Weeding and Writing

I’ve been very restrained this year.  It’s already July and I haven’t talked about my garden yet.  I’ll admit, part of the reason is because it was a very hot, very dry spring and the official start of summer wasn’t a lot better.  I wasn’t quite certain I  was going to have a garden to talk about.

Lilies and Trumpet Vine

Lilies and Trumpet Vine

However, a couple nights ago, we got our first measurable rain since May 10th.  True, it was only four hundredths of an inch.  (Yes.  That’s correct.)   However, it was rain.  Also, last Friday, we picked our first vegetable: a couple of red radishes.  Tuesday we picked our first couple of zucchinis and four ichiban eggplant.  I think we officially have a garden.

This isn’t to say we haven’t had a hard time of it.  We’ve lost three out of our eight tomato plants.  However, with the sort of whimsy only known to the garden goddess, we have quite a few volunteer tomato plants coming up in the narrow strip by our front sidewalk, probably from seeds that were in the grey water I watered with last year.  If this week cools off as predicted, I’ll transplant a few of these tomato plants elsewhere.  I just might leave a few more out front and see what they’ll do.  After all, last year, as some of you may remember, we ended up successfully raising cantaloupe there.  (See WW 8-08-13, if you’re interested in how this unlikely situation came about.)

We’ve also been struggling with our cucumbers and chard…  The catnip and Italian parsley seeds never did germinate…  However, that means I do have someplace to transplant some of my sweet and cinnamon basil seedlings.  These are coming up nicely, but the area they’re in is being shaded by a combination of desert four o’clock and oriental lilies.  These latter seem to think they’re supposed to be trees…

And, of course, there are weeds.  New Mexico specializes in wind, so even if we didn’t fertilize with manure and other organic material that contains seeds, we’d still have weeds.  This year, perhaps because their less fortunate relatives are not germinating at all (the majority of our yard – where we don’t water – looks like a sandbox), the weeds in our garden beds are sprouting with rare vigor. And that means weeding.

Sandy soil means that weeding is relatively easy.  Additionally, our guinea pigs like some of the weeds (grass, young tumbleweed, and wild portulaca are all favorites), so there’s an added incentive.  Nonetheless, I end up feeling a bit sorry for the weeds.

And so, to distract myself, I find myself thinking about writing and how writing is very much like gardening.  For one, as I have noted elsewhere (WW 1-27-10 and WW 5-16-12), preparing the foundation is important, otherwise, your story is not going to grow strong.

Then, as with my volunteer tomato plants, you need to be open to ideas that sprout up where you didn’t plan for them to go.  Maybe they’re just fine where they are.  Maybe they need to be transplanted.  Either way, they shouldn’t be ignored or destroyed simply because they weren’t part of your original plan.  Sometimes the best ideas are volunteers.

And then there is weeding…  Sometimes, hard as it is, you need to get rid of things that don’t belong in the story at all.  Often, as with weeds in a garden, these ideas may be lush and strong, but they may also be choking to death the rest of the tale, stealing water and nutrients that are needed by what you started out to grow in the first place.

Worse, some weeds look a whole lot like the plants they’re competing with.  This morning I pulled a lot of wild mallow.  Especially in the early stages, these look so much like hollyhocks that I’ve heard them called “wild hollyhocks.”  But, if you’re hoping to grow hollyhocks, mallow won’t do.  It’s strong and tough, and it’s going to kill the rest of your story…  I mean, the rest of your plants.

Learning to tell what’s a valuable volunteer and what’s a strangling weed takes practice, both in gardening and in writing.  Sometimes the only difference is whether or not that plant (or idea) is what you need, where you need it.  Figuring this out often requires going back to your original vision and deciding how far from that plan you want to deviate.

And remember, hard as it may be to pull those weeds, when you’re looking at your strong, well-focused, and dynamic story, you’re not going to regret it in the least.

So is it silver bells and cockles shells and pretty maids all in a row?  What do you writers and readers like in your garden of prose?

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4 Responses to “Weeding and Writing”

  1. Heteromeles Says:

    One of my favorite ways to troll singulitarians (people who believe in Kurzweil’s singularity) is to extoll the benefits of working with a mature nanotechnology that is solar powered, self-reproducing, that works at room temperature using commonly available elements, and is cheap to purchase.

    Doesn’t that sound like a techie’s dream, a perfectly sustainable world to live in, based entirely on high tech?

    Then I tell them that I’m talking about gardening with plants, and they’re soooooo disappointed. I figure anything that’s evolved for a billion years could be counted as a mature technology, but apparently I’m raining on their parade or something.

    Oh well. I still enjoy both the trolling and the gardening, even in dry years.

  2. Sue Says:

    Love the analogy!

    • janelindskold Says:

      Thanks… Really, I think part of being a writer is that you begin to see the world through the lens of your craft.

      I suppose another option is that I’m a fanatic…

  3. Paul Says:

    What a great singularity!

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