Rain is beginning to fall. Tentative drops spattering the dust of dry weeks. Happy splashes ready to refill the water garden on the deck. After eighty days without measurable precipitation the moisture is welcome.
Our water comes from a well, and I seldom waste much of it on the gardens. Without rain thirsty annuals die and perennials wilt into early hibernation, although the shrubs and trees survive remarkably well.
You’d think the gardens would become uninteresting with the demise of flowers, but they’re still vibrant thanks to a variety of leaf colours and textures.
Landscapers recommend planning for year-round interest when designing gardens. I wonder what they’d say if I admitted my main criteria is low maintenance.
I enjoyed designing and planting our various garden beds even if they don’t have a professionally landscaped look. They’ve evolved over the last fifteen years and reflect my low-key, relaxed lifestyle preferences. If something doesn’t look right or grow well in one location, I may dig it out and plant it somewhere else (or just toss it). Because we live rurally and our property is hemmed in by surrounding woodland, wild things frequently pop up where they don’t belong — most often ferns, salal, and evergreen seedlings. Sometimes I pull them out; sometimes I let them stay. If a plant can’t handle neglect? Oh, well. Obviously I prefer the planning and planting to any ongoing maintenance.
Do you see where I’m going with this? When I compare my gardens with my writing style I find many similarities. Novels get lots of basic planning, although I’m not a plotter by nature. I love putting the stories together, getting the plot off to a good start with a setting that provides good background colour, and characters that add complex texture; making sure there’s an interesting middle and satisfying ending to sustain reader interest all the way through. I include the contrast of tension and conflict but I don’t use a lot of splashy literary artifice and devices. If the story has good bones it will stand on its own. When it comes to evaluation and revision I don’t hesitate to move or cut out anything that doesn’t work well.
This isn’t meant to be an analogy. But if I consider my gardening attitudes I think I better understand the kind of writer I am.
How about you? What influences the way you write?