Michelle Lee-Ann
Jul 24, 2019 · 6 min read

What Gardening Taught me About Life and Writing

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Gardening is a funny thing. People think that you have to have special skills to grow things in a pot, in a plot of land, or a simple houseplant. But, you don’t. You just need to pay attention to your surroundings.

While there are definitely those who have a ‘green thumb’ and seemingly can grow anything that they touch, anyone can garden if they want to.

The problem is whether or not they actually want to. Gardening takes more than just grabbing a plant from the nursery and plopping it into a chic pot that you bought off of Instagram. You have to pay attention to what it is telling you, whether it’s in distress, happily growing, needs more heat, has too much heat, or needs more water. You have to check in on your plants and your little seedlings and your vegetables every day, or at least every couple of days.

You can, of course, throw a handful of seeds into the wind and see what sticks to the ground, taking root and growing spectacularly without any help from you at all. That is how nature goes about it, and she’s pretty damn good at it. But, it doesn’t always work. Because nature will kick you until you’re down before she grabs you and pulls you back into the beautiful world.

Applying the same mindset to your goals as you do gardening can do wonders. So what if it didn’t work out? So what if you tried something and it wasn’t a complete smash hit? That’s okay.

For years I thought of writing as throwing seeds into the wind. It was something I did because I loved it, something that I turned to when I felt like it, when I felt the need to write and get my thoughts down on paper or screen. But, it was definitely not something that I would do every single day, without fail. I didn’t do it when I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t do it when the words wouldn’t come. I’d sit there for a few seconds, maybe a minute, and give up on what was in front of me. If the words sounded stupid or halted on the page in front of me, I didn’t keep going, trying things out until I got a breakthrough, or at least got a general idea that I could edit later. I just walked away, hoping that nature would take care of things and I’d suddenly become a writer. A successful one, of course.

Things were just supposed to happen. Which is hilarious, because how does anything just happen to you? How do you just wake up one day and you’re successful? You don’t. Unless you’re Serena van der Woodsen, waking up to riches and success doesn’t happen. You work at it. Every day. Or, at the very least, 5 days a week.

When I let my garden go, whether it’s from the busyness of the day, vacation, or the humidity has me taking to my bed from my aggravated brain, whatever the reason, nature takes over. Sometimes, nature takes over in a good way, but most of the time, it’s not what I want. Weeds set in, plants become dehydrated and beg for water, shriveling up and hoping that someone will come by to help them out. Everything starts to get snuffed out by other things growing and taking over, the ones that have it easier out there in nature.

But, when I go out there every day, even just for an hour, and tend to my garden and weed and water and sometimes chat with my plants (because who doesn’t talk to everything living around them?), a magical thing happens: they grow.

The same thing happens with my writing, with all of my goals in my life. It doesn’t matter if I do just a little bit every day. If I just write a sentence, or a paragraph, or 10,000 words. If I force myself to just throw down things on paper to get my brain working, to get out all of the bad writing that’s clogging the way for better things, my writing grows. It may grow very little, it may not even look like it has grown at all in the last few days or weeks or, hell, even months. But, day by day, eventually it reaches a goal that I never thought I would hit. I didn’t think I would hit it because I was too busy staring at that goal and wondering if I’ll ever be able to reach it. I wasn’t busy working for that goal, you know, the thing you have to do to actually hit the goals in your life. Nope, I would become frustrated and flustered and stressed just thinking about if I could do it, instead of trying to do. Essentially, I was just waiting for it all to fall into my lap one day.

For years I thought of writing as throwing seeds into the wind. It was something I did because I loved it, something that I turned to when I felt like it, when I felt the need to write and get my thoughts down on paper or screen.

Of course, I would never tell myself that I was doing that. I would do a little weeding here and there, I would do a little writing here and there, I would jump back onto my yoga routine for a week straight only to abandon it because I didn’t see results within 24 hours. It was clearly my garden that was the problem, or jobs I rarely applied to, or my body. It wasn’t because I wasn’t continuing even though it seemed like a faulty cause. I wasn’t giving things enough time or enough attention.

Nothing gives results in 24 hours.

Seedlings take days to sprout. Then, they take even more days to grow. Then, even more days to get big enough to see them as an actual plant. Then, more days to produce anything worthwhile.

Sometimes, a few seedlings will die off. Heartbreakingly, actual nearly full grown plants will die off. Not because you never fed and watered it, but because there may have been distress you didn’t see, or a bug got to it, or disease attacked the poor thing before you realized. You sigh to yourself, curse Mother Nature and simply state that you’ll try again next year.

Goals work the same way. You won’t hit every single one when you expect to. Sometimes, a few goals die off, and that’s okay. You can try again. You can tweak things to better understand what you’re doing wrong, what you haven’t been listening to.

It’s funny how I have entire garderning journal with detailed notes on when I started seeds, what type of seeds they were, and which brands worked best. I take notes throughout the year and I try new things if they don’t work. I can see that oh, a tomato plant didn’t work so well in that area, but the one over there is growing beautifully. I tweak my garden for next year. If things don’t work out, I’m not crestfallen, I’m hopeful for the next spring, excited to try new things and to just…try again. But, I don’t have this same mentality for my goals, for my writing. I don’t take detailed notes and work on things and try new things and tweak it until it becomes better. I just do it until I become exhausted and give up.

The journey to hitting your goals and becoming a success, whatever that word means to you, shouldn’t have you debilitated with stress and crying every night. Applying the same mindset to your goals as you do gardening can do wonders. So what if it didn’t work out? So what if you tried something and it wasn’t a complete smash hit? That’s okay. Take note of why it didn’t happen, tweak it, and try, try again. Not every season is bountiful and not every piece you write will be popular. But, there’s always next year.

The Green Leaf

A place for the eco-conscious to share tips and tricks…

Michelle Lee-Ann

Written by

A lover of all things Karl Lagerfeld, Golden Girls enthusiast, and finds happiness in books from Hemingway to Harlequin. https://luxuriouslythrifty.com/

The Green Leaf

A place for the eco-conscious to share tips and tricks, educational pieces, poems and prose about nature and the environment. A reminder of when the environment meant something, when we felt the grass between our toes, when running around outside made us happy and excited.

Michelle Lee-Ann

Written by

A lover of all things Karl Lagerfeld, Golden Girls enthusiast, and finds happiness in books from Hemingway to Harlequin. https://luxuriouslythrifty.com/

The Green Leaf

A place for the eco-conscious to share tips and tricks, educational pieces, poems and prose about nature and the environment. A reminder of when the environment meant something, when we felt the grass between our toes, when running around outside made us happy and excited.

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