One of my quarantine hobbies has been planting a garden in my back yard. Previous to ordering bags of seeds and something called a trowel from Amazon, I really cared not about how my tomatoes landed on my salad. I assumed that the Whole Foods fairy sprinkled them down out of her Prius after I decreed on my app that she should deliver them.
Needless to say, I was a complete gardening virgin in March of 2020. But, in the interest of cultivating a new hobby and potentially preparing to be completely self sufficient in the event of the continuing apocalypse, my husband and I began learning all about the process of growing our own food.
I won’t bore you with the details of how seeds take different times to germinate, how composting is significantly less gross than I thought it would be, or the fact that watermelon needs to grow on a hill. I will, however, let you know that I’ve learned a lot about writing from my precious little backyard plants.
From seed to germination to pollination to the spreading of new seeds, I realized that most things I was learning in regards to my seedlings could be applied to my mini-writing career. As I began to flesh out these correlations, I realized that I should spread my plant’s seeds and share them with the world. Here’s what my little green friends have taught me:
Obviously, your initial idea for a story corresponds to the seed stage of writing. But, in order for a seed to be a viable candidate for plant growth, it needs to be complete. A damaged seed is not likely to grow at all. It needs to be a complete entity to break out of its shell and head upwards to the sun. As Flick says in A Bug’s Life, “Everything that made that giant tree is already contained inside this tiny little seed”.
Your idea for a story needs to be a whole story before you plant it. I can’t tell you how many times I have started writing on a half-assed idea, struggled through it, and been embarrassed by the mediocre-ness of what I had created. If you take a hot second to set up what you’re going to write before you write, you can cruise along and worry more about being witty than trying to make your paragraphs make sense and connect to the theme of what you’re writing about.
Your seed doesn’t have to be pretty. Corn seeds look like regurgitated banana-flavored Mike and Ikes. My story outlines consist of a bunch of random misspelled words typed, one or two per line, stretching down the page. But, like the genetic makeup of any little plant embryo, if all of the ideas are there, you’ve set yourself up for success.
First things first, a seed needs somewhere to grow. Your soil could be Microsoft Word, Medium, Wordpress, whatever. Good seeds aren’t so picky about the soil they habitate. They’re more picky about the other things they need. Water and sunshine.
So, let’s talk about water. When a seed is watered, it soaks up so much water that the seed coat eventually splits to begin the growth process. In the writing process your water is your research. You might already know everything about the topic you’re about to write about. Great. That means your soil is already moist. Plant away.
If you don’t know everything about what you’re about to write about and you’re rocking some dry soil, then chug a lug and do a little research. It’s easy in today’s world of instant internet information. Ten minutes of research on any topic from reputable sources will inevitably not only provide information, but it also might provide a little inspiration. Even if your soil is moist already, it can’t really hurt to give your seedlings a little more liquid love.
(However, when you’re doing your research, please, for God’s sake, find your information from reputable sources. This is important. If you wouldn’t have used a site for a paper you wrote in college, you shouldn’t use it because you may not be accessing accurate information. It’s kind of like pouring the rest of your lime Perrier on your baby seedlings.)
The other thing you’ll need is a little sunshine. Sunshine, for me, equates to good examples. Some plants need full sun and some plants need partial sun. However, they all need at least some sun to grow. The way we humans have related to each other through the years is through storytelling. Any fact can be made more poignant or memorable by a short story about yourself, someone else, or a quick and witty anecdote. If you want to make an impact in your writing, it needs to be, in some way, personalized.
Now, you need to, well, be patient. Plants take time to grow. They need more sunshine and more water and they need more time. You need to watch them, pick off the dead leaves, and keep the bugs away. To me, this inspires me to TAKE MY TIME.
Some pieces take longer to write than others. I already have some lovely red ripe tomatoes, but my jalapeños are still a sad little tangle of chlorophyll. No matter what the piece you’re writing, though, you can’t rush it. Your story may be perfectly laid out in your head and you can’t wait to rush to the end to shout it from the rooftops. However, a writer that doesn’t patiently lay out their points and explain things along the way inevitably loses the interest of their reader.
Additionally, some plants need more sunshine and more water. Once you get started, you may realize that you need to do a little more research on a specific part of your story. That’s great! You know why? Any kind of research makes you smarter. And it’s also the perfect fertilizer to help boost your story’s growth.
Eventually, you’ll hit your writing groove and before you know it, you’ll have a pretty fantabulous story. So, be patient, nurture your story, feed it information and anecdotes, let the flowers of your ideas unfurl, and don’t pick your fruit too soon because you’ll rob your reader of the potential of consuming the perfect ripeness of your ideas.
For those flowers that don’t have both male and female parts, this next stage requires a little help from friends. These flowers rely on insects, birds, wind, animals, or other conduits to move their pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers (or vice versa). If the movement of this pollen doesn’t happen, the plant will have no new seeds or plants. Even self-pollinating plants need other plant buddies around them with which to cross pollinate.
The moral of this story is don’t let your plant’s legacy die on your desktop. After you have a mature and completed story, you need to share it with the world. Your pollinators are Medium, social media, your blog, your publisher, your email outbox, your friends, and any other way in our digitally connected world to send your story out to other people. Your story cannot magically hop from your desktop to another human. You need a conduit for your brilliance. Pick one and journey forward.
If you don’t share your writing with others, you’re taking away their opportunity to learn or be inspired by your wisdom. After all, you’ve spent time tending to and growing your creation, so why not share it with the world? So, maybe people won’t like it. Or maybe a total of three people read it (including your mom). Well, then, you’ve educated or inspired three people today. And don’t EVEN get me into talking about butterfly effect analogies . . .
In the final stage of the plant’s life cycle, seeds spread to other places to begin the whole life cycle process again. Dandelion seeds are scattered by my two year old when he blows on them. Some animals spread seeds in their fur. Or people like me go crazy at Lowes in the seed aisle and spread them to my back yard. In short, these plants have come full circle to begin the process of life again.
The last seed-spreading phase of writing, I believe, is community. The seedlings of your ideas will spread to others through sharing your writing and will hopefully spark new ideas for others to create new things. I am so enamored by our community here at Medium. This group of writers inspires, encourages, and educates me on a daily basis. No matter what your reason for being here, I believe you will be all the better for engaging with your community. If you’re not a Medium community member, I encourage you to find another way to pay it forward.
Grab the dandelion, close your eyes, take a deep breath, blow, and watch your influence spread in the wind.
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