Saturday, June 23, 2012

Garden Metaphors for Writing (Jillian)

I've dabbled on and off with the curious magic that is gardening.  I say "dabble" because I could never quite accomplish the splendor and variety of my parents' garden growing up.  I've had dreams in recent years of planting roses and filling beds with flowers, but most of my successes seem to dwell with seeds in pots and little indoor projects.  Through this dabbling, I have learned a few things that have been astoundingly helpful in my writer's life.

  • Michelle once compared a novel I have been working on and struggling with to berry bushes.  This is a para-paraphrase of her lovely metaphor, but hopefully it works.  You plant berry bushes and they grow for a few years before they produce any fruit.  But the plant is still alive, still growing, still getting ready for that fruitfulness. 

  • Along the same lines, I've thought about seeds.  You have a seed.  You plant it in the ground or a vessel of some sort filled with soil.  You water it.  You put it in the sun.  Notice how it doesn't sprout up immediately.  For weeks you water the seemingly empty, fruitless pot of dirt.  The days pass and you wonder why nothing is growing, why nothing is beginning to show for all the effort.  And then at last, with enough patience, a little green shoot pushes up and into the open air.  Just when you'd given up hope.  The point of this is that you have to keep watering the little pot of dirt.  You can't see the plant yet, but it's there.  Same with writing.  Something may not be working.  A chapter or a scene might be stalling, but you never know what might be happening underneath the surface.  You have to keep watering it - or writing it - until it pokes up through the surface.  Never abandon it.

  • I also had an amarylis bulb, bought on clearance in January.  It already had a green shoot coming out of it, so I assumed it was ready to grow and blossom.  Nope.  I let it sit out for two months, and watered it.  It didn't grow.  I despaired and finally put it in the garage so I wouldn't have to look at it.  Fast forward to April, and I'm gathering pots and soil to grow violas, when I rediscover the amarylis, still sitting there.  On a whim, I pick it up, plunk it in a pot and forget it out side.  Two weeks later, I look out and see that it has shot up a foot and is sporting at least six bright red buds, all of which open to full glory for a month.  Yes, I abandoned the amarlysis, but it came back.  It proved me wrong, as these things tend to do.  You may think a piece of writing is dead when it only requires a little patience, a little time to be dormant, and a little love.

  • Violas.  The seeds are tiny.  The flowers are sweet and resilient.  I bought white ones on clearance last year and they grew till September.  This spring, I was excited to discover they had seeded themselves in the landscaping in front of the house - white faces thriving in lovely clusters in the wood chips and in cracks in the side walk.

  • I went wild with the idea that if little tough flowers could grow in between the cracks in the cement, like weeds do, they could grow in tinier vessels as well.  Hence, a thriving viola, grown from seeds (above) inside a glass votive holder and broken (and otherwise useless) tea cups, straightened by a paper clip, and sporting a blossom and two buds. 
So... if violas can grow in the cracks in the sidewalk, my ideas can thrive in unusual places.  I just have to be a little patient.  And try not plant too many seeds in one little jar. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Descrying the Future? (Jillian)

Friends, most of April and all of May passed with nary a word from my keyboard - I am finishing and editing a novel.  You know how utterly possessing that can be.  What calls me back today is an article from the Telegraph.  Linguist Nicolas Ostler, an expert on world languages, says that English will decline like the classical languages did before it, "English is already in decline and may become more of a 'text language' before dying out completely as a dominant language."

Usually what bothers me about these predictions is their totality.  Like the belief held by some (not me) that electronic books will replace our beloved hardbacks.  If that was the case, I'd say, people would have also decades ago, reliquinshed the typewrier and the pen for the laptop or the iPad.  The reality is, typewriters are cool (I want one), people still write novels by hand, and paper-books are still in existence. 

Ostler is a learned author and knows 26 languages.  I expect he knows what he's talking about.  And he's probably right. But part of me wonders, why must we know whether or not English is going to survive another millennia?  I feel like the tools we survive by - our language, our art, our music - are precious things.  These predictions seem like a cruel tease - to enjoy what we have now because they won't be around in the future.  Or oddly enough, it sounds a little bit like mockery - "haha, the English language thinks it's so cool... haha".  But do we really know?  Something could happen.  Technology might not continue on the present trend (which seems to be a matter of slowly, steadily swallowing our independence).  Or technology might preserve what we have.  Either way, English will change, not disappear.

English has accomplished too much from the writings of the Venerable Bede to Chaucer to Shakespeare to Dickens to... I dunno, Harry Potter.  It's not going to be lost any time soon.  In fact, with these examples in our midst (and MANY MORE), English might very well last forever! 


to a blog by three people who write, for anyone else who wants to write. It's a cruel world for creators, and here we promise support, whimsy, and curiosity that will hopefully keep your pen moving and keyboard tapping!

To read more about why Daedalus Notes exists, click