by Cathie SercombeA few weeks ago, my husband and I gave our garden some overdue attention. We felled weed trees, removed deadwood and spindly branches, edited the overgrowth and carted several trailer loads of green waste to the tip. Despite the hard yakka and the potential for danger implicit in our task, the only casualty was my gardening hat – brim and bonnet ripped asunder – an inevitable consequence of its age. I’ve had that hat for forty years.
|Hat, Post, Landscape and Crow-bar|
Writers wear many hats. After all, writing is not all we do. ‘What!’ I hear you gasp. Of course, you know it’s true. What we do, is landscape our texts with the experiences gleaned while we wear our other hats.My gardening hat probably lasted as long as it did because it doesn’t get a work-out very often. I’m an occasional gardener, not a professional landscaper. You might be an occasional writer, or a professional one. Either way, I bet you’ve earned a few blisters and produced a few flowers – speaking metaphorically at least.
Another casualty of time is the post on which the hat sits – a tree root has displaced it. I’ll have to put my trusty made-to-measure crow-bar to work and dig it out so it can be replaced. It won’t be the first post-hole I’ve dug, or helped dig. I’ve hefted that crow-bar to hollow out holes in the ground for 88 garden and retaining wall posts on our property. Thinking about those posts prompted thoughts about this one – so here are a few writing principles flavoured by my landscaping experiences.
Preparation and research are necessary, but don’t get carried away. The corner post (in the above corner under the rose) was my first. Hubby measured, marked where to dig and I went for it. I dug a whole lot wider and a whole lot deeper than I needed to, wasting time, effort, and concrete. I applied moderation to subsequent digs.The first written draft is rarely perfect. It requires extra time and effort editing. Practice leads to improvement, both in technique and end result. Even those first drafts seem to get better the more you write.
The wall at the front of our property was 600mm high, which meant post-holes needed to be 700mm deep to hold firm in our ‘plastic’ soil profile. Natural springs under the footpath moistened the subsoil there, making it easier to dig. Behind the house we had to dig 1200mm holes for our 1000mm high walls; the surface was already one metre below the topsoil. The only way we could break through that clay, was by first soaking it with water.A short story is different to a poem is different to a novel is different to a magazine article; each requires materials, scaffolding and structure of the right type, size and shape for the genre. The lessons learned writing in one genre enhance writing technique and positively inform a variety of other writing formats.
As much as we loved the look of our round koppers logs, they were difficult to work with; they had to be planed and chiseled and shaped to fit together and to fit the curve of the uprights. It was easy to get discouraged when progress was slow and tedious. Being prepared to try something different for the side and rear walls of the property allowed us to finish the job sooner and worked just as well.
Don’t get stuck in a rut. If the current writing project is dragging on and going nowhere, try something different. You may be pleasantly surprised by the results. Being a great children’s writer during the week doesn’t preclude you from writing devotions on the weekend. Besides, varying the vista may bring fresh insights and enthusiasm.
Not everybody will appreciate the effort you put into your writing projects. They may abuse them or use them in a way you never intended. We didn’t plant posts to feed termites! Then again, your readers may get far more enjoyment from your writing than you ever expected. I may not be happy when the neighbourhood mutts water our front retaining wall, but my dog just loves neutralizing their efforts.Any writing project can seem daunting and overwhelming at times. Don’t get so stressed by the size of the project that you forget to enjoy the process. One day, you’ll look back and think, ‘Wow! I did that. And I enjoyed myself! I am awesome!’ and you’ll be right.
Have your gardening or landscaping experiences informed your writing? If so, why not share the nuggets of wisdom you’ve unearthed in the comments section below.
Catherine Sercombe is a wife, mother of three, (they’ve grown up now), creative writing graduate and published author from Queensland, Australia. She manages an education business where she has the privilege of tutoring and encouraging students of all ages to meet their academic goals. Described in publication as a ‘writer whose work reflects an infectious love of language’, Catherine says, ‘From A to Z, surely the best writing begins and ends in God. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1-2). That’s an epidemic worth spreading.’