By: Shahnaz Radjy
Tending the Garden and my Writing
Every morning, I wake up an hour before my husband so I can go for a walk with our heartthrob of a puppy before going to the vegetable garden.
It’s the perfect time to check on the progress of all those seedlings I shower in both water and love daily.
This year – my first year working on the vegetable garden here – everything seemed to be progressing well. Then I hit a few snags. The bean plants weren’t growing past a few inches tall. Our first beautiful tomato was black on the bottom and inedible. Our lettuce tasted delicious but rapidly went to flower instead of producing the full head I had seen in so many other people’s vegetable gardens.
What was going on?
It turns out there is no single formula for success when gardening. The same is true for writing.
All the time I spend in the garden has been fertile ground (ha) for me to learn lessons and skills that apply to writing. Here are my top five:
1 – Reading & research will never match getting your hands dirty.
Before I had my own spot to convert into a vegetable garden, I read a lot about homesteading. It was a source of inspiration. It was also a way to embrace and prepare for the dream of one day having a patch of dirt to grow things in.
That was just the warmup. I only really started learning about gardening when I got my hands dirty and planted my first seed. (As a side note, when I did, I felt like a fraud. The good news is, the seeds didn’t care. They didn’t judge me. They just did their thing and grew into little seedlings, for the most part).
This also applies to writing.
Do all the research you want, and read books about writing – by all means. But at some point, you’re going to have to go from theory to practice and plant that first seed.
2 – Maintaining someone else’s garden isn’t the same as planting your own.
In the past two years, I did a lot of volunteering. Most of it focused on farms, so I spent hours and hours in other people’s gardens.
It was incredible! I learned about weeding, maintenance, and how some plants grow better if they are next to plants they have an affinity to (who knew!). I also took notes about what I liked or would do differently.
When the time came to make my own vegetable garden, it was hard. Starting from scratch instantly put every “imperfect” garden into perspective. No matter what my vision was for my garden, I had to start at the beginning and work my way there.
If you edit someone else’s work or provide feedback, you can learn a lot. However, that’s not what being a writer is about. So, if you’re serious about it, start with a blank page and create your own body of work.
Just as every mighty oak started off as an acorn, every writer has to start somewhere.
3 – There is no magic formula for success.
It turns out that even if you provide seeds with everything you think they need to thrive, it’s still a lottery. Some will grow, others won’t. A few will produce flowers and fruit, others will struggle. This was a hard lesson to learn.
When my vegetable garden didn’t produce as much as I had hoped, I could have seen that as a failure. I was disappointed. Luckily, the magic of harvesting even a few beans felt like a small victory. It’s one I am excited to build on next year.
The same is true for writing. Even if you think you have everything it takes for success, it might take a few tries. You can see a rejection email as a failure. You could also see it as a success because you got a response from an editor! Or perhaps you missed a deadline. Fail.
However, that might inspire you to set up calendar reminders for other deadlines. That system will be an asset forever.
Keep practicing, writing, trying new things. Just showing up and doing the legwork significantly increases your chances of success. Which leads me to the next point…
4 – Every step forward is a victory worth celebrating.
Every morning, I look for signs of progress in the garden. Baby shoots if I recently planted seeds, signs of growth if I transplanted seedlings, or buds – the promise of flowers and fruit. Whatever I spot, I celebrate. Sometimes, that just means a “woohoo!” said out loud to the trees.
The point is, rather than fret about what didn’t work, I celebrate what did. I take every little sign of encouragement and deposit it in the bank of confidence, for a rainy day (not literally – those are precious!).
Similarly, whenever an article I write gets accepted, or a blog post generates comments, I celebrate. It means someone out there is reading what I write and taking the time to engage with it! Facebook “likes” count too.
5 – Once you start learning, you can keep going forever.
One of the things I love about gardening (and by extension, living on a farm) is that I cannot imagine ever getting bored by it. There is an almost infinite number of things I can try! Every year, I can do things differently and better.
The more you learn about gardening, the more you realize how much there is to learn.
Need I even say it? As a writer, you are also signing up to forever be on the learning curve. Comfortable with the platforms you submit to and the genre you have been writing in? Try something new.
Happy with your voice? Polish it by finding a book about writing with exercises that nudge you beyond your comfort zone.
Reaping the Rewards
There are multiple universes at your very fingertips.Some people may find this frightening but as a writer?
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be enthralled by the possibilities and chomping at the bit to go out and explore.
Plus, countless lessons apply to multiple areas of your life*.
So, buckle up and enjoy the ride!The bottom line is that if you are in it for the long haul, both a vegetable garden and writing can bring you joy, satisfaction, and fill your stomach. Click To Tweet
*It is likely that whatever your hobbies, or if you’re a parent dealing with a child’s lemonade stand idea, you can derive lessons from them that are relevant to your writing.
If you care to share, I would love to hear about them in the comments – and I’m sure Two Drops of Ink would welcome a submission if you turn those ideas into an article (check out their submission guidelines).
Bio: Shahnaz Radjy
Shahnaz’s background is Swiss, Bolivian, and Iranian (yes, really). She loves food, books, horses, adventure, and problem-solving. She is a writer, aspiring farmer & eternal optimist.
After a decade working in public health for the International Labor Organization, the World Economic Forum, and The Vitality Institute, she is now planning to launch a farm and ecotourism project.
She is also recovering from the corporate life. Her writing reflects how beautiful life is outside an office, a reminder to enjoy every minute, wherever you are.
Published posts on Two Drops of Ink: