Trees and Writers Keep Growing Or Rot Inside

One of the hardest things a writer has to do is constantly outgrow their world.

Aug 9 · 3 min read

My Dear Elizabeth

The hard reality is it is only by recognizing multiple paths forward in both craft and creativity and abandoning old visions will the creator have room for innovation.

But the fan base you’ve built, those who’ve bought your work and paid the bills, those people don’t want you to change. Nope. Not a bit of it.

Here’s your dilemma, you can stay in the old way of doing things to make your fans happy or you can go all creative and make yourself happy.

My guess is that by staying in one place — a safe place — you’re going to have to tell yourself a story about how creative you are or how your work is “growing” somehow. But deep down, in the corner of your creative soul, you’ll know you’ve compromised.

I like to tease about being on my 8th (or is this the 9th) midlife crisis. But as you also know, I reinvent myself with each change. From consultant to nurseryman, to award-winning, garden-writer to writing fiction to… (maybe stone carving or sculpture) I try to live the advice I pass along.

Note this is not the same thing as taking a job to pay the bills or writing at something while you create in other spaces. Those things are bread-of-life.

When I talk about taking creative leaps, I’m talking about soul-of-life.

Another way to imagine a creative career is to imagine a tree. A tree is an interesting life form and I like to think of an artistic career as a multi-branched tree with tons of big branches leading to smaller ones. When you get to the end of one, you get to find another, walking out the new branch to the very end as well.

But creativity, like a tree, is either growing or it is dying. And like a tree, it is either balanced in its growth or it falls over in a storm.

I also note trees take many years to die once they stop growing — mostly rotting from the inside. You see where I’m going with this? ;-)

You grow or you die as a creative person and without that active, visible growth showing in your work, you’re rotting away from the inside.

By the way, this is a tough one because there’s a real world out there where the bills have to be paid. But — nobody said following a creative dream was easy.

You wouldn’t want to do it if it were. And yes, I’ll have some practical things to add once I get finished bugging you to get back to work.

This is from a series of letters I wrote to my youngest daughter.

Image courtesy


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Former nurseryman, now writer and curious about what’s over the next hill and how to get there in either my Triumph Spitfire or sailboat.

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