Ten Things My Garden Taught Me About Writing (& Life)

I’ve been doing a lot of gardening this week. Out with the old junipers, in with the new roses. Dirt reveals all. Here’s what the garden teaches me, over and over, every spring, without fail, about how nature and writing works.

1. From this acorn a mighty oak doth grow. All big ideas start with one very tiny one. Don’t get overwhelmed thinking about the end result. Focus on beginning, on what you can tackle. One small seed of a project, one page, one paragraph, one sentence. Plow the ground, fertilize, water.

2. Practice hope. Plant a tiny seed, a small starter plant, and it will grow. Be optimistic, it never hurts. Smile at yourself, laugh at yourself. Write the first words. Believe in yourself. (Or nobody else will.)

3. Nurture your dreams. Dreaming, believing, is all good. It’s important actually, essential. But investing the time to make that seed grow, watering it, sheltering it from storms, putting it in the right soil at the right time: that is what makes the tree grow strong and tall.

4. See the big picture. Organize your time, projects, parts of your life, so that all coordinate and feed off each other. Get the sleep you need, the quiet you need. If one plant shades out all the others, the garden gets out of balance and just plain weedy.

5. Expect failure. Every plant will not live, no matter how hard you try. This is a given. Don’t be surprised, be resilient.

6. Make a plan but be open to spontaneity. Every plant, every idea, doesn’t grow the way you thought it would. Maybe it’s not the plant you thought it was. Move it, revise it, cut it back. See how it can work in other ways. Think deeply, creatively, in a new way.

7. Use failure as opportunity. When the plant you nurtured doesn’t thrive, when an idea or project fails, look at what went wrong. Learn from that failure and see the opening for the something new and different it provides. An empty space is a place for something fresh.

8. Take time to smell the roses. This moment, this bloom. The journey is the thing. The actual writing of that book is the joy of it. Stay in the moment, enjoy that process. Because today, that’s all there is.

9. The Joneses have got nothing on you. Sure, their grass is greener, their flowers perkier, their tomatoes fatter. But they don’t have what you have, that force inside you that is only yours. You don’t know their life, they know little about yours. Live your own way, your own life.

10. Give your garden — and your creative energy — away. Share with your neighbors, the extra iris plant, the abundance of zucchini. Generosity for its own sake, with nothing expected in return, is a blessing.  Your ideas, your stories, gain strength through their connection — emotional, literal, intellectual — with others.

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