Hatching a new story requires a writer to search through their mental file cabinet of ideas. Once you decide upon the type of story you want to tell, you need to prepare the soil—so to speak. This might mean clearing your desk of distracting paperwork or craft projects. Ignore your email inbox and phone messages, until you get your day’s writing done. While plants need the proper lighting and right amount of water and fertilizer—the writer’s brain and body require a healthy diet, sufficient hydration, exercise, and a comfortable working environment. We also need to dedicate sufficient time to grow our story into something worthwhile.
In the garden world, I have the more trouble encouraging my spinach seed to sprout than any other veggie seed. All the pros tell me that it can take weeks for those little pellets to sprout. Although you might be able to hurry them along with either a good soak for 24 hours or a cold-treatment in the fridge. It seems they are so temperature sensitive that, when the soil is over 75-degrees, they’ll refuse to germinate at all. Spinach loves cool weather. And on top of that, even in the best of conditions, only about 30% are likely to ever sprout. Stubborn little babies, aren’t they?
Why bother with planting spinach at all? Maybe it’s for reasons similar to why I spend so many hours writing stories. Just as I love spinach for all of its marvelous benefits to my health, I love producing fiction because it’s healthy for my brain. Writing a novel encourages me to exercise my imagination and fully engage creatively. And I’m convinced that, like growing vegetables, we write better depending upon the seasons.
I tend to write more fluidly and with greater energy in the spring and the fall. The air feels fresher where I live in the Washington, DC area during those seasons. I seem to breathe easier, think clearer. Spinach, too, grows most happily (once you get it started, that is) in both the early spring and the late fall. In fact, some varieties will winter over so that you have lovely fresh greens without any fuss at all, as soon as the snow melts. If you forget to do a fall planting you can even sprinkle seeds over the frozen ground. As soon as it thaws in spring, I’m told, seeds will sprout for a carefree crop. It’s apparently only when you’re trying to force the little darlings to sprout in less than optimum conditions that they won’t send up shoots.
That’s one thing that’s magical about writing, which we talk a lot about in the classes I teach at The Writer’s Center in Washington, DC (and in The Extreme Novelist). If we scatter story seeds then let them develop organically in our mind before starting to write…and then take the time to draft a working synopsis. If we then give these ideas the attention they need by writing daily and not letting the craziness of everyday life crowd out our writing time–that’s how we grow as writers and begin to produce quality, publishable fiction.
Write daily, my friends. Write with focus. Nurture yourself as a writer, just as a good gardener tends her garden. You’ll harvest an amazing crop.
Alicia Street is a USA TODAY bestselling author and Daphne Award-winner often writing in collaboration with her husband, Roy, as well as on solo projects. She spent many years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher. A compulsive reader of every genre, she also loves watching old black-and-white movies and inventing new recipes for soups.