Gardening and Writing

The other day, I spent an hour working in my garden. Pruning, plucking, and even pleading. (Me: “Please don’t eat the plant. It’s not food.” Squirrel: No comment. But it did stop eating and stare at me for a long moment before scampering away.)

While I was marveling at the many plants that are getting closer to blooming, I realized something — gardening and writing have a lot in common.

They both offer the promise of something different — something more, something bigger, something more colorful — than what you started with.

A small green plant with a card sticking out of its moist soil labeling it a kalanchoe. A stack of white printer paper, standing at attention, just waiting for me to type some words on the computer and press print. 

I turn to both of these endeavors with hope and optimism. I water my plants, doing my best to make sure I’m watering a Goldilocks-not-too-much, not-too-little amount. I strive to find just the right spot, with just the right amount of sunlight, for each plant. I trust in the process and hope I’ve done all I can so my kalanchoe will bloom its yellow flowers. Likewise, I open up a new Pages document on my computer and begin. I only have twenty-six letters to work with, but, again, I trust in the process. I’ve done this before. Just get something down — a word, a vague idea, a quote. Something to get me writing, and keep me writing.

And then you see it start to happen. The plant looks a little taller, a bit fuller with more leaves. A tiny bud appears. The screen on the computer is no longer full of ramblings. I’ve found the line that I was writing my way to. The line that leads to a paragraph, which leads to multiple paragraphs and multiple pages.

But it’s not done yet. My kalanchoe does bloom its small, happy yellow flowers. And I continue showing my plants love, in the form of my pruning and plucking. So, too, it is with writing. After I have printed several pages of my personal essay, I know I’m not done. My pages need some love, too. I review, revise, and rewrite.

Of course there are others involved. All the people responsible for getting my plants to the garden store. My husband for being my personal I.T. person. 

But in the end, I did it. 

I pause and savor and appreciate. 

Then I do it all again. 

Dismissals and Rejections – of Symptoms and Submissions

“It’s not a realization that came to me easily or early on in my life as a chronic illness patient. It took me several years to finally recognize it and to see what had been in front of me all along.

Not until I marked my submission tracker with that most depressing word, “Declined,” did I make the connection. I realized that having a piece of writing declined and leaving a doctor’s appointment without any answers share many of the same emotions.” 

Those paragraphs are taken from my personal essay, “Dismissals and Rejections — of Symptoms and Submissions,” recently published at Spoonie Authors Network. You can click here to read the essay in its entirety.

Charming Notes

It wasn’t my idea. 

I got it from Carolyn See and her fantastic book Making a Literary Life: Advice for Writers and Other Dreamers. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. I’ve read this book several times, and each time, I find something new that touches me. Each time, I also laugh out loud.)

Here’s what Carolyn See said in Chapter 4 – Charming Notes:

“…you write one charming note to a novelist, an editor, a journalist, a poet, a sculptor, even an agent whose professional work or reputation you admire, five days a week, for the rest of your life. Then after you write the note, you address it, put a stamp on it, and mail it out. These notes are like paper airplanes sailing around the world, and they accomplish a number of things at once.

“They salute the writer (or editor or agent in question). They say to him or her: Your work is good and admirable! You’re not laboring in a vacuum. There are people out in the world who know what you do and respect it.

“The notes are also saying: I exist, too. In the same world as you. Isn’t that amazing? They can also say: Want to play?”

I don’t write “charming notes” five days a week. But I do make an effort to contact a writer and let him/her know their words touched me. Sometimes, I look up their website and fill out the “contact me form.” Sometimes, I write them an email. Now that I’m on Instagram (@wendykennar), sometimes I comment on one of their photos related to what I just read. 

Sometimes I hear back — a simple “thank you,” a longer, several-line email. 

And sometimes, I receive no reply. But that’s okay.

Because I know I wrote the notes, and I like to think my “charming notes-paper airplanes” are out in the world, flying about, spreading bits of goodness and positivity. 

And that’s enough for me.