Writer as Gardener

Autumn is a time of harvest. As a former ‘green living’ columnist* the environment and the page are inextricably linked for me. Whether it’s planning for the season to come, falling in with the rhythms of the year, or taking careful note of what’s developing, the metaphor of garden as creativity was – and is – ever present.

Sometimes the words fail to germinate and lie waiting in a notebook. And then, by some unseen signal, physiological dormancy ends (thank you, Carol Klein!) and the ideas burst into life.

Occasionally you forget what type of seed / idea it was and you find yourself tending and nurturing a mystery. We always have a guest or two in the garden. This year it was corncockles and knapweed; last year it was an oriental poppy that miraculously appeared. 

Like plants, some ideas take a long time to become anything recognisable. Words can be medicinal, fragrant, colourful, toxic, and even nutritional. They can provide cover, or privacy, and are laced with hidden meanings and history. Sometimes they are just pretty to look at.

While the veg garden largely capitulated to the slug hordes (although the garlic was a notable success), it’s been a better harvest as a writer. 

I started the year with my green living column coming to an end after two and a half years, and my debut thriller, Standpoint, a dormant seed. All it needed was favourable conditions. Joffe Books provided the right environment for Standpoint and for Line of Sight, and we’re now working through the final stages of the third novel, Cause & Effect. I’ve also started a new column about writing.

The thing about gardening is that you never really know what’s going to work. You can no more predict the coming weather for the year than you can which plants will thrive. It’s a constant process of response and adjustment. I think that’s part of the attraction. All that matters is you keep going and you focus on whatever seems to be thriving, and don’t get too caught up in the failures and setbacks. As in the garden, so on the page.

* 18,000 words of second rights’ material available!

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