This Is How I Compare My Publishing Journey To Plants
With the launch date of my debut novel, Little Lovely Things, just around the corner, I have been reflecting on the process it took to write my novel, along with the appropriateness of the timing of my book release.
April 2nd – early spring, warm weather, planting season. I love plants. Always have and probably always will. From their often tiny beginnings – have you ever seen poppy seeds? – to the mature architecture of a towering maple, they fascinate me on many different levels.
I garden in Pennsylvania and my main focus is perennials. They die back protectively when harsh weather approaches and then pop to life again – often even stronger – in the spring. In short, they are persistent, and in many ways represent the journey I have taken to publication.
Similar to seeds, a grain of an idea for a story persisted in my mind. In this early phase, which no doubt existed in some primordial place in my brain, glimmers of plot slowly began to emerge, along with the low murmur of my characters calling. The notion of theme was tangled and delicate like microfilaments in the soil. Bigger picture things like story arc, plot and character development, were incubating, waiting for the right moment to emerge.
When seeds are watered and the conditions just right, the embryo inside swells and splits the outer coat. In other words, it can no longer be contained. This happened with me, after dabbling at writing scenes and day-dreaming about character interactions, I finally crossed an energy bridge. I made a clear definable commitment to myself to see this simmering story idea fleshed out into a completed novel.
The exact trigger was when I gave myself permission to believe that I was indeed courageous enough not only to attempt to complete a novel but also to obtain a literary agent and mainstream publisher. Which I did!
Have you seen when plants begin to sprout? They are all pale green spindly leaves, kind of like a gawky adolescent. But the leaves go to work immediately and are absolutely integral to the life of the young plant. Essentially, mini-factories, they gobble up sun and generate the fuel for the growing seedling.
I don’t know about you, but this smacks of inspiration to me. To keep at the grinding task of writing a full-length novel, I needed lots of plain old stick-with-it initiative for certain, but my novel would have stalled without inspiration. I’m not talking about a lightning strike moment, I am talking about harvesting a constant flow of creative energy from somewhere outside myself, from what I believe is a higher place.
This is when my characters became vibrant and chapters fell into place, as if urging the story forward. At this point, it would’ve been impossible for me to abandon my work.
And just like the trunks and root system of trees, my writing required years of development. It was a time of quiet learning and experimenting, of nurturing my subconscious to the forefront and learning to interpret the messages it was offering. This is when I was able to truly delve into the deeper motivation behind my characters’ actions as well as determine the plausibility of events based on their personalities.
By learning to listen to my internal voice rather than critical input from outsiders, I grew stronger and developed the scaffolding of a process which informed my approach as to whether my writing required the rigidity of wood versus the flexibility of a vine.
I know that authors don’t resort to the combat tactics of plants to seduce an audience; irresistible scents, oozing nectar, and – unabashedly exposed sex parts (also known as flowers), but writers do their darndest to attract people – think colorful artwork on covers, blurbs by other authors prominently displayed.
Because the simple truth is that authors do not feel complete without readers. Plants need pollinators to continue their species; writers need an engaged audience to stay motivated.
While all plants are for certain, miracles, I leave you with the lowly corn plant. As a crop, it nurtures our body in the way that reading and literature is food for our soul. The next time you drive past a cornfield in the summer stop and get out. Select a single stalk from the thousands and approach. Notice the leaves harvesting the sun in a gesture of open-palmed wonder.
And then drop to your knees. Yes, there is an unseen network of roots beneath the soil, anchoring the plant in place, providing nutrients and water. But a few inches higher on the stem, you will find strange emanations which look like gnarled digits reaching downward into the dirt, as if the very fingers of God are holding these plants fast to earth. These are called prop roots and add stability to these thin plants – similar to buttresses on the sides of skyscrapers.
Like those strange extra roots shooting from the stem, I too developed a secondary support system. And in the same manner that corn plants are held fast in high winds, over the course of my writing journey, I learned to develop a way to eschew criticism and maintain focus.
And now, with a solid foundation for my writing, I am a very-soon-to-be published author.
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