The Writer’s Garden

Today, Cathy and I put our garden down for the winter. We harvested our turnips, picked the last of the lettuce, and told our plot we hoped to see it in the spring. It was a good year for the garden. From spring lettuce and radishes, to bush beans and tomatoes and peppers and cucumbers, and on to the cool weather crops, our raised bed certainly has produced well.

Now, it’s time to let it rest. I’ve turned the soil, and it won’t be long before the winter cold will freeze the ground. Snow will come, and the winds will blow, and our thoughts won’t be of the garden at all, at least not until we make the turn to spring, and one fine day we’ll smell the earth thawing, and we’ll know it won’t be long before we’re planting once again. We know that what we hope may not come to be, but that doesn’t stop us because we know with diligence and the right conditions, we might just hit it big.

Such is the case with our writing. Instead of freshly worked soil, we face the blank page, and we begin to make our marks. So much can go wrong, but we should remember that so much can go right. We give our best efforts, and then whatever will be will be. Sometimes we must put a manuscript away, or at worst, let it go altogether. Take heart. There’s always the next thing we want to write, and we turn to it with hope. We must never lose hope.

It’s so easy to surrender to despair. Rejections from editors and agents are the cut worms and bean beetles in the writer’s garden. Those who tell us no are the rain that won’t come and the floods that do. They’re the unrelenting sun and the killing freeze.

Take heart. So much of the publishing process is out of our control. The sad truth is good works go unpublished all the time because of factors that have nothing to do with the writing itself. Just like we can’t change the weather, we have no choice but to accept the vagaries of the publishing industry. All we can do is stick to our work. We can be steady in our habits, forgiving of our shortcomings, grateful for our strengths, clear sighted about our next steps, modest about our successes, and merciful when disappointment comes. The world beats us up enough. There’s no reason for us to join in the pummeling. Nothing to be done but to come back to the page, to do the thing we love, and to do our best to maintain our optimism, knowing someday there may be a bright day. Someday, everything may be in our favor, and we’ll enjoy the fruits (and, yes, the vegetables, too!) of our labor. And if that bright day never comes? We’ll still have the writing process itself, that creative process we’ve always loved. Never let anyone take that love. Hold it, practice it, nurture it, protect it. Never let anyone destroy the pleasure you take from the act of writing. Some may try to destroy that joy, but you’re the only one who can let that happen. You’re the one who gets to say, “No, you can’t have it.”



  1. Angela Chaffin on November 6, 2023 at 10:38 am

    My future tomato seedlings and I thank you for the inspiration! Just like I managed to grow tiny seeds into respectable, fruit-bearing plants which I never thought I could, I will keep turning on the grow light.

    • Lee Martin on November 9, 2023 at 11:50 am

      I like the metaphor of the grow light. Keep growing toward the light!

  2. Lindsay Gerano on November 6, 2023 at 11:51 am

    Just a lovely post. Subconsciously, I think I sensed the potential for the destruction of sacred writing space from a young age and hid my writing (and the act of it) beneath my mattress as a kid. This is such a good reminder that the same risk can take other forms throughout life and we have to recognize them for what they are but also keep on keeping on.

    • Lee Martin on November 9, 2023 at 11:48 am

      I love that story about you hiding your writing beneath your mattress! Private spaces are so important to the writing process, and so much today threatens those spaces.

  3. Clayton Cormany on November 12, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    A great post, Lee. Like your vegetable garden, my family’s pollinator garden has been put to rest until spring. When it returns next year, with all the accompanying bees and butterflies, I plan to sit at a nearby patio chair, watch the activity in the garden, and see what kind of writing it prompts me to create. I’ve never done anything like that before, so I might be disappointed. But that’s a risk worth taking.

    • Lee Martin on November 20, 2023 at 2:03 pm

      Sounds like a risk very worth taking!

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