Thursday 30 June 2022

Writing Diary: June

I wish I could harness the flavour of energy I give to my garden in my writing. Both require a combination of knowledge, creative flair and work. In both, you’re working within boundaries: your soil, climate, aspect; form, audience. Both throw up frustrating challenges that set you off course: slugs, frost, disease, inexplicable death; blocks, lack of break-through, poor sales, lack of focus. Both require bouts of solid toil and constant tinkering.

I came to gardening gradually. It was no great passion at first. I had a flat; it had a garden. Gardening was part of doing up the flat, then it was part of the housework. But it grew on me. We moved to the country and rented a house which had been a farmworker’s cottage. No one had ever done anything to the garden that cost any money. There was grass; there were damson trees. We rotavated, grew vegetables, put up playthings for the kids. I grew things in pots, things I could move to a house that we owned. Then we bought the house. The following spring we planted tiny sticks that would become a hedge and little bendy trees. Gradually, gradually over the years, I’ve dug beds, added more trees, put in a patio and paths.

I find it quite easy to take the things that don’t work out in my garden with equanimity. Lovingly nurtured seedlings chewed to nothing by slugs overnight: oh, well, start again with something slugs like less. Camelia not quite the right colour when it finally comes into bloom: no problem, wait until autumn and move it. I can look at my garden with pleasure even while assessing all its imperfections. When a combination of plants turns out to be just right, I’m thrilled. When something’s less than perfect, I look at it calmly and I make a plan. When something’s coming on slowly, I enjoy the suspense. I don’t care that it’s never going to be a show garden. It’s mine, I made it and I love it all.

Writing isn’t like that for me. I’m after perfection and I want it right now. When something isn’t working right I worry about it, I lie awake trying to puzzle it out. I’m reluctant to give up on things that may not be working because it seems like a waste of my previous work. I can’t be calm about it. I want to get to the end and then I want other people to see what I’ve done and think it’s fabulous.

Maybe that’s the difference. I’m treating my writing like a show garden. I want it to be perfect and weed-free with everything in the right position, perfectly in bloom. I want it to be finished. A real garden is never finished and so there’s no pressure in it. I don’t want to write with no end in view the way I garden – I’m always going to aim to finish a book and have it enthusiastically received by an audience. However, I’d like a little more of my mellow gardening energy to feed into my writing – embracing the puzzles and the setbacks, calmly setting about working out how to improve things, accepting that sometimes some things just don’t work and now and then sitting back to take a look at what I’ve done and being happy with it.

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1 comment:

  1. I think I need more of your perfection. If I like a 'weed' it stays and brightens up the previously planned for border turning it into some else entirely. I often find myself treading off planned plots when writing. It would appear my writing process does reflect my garden


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