Recently, as I finished a final round of edits on CROOKED LITTLE LIES, my novel that is coming out shortly from Amazon/Lake Union, I was also putting in the major elements of the garden that has been in the planning stages since I moved out to the country a year ago, and I was thinking how similar the two occupations are. Either undertaking begins with a thought, an idea, an image, some whisper of something that sends you out the door or to the desk. Notes are jotted down. Sketches are made. Plans are put into action. Sometimes you hit a wall. Out here in the country, in particular, where there aren’t the usual parameters, like sidewalks, driveways and privacy fences, to define the area, I’m often stumped. How far should I take the limestone dry-stack wall? What, exactly, should the cedar rail fence with its adorable peaked arbor encompass? I go outside and stare, trying to decide. It’s very like sitting at my computer, wondering which way to take a plot or a character in a story.
Gardener’s block and writer’s block have a lot in common. There’s a certain despair, rising levels of frustration and anxiety. I can almost see this little person in my head pacing the floor, wringing her hands. Until a voice speaks up, yelling: Just do something! In the case of writing it means type a sentence even if it’s gibberish. In the garden, it might mean getting a few rocks, adding them to the existing wall and stepping back to evaluate. Or it might mean digging up that entire clump of daylilies, because they’re in the wrong place. It can get complicated with crafting a story, too, requiring of anything from ripping out an entire plotline to totally changing an ending.
|Built from cedar harvested on the property, this little arbor|
in January looks pretty bare, but it has lots of potential.
And the two processes also share similarities in the method by which either one is created. Both start with good bones. In the garden, I begin with hardscaping, a wall, a length of fence, statuary or a pergola—some focal point to build around. In story writing I begin if not with a fully fleshed synopsis then at least I will have the bones of an idea. And in either case, for me, anyway, the bones need to be strong and compelling. I need an ocean’s worth of enthusiasm, because either way, I‘m going to be lost in this muddy, unknown territory for awhile. Either project is going to take time to complete, and there are bound to be setbacks, small heartbreaks and jabs of disappointment, never mind the odd bouts of confusion, the times I grope around wondering wondering where I am. It’s as easy to garden your way into a corner, as it is to write your way into one.
But there is one difference between the two occupations, one that I discovered only now, as I sent CROOKED LITTLE LIES back to my lovely editor for the last time. I went outside to the garden, my go-to place. It’s always been my sanctuary even as it can be the greatest source for distress, and as I
|This is Sophia, my beautiful garden muse,|
found this spring.