Friday, June 5, 2015

Gardening and Stories

 It's summer again, and if it ever stops raining, I have work to do in my garden, and a mother's day gift of two new garden gnomes to introduce. I've been gardening on this lot for twenty-four years now, and over that time, the garden has changed and evolved. The former owner had established a perennial bed out front with globeflowers, campanella, cranesbill, and lilies. The lilies have started to fade away, but the others have self-seeded over the years, filling the bed, and I've added new flowers. 

The one rhubarb plant in the backyard is now five huge clumps in different locations around the house. Ferns have multiplied to fill the shady spots. And there are more shady spots than ever, as the trees have grown and spread.

Not long after we moved in, we build a fence, which created an awkward little pocket on the side of the house. I made that pocket my secret garden, a little private oasis filled with lacy foliage and pink and blue flowers, where I could escape and let my mind roam. 

Years later, the secret garden had to go to make room for an addition. A few of the plants are still there, a big lilac and some Jacob's ladder, but most of the remaining space that isn't covered by house is a walkway. I built the retaining wall myself, with my husband hauling gravel for me in the evenings after work. I think it turned out fairly well, but it's not nearly as pretty as the flowers and trees it replaced. The addition is great; I've thoroughly enjoyed the new master bath with a big soaking tub and the dedicated home office, but I do miss that garden. 

My writing life has been a little like my garden. My all-time favorite writers are Agatha Christie, for the wonderful puzzles she crafted, and Rosemunde Pilcher who created characters who were more real to me than many of the people I interact with every day. My first few stories were mysteries, but on a lark I wrote a short story romance. Well, it wasn't technically a romance because of the ending, but I liked the main character so well I wrote her another story and did give her a happy ending. And that story self-seeded into yet another and another, and before I realize what was happening, I became a romance writer. 

Writing and gardening have a lot in common. Both are organic, but do best grown within a structured environment, and because of the fluid nature of the process, both can yield surprising results. Thanks to weather, soil, and luck, no two years are ever the same in a garden. And no two books are ever the same. Each one is an individual work of art.
And like gardeners, writers learn from experience what works and what doesn't. With enough care and attention, a gardener can sometimes nurse along an exotic plant that isn't really suited to local growing conditions, but it's so much easier to choose the plant that fits the conditions and let it thrive. Writing is the same. A story that grabs the writer's imagination and runs is so much easier to write than following the trend of whatever is popular, and  it shows. The story grows and thrives, rather than struggling to remain alive. Not to say it won't need care and pruning, nurturing and shaping, but the author's voice will come through and make the story bloom.  Whether it's a native wildflower garden, or a cozy cottage garden, or a formal French garden of symetrical geometry, a garden is a thing of beauty. And so is a story.

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