Regular readers know how much pleasure I take in my vegetable garden. In many ways it’s like writing – you carefully nurture each sprout until it grows into a beautiful plant which bears delicious fruit.
Well, this year my garden has been an apt metaphor for my writing life.
It started out promisingly enough. I planted some pepper and tomato seeds in the garage in February. They sprouted, and they grew and grew as it got warmer, stretching their leaves toward the sunny window.
Then about a week before it was time to plant them, something in the garage – we suspect mice – got up onto the windowsill where they were growing and ate most of my beautiful sprouts, including the cyclamen flowers I’d been nursing along for months.
I managed to salvage a few, and made a run to the nursery to buy some pear tomato and zucchini sprouts to supplement them. I also had some “volunteers” from last year’s garden, mostly cherry tomato plants.
Then the second tragedy struck. I’ve had spider mites every year, but this year the little bastards struck with a vengeance, and all of my tomato plants are now sad and sickly. I’ve tried to get rid of the damned mites, but they keep coming back, and have reduced my crop from hundreds and hundreds of cherry tomatoes last year to maybe fifty this one, all half the normal size.
Then next test came in July. We made it through the hottest week on record here in the Sacramento Valley, where temperatures topped out at 117 degrees, and I was hopeful.
But then, after producing a grand total of three fruit, the zucchini plants have all but given up and are no longer “setting” properly. The little zucchinis just shrivel up and die.
I have been told by many friends how a zucchini plant provides so much fruit that they often have to give it away, but I’m still waiting to experience it. Oh and did I mention the strange white covering the leaves are taking on?
And finally, the remaining pride and joy of my little garden, the peppers, are now having their leaves turn yellow and curl up, and I don’t know why.
It’s enough to make a grown gardener cry.
So what does all of this have to do with writing?
Writing, like gardening, is a lonely pursuit. It’s something you can practice for years and years, thinking that you finally have it down, only to be suddenly attacked by pests (bad reviews), or to have the leaves wither and dry (imposter syndrome).
And then you make it through a crisis in confidence (the heat wave), and just when you’re feeling good about it again, you’re hit with something else that makes you wonder why you go to all this effort for such little return.
With all the stress the world thrusts upon us, writing and gardening have served as refuges for my battered soul. But what’s a guy to do when the things that used to relax him just cause more stress?
So what’s a guy to do?
I have to remind myself that nature is not ours to control. We can try, and sometimes we are rewarded for our hard work with a bounty of produce. But sometimes it just does what it wants to do.
So it is too with writing. We can fight the writing fates, or we can find ways to work with its ebb and flow. We can learn how to turn its disappointments into the chance to take a different path, to try something new. Like finding a publisher to help me with my new series.
And lest you think I am as zen about all of this as I seem, I blasted the hell out of the spider mites today, sending them packing while screaming “Die, you f*ckers!”
I have to admit, it did make me feel better.
To my writing friends – what do you do when your writing garden doesn’t grow like you hoped it would?