Today, Cathy Lamb, author of MY VERY BEST FRIEND, WHAT I REMEMBER MOST (and 7 other books along with several anthologies) is here today to talk about gardening and writing. You are in for a treat, my readers! Don’t forget that the #giveaway is still happening for MY VERY BEST FRIEND– so check it out!
10 Reasons Why Planting A Garden Is A Lot Like Writing, Minus The Beer, Plus The Worms
I love writing and I love gardening, though I am, at best, a beginning gardener who crosses her fingers a lot and hopes she doesn’t kill everything like a human tornado. I spend a lot of time at my patio table writing my novels on my laptop, slamming down coffee, eating too much chocolate, and muttering, so to have a pretty garden is important to me.
Also, the hummingbirds and butterflies flying around the flowers calm me down when I tell myself I am, and I quote, “The worst writer on the planet Earth, also including Pluto and Neptune and all space aliens.”
Writing and gardening have some commonalities, though writing doesn’t generally involve worms, and gardening does not generally involve making love in a tree.
My thoughts on nurturing a garden, as you would nurture a book…
- In a garden, like writing, first you have to pull up the weeds. The weeds are the asinine ideas you think of for your next novel when you’re alone at two in the morning and you have eaten too many chocolate chip cookies and are on a sugar high. Sugar highs produce weeds. Don’t use those bizarre – o ideas.
- Once you have an idea you have to mix in a lot of yummy dirt. Yummy dirt is what worms like to eat. You should not be eating it. That means you have to get the wheelbarrow that always leans irritatingly to the right, order a bunch of dirt from some dirt place that sits in your driveway like a mountain of misery, and add it to the existing dry and depleted soil. Once the yummy worm dirt is there, it will help produce more good ideas. At least, you hope. If it doesn’t, you might have to make yourself a chocolate cake and eat the whole thing by yourself while new story ideas come to you.
- You need flowers in a garden, so skip yourself on over to the garden store and buy a whole bunch. Choosing flowers is comparable to choosing characters in your spinning brain. Pick the unique flowers that make you stop and stare, your mouth hanging open like you’re trying to catch a fly. Pick the ones that say something. Pick the flowers that are hearty or flirty or difficult that will do cool things in your garden and not die of boredom. Can flowers die of boredom? I don’t think so, but you know what I mean in terms of not using boring characters in your book.
- Trees must be invited in. The trees are the plot. One must have a compelling plot. Strong, spreading plots that have twists and turns and form a labyrinth of branches throughout the story are a gardener’s and writer’s best friend. Plus, your characters can climb trees. Or build tree houses in them. Do not have your characters make love in trees unless they are very nimble and strapped onto a branch. Even then, the realistic outcome would be a broken arm when they fell.
- Use garden art. I have plastic geckos on my fence. I have saved the blue circular top of a barbeque from a friend we received as a gift on our wedding 22 years ago. I fill it with petunias. I also have a birdhouse shaped like a church. All original and unexpected. Your writing has to be like that, too. Original and unexpected. Arty. A little flash, a little dash.
- Mow the lawn. If you don’t, it does what it damn well wants and it’ll overtake the whole backyard like a green organic monster. Think of a lawnmower as the delete button. The lawnmower deletes excess lawn. The delete button deletes excess crap in your story. I swear to you, the one thing that can kill a book is a whole bunch of excess words and the writer getting too much into what she wants to say other than what should be said through her characters’ voices. Mow it.
- Plant trees, bushes, etc. then trim them as needed. Likewise, trim the book. The book has to be tight. The pacing has to be quick. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word has to be there for a reason, no kidding. Trim or cut out sub plots that aren’t working, characters that don’t shine or move things along, dialogue that sags. Get out the shears and snip away, just like you would with dead branches or that stupid rhododendron that just won’t grow in the back corner and it’s driving me crazy.
- Water the garden. And water yourself. Do not “water” yourself while slugging beer, though. Hemingway did it, of course. You are not Hemingway. You’ll have to delete everything tomorrow morning anyhow because you’ll be slurring your written words so stick to water or milkshakes until you’re done.
- Be daring in your garden, as you would with your writing. I’ve seen sheds painted with tie dye designs, bridges over rock beds, clay pots stacked together to look like people, and bathtubs filled with marigolds. Add the surprise. Write from a new angle, new perspective. Tell the story backwards, tell it from the point of view of a cat, tell it through letters or blogs or someone who is unconscious, but be different.
- Spend time in your garden reading. Truly. If you spend time in your garden reading and relaxing, you’ll love it more and you’ll be a better writer. But only read writers who are talented. Read the best, you’ll write your best.
Happy reading, happy writing, and happy gardening! Books, writing, and digging in the dirt are gifts to our lives, so go forth and get your gifts, leave the poor worms alone, and don’t make love in trees unless you want a broken arm.
That’s my advice.
Happy Reading and Bookishly Yours,
T @ Traveling With T