The Writing-Gardening Analogy

Literature Blogs

There’s a part of me which loves analogies; another part exhibits a gag reflex “if I hear just one more.” Disclaimer: Today I’m in the former mindset. Read ahead… if you dare.

Four years ago, I went to the Tulip Festival in Holland (Michigan). I shot more than 200 photos, until I thought I could make it through the rest of my life without ever seeing another bloomin’ tulip again.

Flash forward in time.

More than a week ago, news reports in southern Michigan stated that the tulips in Holland were in bloom, and they were concerned there may not be many left for the annual Tulip Festival, held each year on the first Saturday of May and the following eight days. Sometimes I hear, “No you can’t,” my rebel spirit emerges and I hear myself respond, “Oh, yes, I can,” whether I really have the desire to do said something or not. So, last Wednesday — April 4th, and 31 days before the Tulip Festival is to start — I drove the ninety minutes to the west coast to check out the flowers for myself.

Yep, the tulips are in bloom a month early; and, nope, I didn’t take over 200 photos this year. Instead, I spent some time on the deserted Lake Michigan beach and made a video of a Nursery Rhyme. I went to the Holland Museum and folded an orgami tulip. I went to Windmill Park and made a different Nursery Rhyme video, also taking a dozen or so photos. I trekked out to Veldheer Tulip Gardens because they plant 3.3 million bulbs each year. I’m guessing that next month for the festival, the city of Holland will have to hire people in tulip costumes to line tree lawns and cluster together in parks.

All this burst of colorful gardening reminded me of writing. (Do I hear a heavy sigh of “At last!” from those analogy-lovers?)

How I see writing like gardening:

First, you must plan your garden, plan where to plant what. In writing, a story starts with a seed, and then as the story grows, the author must organize and plan chapters, sometimes transplanting a scene elsewhere, or tossing it onto the compost pile. You also must plant seeds in good soil, and keep adding good soil and fertilizer. For the writer, this means knowing your craft, constantly learning to write better, and keeping up with what is getting published in today’s market.

Secondly, comes the planting of your garden. This is the rough draft, the throwing out of all sorts of seed, which you know you may have to thin back at a later date.

Next the gardener weeds and waters. This parallels to critique group look-overs and author revisions. It’s a lot of hot and dirty work, but necessary for a good result.

After that, maintenance must be kept up. For the writer, this means to keep the story looking fresh and beautiful for submissions to agents or editors.

Finally (if there hasn’t been a hail storm or tornado ripping your crop to shreds), comes the harvest. Yes, my friends, that’s a contract with expectations of publication.

Go work in your writing garden.

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