Loving The Process

Last week, I wrote about how it doesn’t surprise me that many writers are also gardeners, because the two have a lot in common.  At that time, because I was mostly focused on getting the ground ready to put plants in, I was thinking about the work that goes into “preparing the soil,” which, in the case of writing, often involves research of some sort.

Hollyhock

Later that same week, as we began to put seeds in, I realized there was another similarity between writers and gardeners: both find gratification in what many people would perceive as delayed gratification.

Over the years, Jim and I have learned that many of our plants will do better if we start them from seed, directly in the ground.  The reason we do this has to do with our climate, which goes from cold and windy; to warmer and really, really windy; to broiling hot, sometimes all in the same day.  Plants from a greenhouse, especially those that have been trucked in from elsewhere, experience these conditions and protest: wilting, collapsing, sometimes up and dying.

(Yes.  I know about “hardening off” plants.  This reaction happens despite hardening off.  I’ve had it happen with plants I’ve started from seed myself.)

So, now, some twenty-five years into our gardening adventure in this location, peppers and eggplant are the only two types of vegetable plants we don’t start ourselves, usually directly in the location where they will establish.

(Why not eggplant and peppers?  Because they take too long to start from seed directly in the ground.  Unlike tomatoes, their close cousin, they grow much more slowly from seed, need a warmer ambient temperature, and yet don’t handle heat spikes well.)

Anyhow, this means delayed gratification, right?  We’re weeks behind where we’d be if we’d bought plants that are already weeks, even months, into their growth cycle.  How could it be otherwise?

Actually, for us, starting plants from seed means a different sort of gratification.  We’ve found we love the whole process.  Each morning, we wander around the yard, inspecting each bed, each pot, each corner.

“Look!  The purple alyssum are starting!  Wow!  That was fast!”

“Over here…  Those two pots were planted at the same time, with seeds from the same packet, but the one on the right is germinating earlier.  I wonder if a foot of so difference in orientation could make such a big difference, or if there’s another factor.”

“Those tomatoes you transplanted from the starter bed are doing much better than last night.”

“Hey!  Zukes!  And what the heck is that?  I didn’t plant anything there…”

Most evenings we do another tour, comparing morning to evening.  Sure, we’re not eating tomatoes or zucchini or even clipping basil for our salads, but we’re having a wonderful time.

The same goes for writing.  Over and over, I’ve expressed my concern about the current fad for measuring word count, then sharing this ostensible “progress,” as if getting  a lot of words on the page is the same as writing well.  Worse, any day that you can’t brag about how much more you’ve written is a day wasted.

I’m not saying that tracking word count isn’t useful, but it’s only one measure.  Loving the process of writing, watching the story take shape, even realizing that you’ve made a wrong turn and need to go back and write something else, all of those are part of loving the process of writing.  Each step provides a gratification of its own sort.

I’ll also say that learning to love the process prepares a writer far better for the world of publishing, where self-editing, responding to editor’s notes, dealing with copyedits, reviewing page proofs are all part of the job.  Sadly, these stages are rarely accompanied by the immediate gratification of “I wrote a thousand words today!”  They may often mean getting rid of words.  Or being told you used the wrong words.  Or…

Hmm…  Now that I think about it, that’s a stage of writing that’s also a lot like gardening: the weeding, pruning, culling, deadheading part…

Gardening and writing really do have a lot in common!

3 Responses to “Loving The Process”

  1. Harried Harry Says:

    Oh, I see what you are doing. You have developed new metaphors so you will have some great ideas for a new story or book. Let’s see, the story could be about a gardener who is transported to another planet to use their techniques for growing to ensure the plants being transported will survive. Nice.

    Gardening has a lot to do with life itself. Enjoy your week and the gardening.

  2. King Ben's Grandma Says:

    The end result of both bring joy when shared with others too.

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