Violet Flowers by nondesigner59
I happen to like violets, violas and pansies. They're sweet, unimposing, simple flowers. Last year I found them growing all over the landscaping immediately in front of the house, seeded from violas I'd had on the front porch two summers before. This spring I spied a third-generation patch growing in the middle of the lawn and took pains to rescue it from the lawnmower. The original violas lasted from the end of May to October 2011.
If properly cared for these can be hearty little plants, audaciously standing tall amidst a garden of bigger, bolder blooms. But they will shrink if they're not watered enough, or if it's too darned hot. Or if a gardener decides that they are nothing but pretty weeds. The phrase "shrinking violet" must come from this, and it's no surprise that I've seen it on writing blogs. "This is no time to be a shrinking violet" someone wrote once in relation to "getting out there" in the publishing world, to relentlessly pursue agents and attend conferences, tweet like there's no tomorrow and blog until your fingers bleed.
I know it's meant to be taken lightly, but there are times when I resent this metaphor. I cannot help but detect an implication that "shrinking" is cowardice or even laziness, a failure to act. Simply, I am not and never have been a flashy person. I cringe at the idea of crowds and loud places, and those things stress and tire me out easily. It isn't quite fear, but the way I was made. My energy simply cannot stretch that far, therefore, I've learned in the last few years how best to use the energy I have: writing my novels, steadily querying agents, slowing down on the things that tie my brain in knots.
I sympathize with the violet and the pansy, because I often feel that I'm a cluster of little insignificant flowers in a garden full of more impressive specimens. The snowdrop boldly pops up through the snow, wasting little time as spring comes on. The poenies spread out their arms and legs and take up as much space as possible. The poppies are red and rich. The roses - oh, the roses! - open in their intricate splay of petals and smell like heaven, drawing the human eye towards it like a perfect sunset in the garden. The clematis shows off its climbing skills. The four-o'-clocks demonstrate their punctuality. With marigolds, impatiens and cosmos, lilies and vines, flowering shrubs and bleeding hearts, the attention seems to be everywhere else. Sometimes it seems downright Sisyphean to try to be anything other than what I am, a viola working a thriving quietly in my own special bit of earth.
That does not mean that I'm shrinking. Right now, I'm still waiting on agent responses to my recent batch of queries... and have received many "thanks-but-no-thanks" form letters. If I was shrinking, I wouldn't be preparing to do it again in a few months time. I keep reminding myself that an agent out there also likes violets; I simply haven't found him or her yet.
I hope to be like the vagabond violas I find year after year in the garden and the lawn: shrinking down, but coming back time after time.