This is not the blog post I was going to write. I was going to write about how my outlook has changed over the past year – politics, changes in the genre I tend to hang round in, understanding more about my own writing, and working my way through a few issues in said writing.
I was going to write about how I’ve focused more on reading in recent months, and how I plan to keep that as my focus, and ease the pressure off myself for writing when no one is actually clamouring to read my stuff (so I may as well take advantage and devote some time to developing my ideas & style etc.)
But there’s this thing that’s been bugging me. It’s been bugging me for months now. It’s a quote I saw on social media, attributed to a well-known author:
“I like to say there are two kinds of writers. There are the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything before they set a word to paper, like an architect building a house. They draw up the blueprints, and they know how deep the foundations will be. The gardener, meanwhile, digs a hole, and plants a seed, and waters it with his blood, and tries to shape what comes up. I think all writers are part architect and part gardener, but the proportions differ. I’m much more of a gardener than an architect.”- George R R Martin
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Especially that bit at the end about all writers being part one thing, and part another.
The trouble is, it’s entirely wrong about gardening.
Sure, if you want to grow a plant from seed, yes, you sow it and you look after it as best you can, but… that’s not gardening, that’s growing *a plant*, and even then you’re not going to get any success if you just dig a hole anywhere you fancy and put the seed in. There’s all kinds of variables to consider: soil type (acid, neutral, alkaline; clay-like, free-draining, sandy, stony, boggy), heat and light (full-sun, partial sun, full shade), aspect (when does it get the light, what is the prevailing wind direction) – and even when you’ve carefully chosen the appropriate spot to dig your hole, how deep do you need to dig it? How do you protect the seedling when it sprouts? Will it be in competition with other plants?
Also, consider that the ideal conditions for germination and growing on may be completely different to those required by the mature plant.
And we’re still not anywhere near gardening. Growing a plant is horticulture. A necessary skill, but in writing terms the equivalent of writing a sentence. To garden is to create a garden. A pleasurable or productive space (or both!) with appropriate planting and hard and soft landscaping. It requires all the planning and preparation described in the quote in reference to building a house. And more. Because while an architect can, at some point, step back from the building and say “it is done”, a garden continues to change and grow, to develop and demand attention, maintenance, and further creativity.
Writing is entirely similar to gardening, but for none of the reasons stated in the quote.