A few years ago, I took the summer “off” to write. That is, I didn’t teach any classes. “Off” for a mother-writer means that you still have all the same child-and-family related duties (or more, as, after all, you aren’t “working”). So there I was, with a couple of months in front of me to finish a rewrite on a novel. And all I did was garden. I weeded the nasty grasses out from under 150 flagstones. I took a level area, built mounds, and planted perennials: lavender and melissa and sage and thyme and Meyer lemon. I uncovered weed roots and removed them. I got really big muscles. I did not — could not — write. “Gardening is writing,” my friend Chris (journalist and novelist) reassured me.
Indeed, three months later, back in the thick of it all, I had a burst of autumn energy and finished the rewrite. And I think it’s because I had those months to work with my body and think, even though I didn’t think I was thinking.
Writing and gardening (and parenting), it’s the same creative process. Sometimes slow. Sometimes thankless. And sometimes gardening is the most satisfying of all — at least you can see what you’ve accomplished during the day.
Gardening is writing I reassure myself these weeks, as I wait to hear the verdict on my collection of short stories from a few agents. I’m in that writer limbo that resembles late pregnancy — too late to do anything but wait and nest. This baby is fully viable. When do the contractions start?
I bought 1,200 pounds of stones from American Soil and Stone Products last week. And today, a big, brawny guy is going to help me move them from the sidewalk outside my house into the garden. We’ll excavate a few inches of soil, lay some sand, and then I’ll get to play.
In the meanwhile, the fiction department here at Literary Mama is looking for an editorial assistant. If you are a strong copyeditor, a fiction writer, and a mother, please email me. Send me a brief bio. You’ll be working closely with me, Ericka, so enjoying gardening metaphors is a plus.