Sometimes, just taking in all the greenery and growth of a garden is therapy for me. I like that when I’m using a shovel, lifting bags of dirt, or pushing a wheelbarrow my body is benefitting too.
If you find yourself blocked or stuck or frustrated with writing, try digging in the dirt. I do and it really does help. There are so many parallels between gardening and writing; I feel a little stupid pointing them out here. But I’m going to anyway. Your story/article/blog entry/post/script/book begins as a seed. You nurture it by researching, thinking, brainstorming and writing. As it grows, you have to prune or trim it. A landscape designer once told me gardening means being a ruthless editor. If something’s not working you have to rip it out. So too with writing. Sometimes when growing a garden, you have to sit with it a little-- figure out what's working and what isn't. I can't tell you how many times I've also done this with scripts. Once you do enough of either (gardening and/or writing), it dawns on you that some of it is trial and error. And then when your story/book/article is properly edited and fully grown, you can admire it. Or give it away.
What strikes me most when I’m outside digging and planting is the commitment. I look around sometimes and get overwhelmed by how much work is involved in keeping our garden looking good. Everything needs water. The edible stuff is constantly under attack from bugs and birds. We buy pounds of mulch to keep weeds at bay and somehow they manage to burst through. And yet, it’s so cool to see how things have grown. How the wisteria’s wrapped itself even further around the trellis. How the Cecil Brunner rose bush is now as tall as the garage. Things want to flourish. Your writing will as well if you tend to it. I wish I could say I garden every day. Our garden would look amazing. I don’t have time to do that. I do try to write every day. Something every day. It’s that consistent rhythm that keeps me from freaking out in the end.
When I have people over, I always like to take them out back to the garden. It’s an extension of me and my husband. I think it says something that we tend it and feed people from it. That’s how your writing should be. An extension of you. A way for people to see who you are. And maybe, if you’re lucky, it will even feed them.