Reflections of a Writer’s Garden: Inspiration, the Muse’s Reward.

Reflections of a Writer's Garden: Inspiration, the Muse's Reward.

“Take thy plastic spade,

It is thy pencil;

Take thy seeds, thy plants,

They are thy colors.”

~William Mason, The English Garden



Spring is here and where I live, that means time spent in the garden. My family lives as eco-friendly as possible and are striving for self-sustainability – a lot of hard work in all areas, as you can imagine. This includes raising our own food: tilling, planting, weeding, tilling some more, and carrying countless buckets of water from the Amish-built windmill.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything, in my opinion.

Yesterday evening, as I got cozy on the weathered bench that’s nestled snuggly in the corner of our 100 x 100 garden area, I began to visualize zucchini, strawberries, watermelon, snap peas, peppers, onions, and all the other delicious sustenance the rich soil will produce.

As I daydreamed about smoothie and juice concoctions, salads and raw pasta, it came to me – gardening is very similar to writing!

How?

The inspiration is clear:

Seeds = Words

Each word we put on paper is like a seed sewn in our garden – our writer’s garden. Much like planting seeds in a vegetable or flower garden, our words grow, change, and become a part of something far bigger than our original thought.

Seeds (like words!) may never grow; they might be bad seeds. In that case, we simply start fresh!

Tending Our Garden

As the words are planted, they come together one-by-one, row after row. It takes time to get the plants just so-so. If you’re a perfectionist, you may even put a stake at each end and run string to guarantee a straight shot all the way.

A gardener nurtures their plants, waters them, even fertilizes and makes special bug-repelling tonics and potions to ensure they’re healthy and thrive.

As writers we do the same, making sure sentences aren’t too long, words are spelled correctly, and our grammar is top-notch.

Editing = Weeding

Sometimes there are too many words – or not enough. And much like we may dig up a plant that’s too close to another and replant it elsewhere – or fill in a scant area – we copy, cut and paste our words, sentences, or paragraphs to make our work flow better.

And then we proofread, weeding our writer’s garden, plucking away each word that doesn’t belong.

Sun + Rain = Polished Perfection

Those last few, special touches we put on our article, story, or book, is like a garden being kissed by the sun or rain – they make all our efforts flourish and shine, blossom and burst forth breathtaking beauty. Once withering plants who have cried out for vitamins and nutrients absorb sunshine and rain, they take on a whole new look. They shoot up and out, running wild and free – as they should.

It’s the last moment tidbits of inspiration our muse whispers ever so softly and sprinkles into our thoughts, that finishes everything beautifully and makes it truly flourish.

Harvesting = Plentiful Rewards

There’s no greater joy than taking a step back and smiling when all the time, effort, and labor – plus sweat, tears, and frustrating moments -pay off in the end.

Whether it’s your writing or a produce- or flower-filled garden, when your harvest is ready; it’s a great feeling, a learning experience you can cherish always.

Don’t forget to stop and smell the roses – you may even want to plant your own!

What is your Writer’s garden filled with? Does it need weeding? Have you planted enough seeds? Do you tend your garden lovingly – or has it withered from lack of attention? What does your harvest look like? Do tell!

Photo Credit: Simon Howden

Rescue your Darlings by Kenji Crosland

This post is part of the Guest Post Giveaway at the blog Unready and Willing. If you think articles about writing or personal development (or personal development for writers) sounds like a good fit for your blog, please take a look at the Guest Post Giveaway page and see if any of the articles spark your interest.

You may be familiar with the phrase “Murder your Darlings.” This is the mantra repeated over and over again by teachers of the revision process. For many writers this is a painful ordeal that seems to take the life from a piece. Painful as it is, cutting out the parts that seem most precious to you is essential in polishing your work. Oftentimes when an editor will suggest that you cut a passage out of your story or novel, it’ll be one of your favorite sections–this is probably because you felt very good writing it. You were in the flow, and everything that fell onto the page just “felt right” to you. And now this editor wants you to cut it? To trash it as though it never existed? How could they be so cruel?

Is this the part of the writing process that you hate the most? Do hate the feeling that the passages that you had had so much pleasure writing will not see the light of day? I certainly did when I started out writing, but there are good reasons for cutting the fat. Although certain passages are beautifully written, they may do nothing to contribute to a story’s plot or give any insight to the characters. Exchanges of dialogue, though clever, may not really be important at all. The character that you snuck into chapter three was forced into the story just because you thought he or she was interesting. Lost in the flow of your writing, you might have spent two paragraphs describing a horse-carriage and not even know it. These passages simply don’t belong.

Instead of getting out your ax and murdering your darlings right then and there, however, why not consider dropping them off at the orphanage so that another story might be able to pick them up? Essentially you can create a database of written material that just didn’t make the cut for your other stories. Not only does this take some of the pain out of revision, but it also can give you a place to access characters, descriptions, and clever turns of phrases that simply didn’t fit in your other work. Whenever you feel writer’s block coming on, you can infuse some of the good stuff you didn’t use from your previous work into your new one.

To establish this orphanage, create a folder on your computer for your rescued darlings and then make sub-folders with names like “characters,” “descriptions,” “dialogues,” “settings,” and so on. Every time you cut a substantial part from your story, copy it and paste into a new document. Title the document in a way that you’ll be able to recognize it easily when you come back to it. Your “settings” folder would have documents titled “Roadside Cafe,” “African Village” and so on. The “Characters” folder could have documents with the character names, or just a short description like: “Nerdy Mobster” or, “Obsessive-Compulsive Stockbroker.”

Personally I find that I tend not to use too many of my rescued darlings in my new work. It’s comforting, however, to know that they’ll always be there waiting should you ever need them.

Kenji Crosland is a creative writing major who, scared of becoming a starving artist, became a corporate headhunter in Tokyo. Since then he’s regained his sanity, quit his job, and now blogs about creating an ideal career at unreadyandwilling.com. He is also developing a web application that just might change the internet. Follow him on Twitter: @KenjiCrosland.

Have you ever cut a part of your story that you really wished you’d kept? What do you do with the darlings you cut? Have you used a character or scene that didn’t make the cut in one story for another? What kinds of safety nets do you use when editing and revising your work?