Being a Writer is like Growing a Garden

Candide is an operetta written by Leonard Bernstein, based on the novel by Voltaire. The finale song has always made my spine tingle. I turn up the volume and allow the world to stand still around me for the final swell in the music.

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

Candide (1999 Royal National Theatre Cast Recording), Daniel Evans, Alex Kelly & Company. I saw this version twice while I was in London my junior year abroad.

I purchased my first house about a year ago with half an acre of land, and – by gumdrops – I built my garden, and am watching it grow. The first sweet peas were ready last week, and there is nothing as satisfying as tasting something that I grew from a small seed.


Okay, there’s one thing as satisfying. Writing.

Being a writer is like growing a garden.

1. Everything starts from a small seed.

My sweet peas started as a tiny seed. I pushed them into the ground, and now they are five feet tall. A story always starts from a small idea, a kernel of dialogue you overhear at a restaurant, an image that pops in your head, or a first line that hits you in the gut. But it’s just what could be. This seed of an idea can grow to over 50,000 words if given time, patience and heart.



2. Some tomatoes grow while others just wither and die.

There are some ideas that come to fruition right away. And then there are all of those Chapter One’s just hanging out in my writing folder that will never bear fruit.

3. A cucumber needs sun and water to grow.

11640490_367484640128777_478177327_oA story needs nourishment too. Even when you get to the end of a draft, there is always room for editing. Characters need fleshing out, plot lines need revision.

4. It only takes an afternoon for the raccoons to eat all of your beautiful broccoli plants.11181522_367483566795551_1729463951_o

I cannot stress the importance of being in a critique group enough. Finding a set of individuals who support your craft is paramount, because it only takes one raccoon to turn your story from a thriving leafy vegetable into a bare stalk. Good news, though. With a little help from your critique group, the story will grow back, hopefully stronger and more resilient than before.

5. A garden can be a meditative place.

I go into the zone while I am pulling weeds, watering my tomato plants, and picking beans off the vine. I have that same feeling when I am writing. Some people write with music playing, but I prefer silence, and the soft click of the computer keys. The cursor blinks, ready for whatever I am going to write next. Writing can be a meditation all in itself.

6. Rainy days are great.

On rainy days I don’t have to water the garden. On rainy days, I have a perfect excuse for spending hours at my computer. ‘Nuff said.

7. Sometimes what you think is a squash is really a green bean.

11543009_367485553462019_1164689834_oI have green beans growing with my squash. Not sure how that happened. Stories are the same way. They can start as one thing and wind up something completely different!

8. A garden becomes part of you, and calls you back.

Writing becomes part of who you are. I know that the words, the stories, the characters, pull me back time and time again. I think about how they are growing, whether they need tending, and I long for the day that I can pull a completed story off the stalk and take a bite.

Writing is like gardening. And in both cases, I enjoy watching my garden grow.

Do you garden? Do you write? Do you agree? Disagree? Join the conversation in the comments.


  1. I’m late to the party, but as a gardener-writer, I love that I can compost my plot. Literally. I hash out plot in post-it notes. The leftovers go into the compost.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love the analogy, Alison. And writing, when you get it right, is like tasting that first delicious bite of a fresh-picked vegetable. I hope you have a fruitful summer of writing and gardening.


  3. I enjoyed digging through your garden of words and inspiration. Thank you for posting. I find writing easier than plants. haha. Perhaps someday I’ll try a small veggie garden.


  4. Alison, when you wrote about the raccoons, I also thought about losing everything if you fail to backup and something disastrous happens. Another analogy! Thanks for such a thoughtful, reflective post–and timely for those of us in the northern hemisphere.


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